“Kirsty is brought to an institution after the death of her family, where the occult-obsessive head resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites once again.” — IMDb
OKAY, so it’s no secret that I love the original Hellraiser. It’s kind of perfect. This sequel, to me, isn’t as good as the original (but what sequel ever is?), but still enjoyable (if your idea of enjoyment is lots of blood, nightmarish hellscapes, and cenobites — it’s not for everyone).
Clive Barker wrote the story but he didn’t direct this one as he did the first — Tony Randel stepped in after editing the original, and Barker took the role of executive producer. From what I’ve read they got a little sloppy as far as using some stills from scenes that wound up being cut in their promos, and changing up the Chatterer cenobite (giving him eyes) to the chagrin of diehard Hellraiser fans. I was also interested to read that Randel and the rest of the crew fully expected Julia to step in and sort of take over Pinhead’s role as the pillar of the remaining movies, but when she declined to take part in any further sequels (and when they saw how massive of a hit Pinhead was in the first film), they kept him as the main villain.
The sequel begins mere hours after the ending of the first — Kirsty is in a psychiatric hospital, still having visions of all the horrors she experienced. She meets Dr. Channard (the appropriately evil Kenneth Cranham) and his assistant Kyle (William Hope), and urges them to destroy the mattress that Julia had died on. It is soon revealed that Dr. Channard — a wicked man who is comfortable using others for his own sick experiments — is well aware of the power of that mattress and the Lament Configuration itself and he’s eager to do his own research. He brings one of his psychiatric patients to his home and offers the manic, restlessly itching man a razorblade so his blood can resurrect Julia. Kyle has witnessed the whole thing after he became suspicious of Channard, but he is quickly sacrificed to complete Julia’s physical form after him and Kirsty return together. It’s then up to Kirsty and her new-found friend, Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) — a mute patient of Dr. Channard’s who is particularly adept at puzzles — to defeat both Channard and Julia and escape the cenobites.
** SPOILERS! **
I am a bit torn on how I feel about them showing the sort of “background” of Pinhead — also known as Captain Elliot Spencer — becoming what he is now. Part of his mystique, his larger than life personality, was not really knowing where he came from or how he found himself as the leader of these hellish demons. So to see him in the opening of the movie as just this nerdy looking guy was… off putting. I think it adds to the sadness of the whole concept, which they explore more later on — the fact that all of these cenobites were once human — but it does put a dent in his horrifying armor.
The scene where Dr. Channard has the psychiatric patient flaying himself open with a razor is… more intense than I even remembered. It’s just one of those scenes where you just stare open-mouthed in disbelief. And Channard’s mix of disgust and morbid fascination is perfect.
“We have eternity to know your flesh.”
The bloody, muscley suit they have Julia in is BRILLIANT. The special effects team did an incredible job, truly. It’s so glistening and REAL looking (I mean, I don’t actually know what a person without skin would look like, but if I had to guess, that would be it.)
They really LOVED doing the 360° shots — there were several that I noticed. Definitely cool but maybe better used more sparingly.
The scene when the cenobites show up is, true to form, FANTASTIC. I just love the whole process — the wind starts gusting in, thunder starts booming, lightning flashes, glass shatters, and right when you think the chaos has settled… the room literally just OPENS UP, stretching out old cobwebs and revealing this otherworldly glow. And then out they come, each more horrifying than the last, until we get to Pinhead himself who is just THE MOST EPIC VILLAIN EVER I AM NEVER OVER IT.
“It is not hands that call us… it is desire.”
They clearly set up Julia to be the new #1, even having her repeat some of Pinhead’s classic lines like “Come, I have such sights to show you” as she escorts Dr. Channard around. She would have been a worthy rival, really.
The maze that they are existing in is pretty awesome, partially for its sheer expansiveness… they show it from above in one scene and it’s just overwhelmingly massive. The star of the show is Leviathan, the ruling deity over the cenobites’ home world — a monstrous, hovering octahedron that emits a horn-like noise that will haunt your dreams (composer Christopher Young even included the morse code for “God” in the sound) and an intense black beam that will force you to re-live past memories. Impressive, to say the least. I loved Channard being overwhelmed by its sheer enormity and uttering “Oh, God” and Julia responding with “no, this is mine”.
“Leviathan, lord of the labyrinth.”
Dr. Channard being transformed into a cenobite himself is… amazing, and his re-emergence — “And to think… I hesitated” — is PERFECT. Chills. He has the creepiest laugh ever and he’s sort of this maniacal, almost mischievous creature. He’s straight up amused by the power he wields and completely uninhibited thanks to his utter lack of caring (not that he was ever held back by such a thing). What the other cenobites lack in enthusiasm he makes up for, without a doubt.
And then comes one of the most disappointing scenes in all of my movie watching: Channard killing all of the cenobites, finishing with slashing Pinhead’s throat. Again… Pinhead is this omnipotent being, and he’s not only reduced back to his human form but then killed off by this newbie cenobite’s (admittedly awesome but stupid in this context) snake knives? COME ON NOW. Heartbreaking, honestly. But it’s okay because Channard’s head gets ripped in half not long after that and it’s sweet, sweet revenge.
Ultimately, I felt like it wasn’t nearly as cohesive as the first film, but offered enough of the familiar awesomeness to be a worthwhile watch.
Rating: 7/10 | Director: Tony Randel | Writer: Clive Barker, Peter Atkins | Music: Christopher Young | Starring: Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham, Imogen Boorman, Sean Chapman, William Hope, Doug Bradley