Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) Review: Gross but Poorly Developed
“It will tear your soul apart… again.”
Synopsis: 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.
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Though Hellraiser II initially follows its predecessor in both story and tone, it veers off into left field about halfway through. Due to hasty script rewrites and some misguided choices, the film rarely makes sense and relies heavily on characters making intuitive leaps about information they couldn’t possibly possess. That being said, the movie is still watchable, and does maintain a grip on some of the elements that made Hellraiser so popular.
Hellraiser II, like many other horror sequels, is the “consequences” chapter. It directly follows the events of its predecessor, with Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) landing in a mental hospital after her family’s death. Unfortunately for Kirsty, she finds herself under the care of a doctor who not only believes her story about the Cenobites, but is deeply involved in the lore of the puzzle boxes as well. Rather than protect her, Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) sets about resurrecting Kirsty’s stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins) in order to learn more about the hell she was sent to. That goes… about as well as expected.
Here, though, the story goes off the rails. We get a data dump about the lore of the movie, Kirsty decides her father is in hell and she must rescue him, and suddenly there’s a young girl involved for no apparent reason. The second half of the movie is incoherent at best, with several plot points never explained or explored enough to help the movie hang together. (Later movies, even those that bring up some of the Cenobite lore, never help pull these threads either.) It’s a jumbled mess, and although there is some excellent gore and a few entertaining scenes, it’s not enough to save the movie from being a trainwreck.
Like Hellraiser, the sequel shines when it comes to makeup and gore. The Cenobites are darkly creepy, as always, but this time that horror is underscored by the reveal of their human forms. (Pinhead (Doug Bradley) in particular is barely recognizable as the same man, sans makeup.) We also get a reprise of the deliciously gory body-without-skin setup from the original movie. Unfortunately, some of the new monsters and their effects leave a lot to be desired, but it’s still enough for Hellraiser II to thoroughly live up to its gore rating.
Whether or not we can recommend Hellraiser II really depends on what kind of horror viewer you are. If you prefer your flicks serious and well-made, you should stop after the first movie. If you’re more into the gore and violence of it all, the faults in Hellraiser II (and indeed, the rest of the franchise) will bother you less; the creepiness and creativity of the movies makes them a strong contender for viewing parties if you’re less concerned with plot.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: C+