HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988)

Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on November 28, 2008, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.


In his Outside the Box interview featurette on the 20th Anniversary DVD of Hellbound: Hellraiser II (coming December 30), director Tony Randel states that releasing the movie at Christmastime back in 1988 was “a huge mistake” on New World Pictures’ part. Fortunately, the video market is more forgiving than the theatrical one, so presumably he has no objections to Anchor Bay’s disc arriving in time to spread a little post-Yuletide anti-cheer.

This edition is also appearing long enough after the Bay’s previous release of Hellbound that its supplemental pleasures more than temper any double-dipping pain. The movie deserves the revisiting, too, as it represents a best-case scenario for a horror sequel (or a follow-up in any genre, for that matter). Unlike the subsequent Hellraisers, which plunked Cenobite villain Pinhead (Doug Bradley) down in unrelated (and, as the series went on, pre-existing) scenarios, the Peter Atkins-scripted Hellbound directly continues the story of its predecessor while delving deeper into both creator/executive producer Clive Barker’s mythology and the psychologies of the surviving characters. It also introduces a few memorable new ones, like Kenneth Cranham’s unscrupulously questing Dr. Channard and Imogen Boorman’s mute teenage puzzle-solver Tiffany.

As a horror film, it delivers numerous powerful moments of shock and terror, most memorably the setpiece in which Channard leads a mental patient with delusions of bugs on his skin onto a filthy mattress, hands him a straight razor and watches as the resulting blood spill resurrects villainess Julia (Clare Higgins). Randel creates a few quieter, more poetically chilling visuals as well, such as the subsequent sight of the crimson, skinless antiheroine standing motionless in the monochrome living room of Channard’s house. And from the opening note of Christopher Young’s marvelous score—one of the best in all of modern horror cinema—Hellbound is a model of independent fright-film craftsmanship as well (a few dodgy optical FX aside), from Robin Vidgeon’s dread-suffused cinematography to Geoff Portass’ recreations of Bob Keen’s Cenobite prosthetics and new, freaky special makeups.

The 20th Anniversary widescreen transfer appears to be the same one showcased on the 2001 DVD, and a lush-looking and -sounding one it is. Also encoring from the previous edition are the detailed and very entertaining commentary by Randel, Atkins and star Ashley Laurence, having a lot of fun together but never forgetting to be informative as well, and Lost in the Labyrinth, a minidocumentary produced by Barker’s Seraphim Films that provides a basic overview of the movie’s development and production. Ported over from Anchor Bay UK’s 2004 Hellraiser Collection boxed set is Under the Skin, in which Bradley reveals why planned Indian-bazaar scenes from the first film were never shot, and why a surgical-theater setpiece for Hellbound wasn’t either, even though a photo from it was widely circulated—great stuff for the franchise’s fans.

Brand new, and making this a must-purchase for those devotees, are a trio of featurettes totaling just over 50 minutes. Like producer Michael Felsher’s Flesh Wounds for Texas Chainsaw Massacre, these delve into the side stories of Hellbound’s creation, starting with The Soul Patrol, in which Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford and Barbie Wilde recall their experiences portraying Pinhead’s cohorts Chatterer, Butterball and the Female Cenobite respectively. Not surprisingly, the perils of performing in the heavy demon getups, which restricted both their sight and their speech (as a result, Bamford, to his regret, lost his dialogue to the less encumbered Wilde) are among the key subjects discussed. You may well be startled, though, to learn that Vince once had real-life mouth surgery that sounds as horrific as his onscreen visage, and nearly got killed in a very Barkeresque manner while filming one key sequence.

Yes, playing a Hellraiser film villain can be a difficult business, but as Cranham remembers in The Doctor Is In, friend and fellow actor Gary Oldman was envious when he scored the Channard role (which he chose over a Shakespeare production). Among Cranham’s particular challenges were kissing a skinned-Julia stand-in who had the flu and an injury suffered while flying on a harness as the mad medico’s Cenobite incarnation, and he remembers them with dry wit and charm. Meanwhile, Outside the Box traces Randel’s journey from toiling in New World’s optical department (on films like Galaxy of Terror) when Roger Corman owned the company to his heavy involvement with Hellraiser after it fell under new management. He then candidly discusses both his positive and negative feelings about Hellbound, on which—and here’s something I’d never heard before—he succeeded author/screenwriter Michael (Beetlejuice) McDowell at the helm.

The disc is rounded out with a couple of brief, surface-level making-of segments that nonetheless provide the only on-set footage among the extras, and a healthy supply of promotional material (trailers, TV spots and a poster/still gallery). The commentary ends with its participants joking about a Hellbound remake, and while two decades later, a Hellraiser redux is looking like a reality, the original sequel holds up just fine.

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