This sequel makes little sense, but is so minging you might get some sicko amusement out of it.
So yeah, what better way to spend a Friday night than to watch Hellbound: Hellraiser II? Yeah, I know, there are millions. Oh well, I was keen on finding out if I’d find it as repulsive as I did when I was much younger. To be honest, the film is still pretty manky, but more in a shamefully amusing, ‘oh, that’s just horrible’ kind of way. Haven’t seen the first one? Well, you should – it’s much better than this, a genuinely twisted, perverse and dark example of adult horror. But if you’re in a situation where the original is completely out of reach and it’s a case of ‘watch Hellbound or die’, then don’t worry, you won’t be too confused, for this is one of those sequels which handily pads out the running time with a few helpful minutes of flashback material (in other words, footage from the first film). The Hellraiser films usually revolve around a little puzzle box that, when solved, takes you away to another world where extreme pleasure is mixed with extreme pain. Not that the pleasure element is explored much in the series’ earlier films (haven’t seen any past III), it’s usually the scenes of face ripping, body tearing and other nastiness that we get to watch. These horrors are inflicted by a bunch of horrible monsters called the Cenobites, led by some guy with a load of pins in his head. He’s called Pinhead.
So, the first film ended with this utter bastard called Frank, who got away from the Cenobites but only in the form of a rotting skeleton, so he got his not-very-pleasant sister-in-law (with whom he had an affair with before he started playing with that box) to start killing hapless blokes so that he could feed off their skin and guts in order to become human again. His last victim ends up being his own brother, and he ends up looking just like him, which is most unpleasant when he starts beckoning his niece to ‘come to daddy’. Anyway, said niece bargains with the Cenobites, they rip Frank to pieces and before they can do away with the niece, they get sent back to Hell, or wherever they came from. Oh, and the sister-in-law gets ‘accidentally’ stabbed by Frank and gets her face torn off for good measure. This is all explained in Hellbound, but I figured my review would make no sense without it. So, this second film has the niece committed to a nut house. Yeah, I said nut house, because there are mental hospitals in real life, and then there are the ones we see in movies like this, where everything is dilapidated, the patients are KER-RAZY and the staff are usually dispassionate monsters. Like I said, a nut house. The niece (whose name is Kirsty, I’ll stop calling her ‘the niece’) is telling the cops and the doctors to burn the mattress that her stepmother got killed on, because she might come back and start eating bodies like Uncle Frank did, and the chief doctor sounds very, very interested in all this banter about boxes and pinheads, because, in a case of extraordinary coincidence, he’s been studying the whole Cenobite thing for ages, and he somehow blags it so the mattress is delivered to his house instead of, I don’t know, the police station. This doctor turns out to be a real mad bastard, inviting nut house residents to cut themselves up on the mattress (bloody horrible, this bit) so that the nasty mother-in-law (her name’s Julia) can rise from the dead, minus skin. The effects on Julia during these bits are grotesquely effective, but she wants to look human again, so it’s munch-munch time. One of her victims is Gorman from Aliens. He’s just as hapless in this film as he was in that. So, by the time Julia’s all fed-up, she’s back to normal and looking just like her old self. But wait a minute, I thought she’d end up looking like her last victim, in the way that Uncle Frank ended up looking like his brother. Oh well, never mind. Julia ends up betraying the mad doctor, who doesn’t mind because he gets to become a super-Cenobite who has loads of fun killing off all his patients whilst making quips like ‘What’s on today’s agenda? Ah yes…evisceration!’. Kirsty and some mute-fellow patient (who coincidentally knows how to solve puzzle boxes like the one that’s causing all this) travel both get in on the act, everyone ends up in Hell, or at least a Hell where all the cheap sets wobble when you run past them, and even Uncle Frank makes a reappearance, but by the end no one remembers to destroy the mattress and this leads the way very unpleasantly for the inevitable third instalment.
This is a lot campier than the original – admittedly, there was some gleeful malevolence from the villains first time round, but here you can almost sense the actors hoping they can get away with drumming their fingers Mr. Burns-style, and to be honest, once you get over the fact that this isn’t going to be as ultra-dark as the first one, there is some amusement to be found, thanks to the fact that Clare Higgins gives good Lady Macbeth bitchiness as Julia, and Kenneth Cranham is pretty excellent as the mad doctor, deadpanning it a treat in the first half before letting it all out when he turns demonic. Unfortunately, the heroes are all pretty dull, especially the mute-puzzle solver. Even though she has barely any dialogue, she still comes off as wooden. Oh yeah, like lots of bad comedy reveals, the mute’s first word is ‘shit!’ Ha-ha. Still, as passably entertaining as this is, it’s a lot of incoherent, uninvolving bollocks – only the first act is at least well made, but then it’s just a silly explosion of effects, gore and whatnot. Oh yeah, those Cenobites make a reappearance, but the film ends up killing them all off. That was before the filmmakers realised they were the best things about the series and had Pinhead come back for the third one. And the fourth one. And the fifth one. And the…