My copy of Hellraiser is MIA so let’s recap for the first movie and don’t read further if you don’t want to be spoiled:
Kirsty is the kid of Larry, a quiet, nice guy who winds up married to an adulterous harridan by the name of Julia. Julia’s not only icy to Kirsty, she also had a days-past affair with Larry’s brother, Frank. Frank is into some hardcore freaky stuff – he travels the world looking for the most boundary-pushing ways to explore eroticism and one day he happens upon something that happens to be way more than he can handle. Enter Lemarchand’s box, the well-known puzzle contraption of the Hellraiser series that opens to release demons from Hell. Frank escapes the demons (called “Cenobites”) to come back to Earth. Julia discovers his skinless, mangled frame and nurses him back to health by seducing men and killing them so Frank can feed. (I’d suggest not eating anything during this one.)
Eventually the parties all must face up that some seriously Inferno-esque shit is going down in their humble abode and Kirsty releases the Cenobites, who come to claim Frank…and Julia.
So the second picks up right where the first left off, with Kirsty being hauled in from the ruined remains of her house and shuffled off into a psychiatric ward.
Kirsty’s psychiatrist is a man named Dr. Channard. Kindly at first, he takes an interest in her because of her professed belief that demons ripped apart her family like bits of paper. Dr. Channard also has a girl under his care who’s got a particular knack with puzzles. Can we see where this is going?
Dr. Channard’s assistant gets wind of some fucked up goings-on at the good doctor’s house, so he inspects while Kirsty sees her dead daddy leaving her messages that he’s in hell. She becomes determined to save him. Dr. Channard’s assistant becomes determined to be creeped the fuck out by Dr. Channard, as his whole life seems to revolve around opening Lemarchand’s box to unleash the hellbeasts within. It probably doesn’t help that the good-hearted assistant sees Channard allow a mental patient to mutilate himself on the bed where Julia died, thereby resurrecting a skinless lady bent on … rejuvenating herself.
Kirsty and The Assistant meet up and go back to the house, where Channard’s already pressed the girl with the puzzle talent into opening the box so he and Julia can go exploring in Hell. There’s an appealing travel destination if I ever heard of one, so it’s no surprise that Channard’s so inquisitive.
Too bad for Channard that things don’t go according to plan…
I won’t spoil you anymore, but the whole of the movie is not good at all. The first Hellraiser explored the crazy S&M kind of idea that pain and pleasure are closely related. It was about as close as a flick could get to being remotely evocative of Clive Barker’s story. (Hellraiser is based on Barker’s The Hellbound Heart, and if you haven’t read Barker and feel you can stomach it, it is worth a read. He writes beautifully, which is a nice counterpoint to the horrific stuff he’s writing about.) The entire first movie made people’s skin crawl not just with the overt gore but the thematic elements of the movie in general were a little out there. Plus, Barker put a whole new riff on Hell.
The second one takes all that and kind of pitches it out the window, since the movie makes little sense. Whole plot points are messily discarded, as Kirsty’s whole reason for entering Hell is to find her innocent Daddy, but as far as I can tell, she never gets a concrete lock on where Daddy is, let alone rescues h im. The special effects are Harryhausen-lite, something that would’ve been appropriate for a 1950’s monster flick but deaden the terror of demonic, torture-happy beings coming to get you and take you away forever.
The makeup effects are still good as Pinhead & Co. are enough to make you twitch nervously in your sleep. The treatment of Pinhead and his gang of pain-inducing troublemakers will make you cringe, however.
The sad thing about this one is that you can see the slim bones of a good movie in here. There was a lot of room to move in this one and many paths they could have taken. Instead, what you get is a cobbled mash of stuff that doesn’t totally add up. IMDB tells me that the guy who played Kirsty’s dad refused to come back for the sequel, which mean shoddy rewrites that account for some of the movie making no damn sense. The thing feels disjointed and odd, like something went wrong in the editing room.
Julia’s character works every angle like she doesn’t know what’s coming around the corner; Dr. Channard is more entertaining as a morally bankrupt human than what he becomes. Kirsty’s character is reduced to histrionics and wide eyed terror … and not much else. Supporting cast members are quickly killed off; they seem to be sacks of meat to move along the plot.
It’s a strange mess of a flick. It sets up Julia to be the future baddie when we all know Pinhead became the Krueger-esque face of the franchise. As a horror fan, there’s something strangely entertaining that I find about it, but my smarts tell me that few others would find much in this morass to entertain them.
It lacks in style and substance. About the only redeeming thing I took from this movie was, “Hey! There’s more than one Lemarchand box? Cool!”
I don’t hold much hope for any of the other sequels if this one is evocative of the path the franchise takes.
For horror fans, I’d recommend giving it a once over; for everyone else – you have been duly warned.