Hellbound: Hellraiser II: Review

The unexpected success of Hellraiser at the box office ensured a sequel would follow. Doug Bradley had barely taken his Pins out when production started on the follow-up. Released in 1988, a year after the first one, Hellbound: Hellraiser II saw some familiar faces return albeit with a new director at the helm. Tony Randell, who edited the first movie, would direct Peter Atkins screenplay based on an original story by Barker himself. Sadly it would be Barker’s final involvement with the franchise on a significant level and although it doesn’t live up to its predecessor, Hellbound is an ambitious attempt to further expand on the Hellraiser mythology, with fairly successful results.

After the horrors that unfolded at 55 Ludovico Place (now firmly set in America), Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is admitted to a psychiatric hospital and is interviewed by Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham). Channard is familiar with the Lament Configuration. He’s fascinated by Kirsty’s story and sets forth a plan to resurrect Julia (Clare Higgins) from the bloody mattress she (retcon) died on. With Julia by his side, Channard looks to learn the secrets of Hell but unfortunately for him, Hell has its own designs.

Hellbound does what a sequel should do – it’s bigger, bolder and more daring. The insight into this world’s Hell is intriguing and a far cry from the fiery flames commonly associated with eternal damnation. The effects have dated in places however the ideas have not. Julia’s ascension to a more central figure is the natural evolution of a character whose evil boiled under an alluring surface. Barker had hoped to centre the franchise around her going forward but Higgins declined to return.

With more opportunity, Higgins relishes the role as the villain, her sinister grin as dastardly as anything the movie can conjure. Her chemistry with Laurence is brilliant as the two engage in a, not so subtle, riff on Snow White and the Wicked Stepmother. Laurence’s Kirsty is never a damsel in distress, instead she takes the fight to Julia and Hell itself.

HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, Kenneth Cranham, Clare Higgins, 1988, © New World Pictures

While old faces return, Channard proves to be an exceptional entry to the series. Cranham looks to be having so much fun in the role, adding a gravitas to his movie monster in a way only a thespian of his standard could. It’s never silly, often frightening and purely entertaining. The popularity of Pinhead (as he’s officially cast here) ensures some more screen time for Bradley. His elegance brings with it an aura to the character that shines through the makeup, making the demon (to some) even more menacing.

The third act feels rushed which results in some unsatisfactory resolutions that are brushed away to make way for the finale. Plot holes are skipped over and the movie finishes pleasantly enough and leaves us wanting more, albeit not from a sequel, but from this entry itself. Randell presents some interesting concepts onscreen even if they don’t feel finalised. It’s a worthy sequel that keeps with the feel of the first movie while resisting the urge to rehash the same story. Wonderfully cast, Hellbound is an enjoyable sequel that explores the fantasy elements with the horror.

Thomas Simpson
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