As a horror fan the Hellraiser Series elludes me, it has such an interesting premise and concepts, puzzles, keepers of hell, resurrection and redemption to name a few. The first two films have excellent raw, wet, blood effects that few horror movies, especially at the time offered. Still despite all it’s allure the Hellraiser series has been so unjustly realised which is simply hellraising considering the fan following of the character Pinhead (wonderfully played by Doug Bradley) and the Cenobites that have captured the imagination of horror goers.
Both Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) (#5) and Hellseeker (2002) (#6) are above average productions with their fair share of blood and chills. Hellseeker sees the return of Kirsty briefly but both amount to nothing more than Creepshow Twilight zone tales with Pinhead featuring in a bookend capacity with more of the same in Hellraiser: Deader (#7) and Hellraiser: Hellworld (#8).
A 9th, Revelations was filmed without Bradley which was produced in a matter of weeks due to an obligation on Dimension Films’ part to release another Hellraiser film or risk losing the rights to the franchise. It was the pin in the coffin for the direct to video entries. Nevertheless, there is hope with a possible Hellraiser remake, ghastly or entertaining time will tell but look what became of Freddy, Jason and Leatherface… Below are my thoughts on the theatrical released instalments…
The remains of a man rise from the dead and is aided by his sister-in-law to regenerate his body. However, he is being chased by demons who want to return him to their hell.
A modestly budgeted horror with memorable cult impact, fantastically realised by writer, director Clive Barker. It’s sadomasochism, blood and gore influenced many films to follow. The music complements the claustrophobic atmosphere and adds to the films tension. 80’s poor lightening visuals aside the practical effects are excellent, including skinned, pinned and mutilated people.
Surprisingly it’s Kirsty Cotton’s (Ashley Laurence) fight against her uncle and stepmother that is at the core story. Lead Cenobite ‘Pinhhead’ (that the series is synonymous for) is calmly played by Doug Bradley and has very little screen-time, yet leaves an impact. There’s great characterisation executed admirably by Andrew Robinson as wimpy Larry, Clare Higgins as adulteress Julia and Sean Chapman as power hungry Frank.
Hellraiser is creepy, bloody and eerie. It’s just a shame that neither this or any of the sequels capitalise on its greatest assets, that is Frank and Pinhead.
Kirsty is brought to an institution after the death of her family, where the occult-obsessive Dr. Philip Channard resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites once again.
It’s no surprise it was released the same year as Phantasm II, Friday the 13th Part VII and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, having one of horrors most surprising memorable and bankable protagonists. However, Hellbound borrows some elements from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and feels as if it had money thrown at it and was rushed to capitalise on the success of the first.
As a side note director Tony Randel arguably captures the imagination of Clive Barker correctly as its style appears to be the foundation for Barker’s own Nightbreed (1990).
There’s plenty to enjoy, the dark oozing blood effects, the return of almost all the original cast and of course the Cenobites and Pinhead himself. The music is fantastic, as too are the costumes and SFX. That said, the story is disjointed on occasion causing it to feel longer than it’s running time, almost never-ending with one crescendo after another.
Overall, compared to the first and traditional movie styled Hellraiser third Hellbound: Hellraiser II is average and hellishly overrated.
A work of art contains ‘Pinhead’ who is hellbent on escaping and unleashing hell on earth, armed with a puzzle box can reporter Joey Summerskill stop his evil?
Clive Barker is absent from a writing role which leaves Peter Akins to take up the reigns and to his credit this screen-play connects the previous films via various flash backs and recordings. However, the story follows a more linear narrative than it’s predecessor. Follow up Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth swaps the grittiness of the modestly budgeted first for a glossier grander slicker 3rd. Pinhead is given more story, dialogue and exposition – possibly to appease a wider audience.
Hell on earth is really a one-man-show, British actor Doug Bradley is allowed to give a pleasing head-to-head performance as both Pinhead and his former-self Captain Elliot Spencer. Terry Ferrell as the snooping reporter who walks the film playing the genre piece like an 80s thriller. There are some new less-menacing cenobites, that said,Terri/Female Cenobite played by Paula Marshall is noteworthy but her appearance is all too brief. The rest of the cast are forgettable, mainly their purpose is to allow Pinhead some elaborate torture kills.
The special effects (although now dated) are digestible and oddly even though this film was made in 1992 it feels late eighties. Director Anthony Hickox competently delivers an entertaining instalment despite the choppy editing, lack of tension and gore. Nevertheless, there are enough dream sequences, dead bodies and bloody scenes to keep most chill seekers happy until the explosive final act.
Overall, in a traditional movie sense Hellraiser III is arguably a very strong sequel and viewer is left with tantalising closing scene, but in retrospect the concept is an empty promise.
This instalment of Hellraiser IV follows the bloodline of the creator of the puzzle box the ‘Toy Maker’ and his plan to summon and to destroy Pinhead forever.
Despite a theatrical release, bloodline looks and feels TV movie-like and the acting is below average, possibly due to the script. That said, Doug Bradley is fine as Pinhead and Valentina Vargas is note-worthy as the demon Angelique.
The story’s concept is quite good, and includes (one assumes) the building in the 3rd and the history of the box. It is told in flash-backs by Dr. Paul Merchant in the year 2127 and follows his descendants Phillip L’Merchant in the 18th century and John Merchant in 1996. Sadly, it’s just poorly executed and let down by an uneven screenplay, bland direction and sub-par sets. The effects are a mixed bag, some are well done while others are less-convincing and tame.
It appears to have a troubled shooting history as there were two directors Alan Smithee (under an alias Kevin Yagher) and Joe Chappelle (uncredited). This maybe one cause and result of such a less than satisfying fourth.
Overall, producers didn’t give such a bankable character as Pinhead the attention he deserved leaving the viewer as empty as the 22nd century space setting.