Halloween Month: Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Hellbound: Hellraiser II, was the second instalment in Clive Barker’s imaginative Hellraiser franchise. This sequel is highly regarded among fans and considered the strongest film within the series due to Barker’s unique vision and the return of most of the original cast; including Ashley Laurence as final girl Kirsty Cotton, Clare Higgins as the wicked Julia, Doug Bradley as the iconic Pinhead and Nicholas Vince and Simon Bamford as the cenobites the Chatterer and Butterball. Author/Actress and woman of horror Barbie Wilde took on the role of the female cenobite which cemented her as an icon within the genre. Barker came up with the hellish story while Peter Atkins wrote the screenplay and Tony Randel, noted for his experience on the first film directed. In fact, this sequel had already received the green light while the original was still in its production stages. New World Cinema certainly capitalized on the fact Hellraiser was emerging at the height of horror during the 1980’s which saw the creation of some of the most memorable monsters that still hold impact today, with Pinhead and his group of diabolical demons as no exceptions.
Following the nightmarish events of the first instalment, poor Kirsty Cotton is institutionalized, but something is still not right. At the hospital, Kirsty is treated by the enigmatic psychiatrist Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) who unbeknown to her has been searching for the gateway to hell for years. Kirsty still remains in hope of saving her father from the dark underworld, however encounters more than she bargained for when Channard summons evil stepmother Julia from the confines of hell and she encounters the cruel cenobites all over again. This time round Kirsty is accompanied by a mute young girl named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) who has a talent for solving puzzles. Channard uses Tiffany’s skills to his advantage as he instructs her to solve the Lament Configuration and open the portal to hell.
Hellbound is an extension of the original story and picks up where the first one left off. The sequel was an opportunity for Barker and his team to explore the characters in greater depth and to emphasize to the audience that all along the cenobites were once human too and became the demons we all recognize due to indulging in the unruliest of pleasures. Barker intended this underlying plot point to coincide with Frank and Julia’s story from Hellraiser as well as his inventive novel The Hellbound Heart. The initial plan was to transform Julia into the iconic villain of the series. In the novel and 1987 film, Pinhead is not a primary character and has a short screen time however when anybody thinks of Hellraiser the image of the demonic monster with spikes through his head comes to mind. This was due to Pinhead becoming more popular with the viewers than was planned therefore centralizing him in future films within the series. Even though Julia is a pivotal character to the films, in terms of merchandising and promotion for the Hellraiser brand, her presence is understated. Actress Claire Higgins also expressed interest in seeking out different roles away from the genre despite relishing in her time playing evil Julia, therefore the creators were free to go on and capitalize on brand Pinhead.
What makes Hellbound a strong sequel is its storytelling and exploration of the established characters. Kirsty is emotionally broken from her horrific experience as well as the unjustified death of her father Larry (Andrew Robinson). She is however extremely headstrong and determined, proving to be an active final girl who takes matters into her own hands and seeks out to defeat the monsters herself. This came at a time when roles for women in post-modern genre films were becoming more interesting. It became the final girl’s job to fight, not wait around to be saved or more than likely killed! Kirsty embodies the traits of a courageous role model similarly to Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) in the Elm Street films of the same era. Higgins’s character Julia could be described in the same vein but on a completely opposite spectrum. Julia is also determined but driven by her own selfish interests. The tension between Kirsty and her former step-mother/enemy is ramped up even more this time as neither one wants the other to scupper their individual agendas. This time round Julia comes across as much more self-assured as she is no longer bound to do the evil bidding for ex-lover Frank and quite satisfyingly has her revenge.
An interesting aspect that was touched upon in the film was Pinhead’s origins. In some of the opening moments we see a human Captain Spencer (Doug Bradley) opening the Lament Configuration then in a painful sequence see him transform into the recognizable demon, there’s skin tearing, slashing and impalement to transform Bradley’s character into Pinhead. Its certainly a gut-punch of an opening moment. There had been plans to expand on this further however unfortunately due to budget restraints had to be dropped from the script at the pre-production stages. Luckily for fans this backstory was not wasted and played in integral part in the following third instalment Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) which unlike Hellbound is more of a mixed bag but does well with exploring Pinhead’s human history.
The film that unfolded on screen was actually slightly different to what was originally intended. The inclusion of Kirsty’s father Larry Cotton (Andrew Robinson) had to be changed following the actor’s decision to not reprise the role. Scripts had to be hurriedly re-written to accommodate the changes. Despite the well-crafted storytelling surrounding the remaining characters and hints towards Pinhead’s past, the gap Robinson’s character left brought in criticism that the film was a structural mess which will be discussed further in the article.
As well as incorporating an engaging and visionary piece of storytelling, its the make up department that must be applauded for their work on the film in bringing the demonic cenobites to life with mesmerizing visual detail. Simon Bamford who played Butterball had dialogue written for his character, however due to having to wear fake teeth as part of his costume, it made it difficult to speak therefore his lines which are said to be “perhaps we prefer you” and “impossible” were instead given to the female cenobite. In an interview with Barbie Wilde earlier this year for the Love Horror site, she discussed how applying the make up took around 4 hours while the costume took thirty minutes to put on. After waiting for a number of hours before shooting their scenes, Barbie described that once herself and her fellow cenobites emerged onto the set, accompanied with dry ice and wind machines, the scene was set for when Tiffany solves the Lament Configuration. Barbie stated that even though it was a film set the atmosphere was “magical” and that is certainly how Hellraiser II feels when watching it on screen, it transports the viewer into another dimension and invests us in this horrifying yet extraordinary world. For cast and crew to achieve this effect on its audience is exceptional.
An air of mystery surrounds a supposed deleted scene. On the original VHS cover of Hellbound, an image on the back cropped up of Pinhead and the Female Cenobite donning surgical clothing however it was never featured in the final cut. Fans remained curious about what this scene added to the beloved film and came up with a rumour of a ‘famous deleted surgery scene’. Doug Bradley eventually confirmed that the scene was incomplete as on the day of filming the effects unfortunately did not work, resulting in an abandonment of the sequence.
When Hellbound was released in December 1988 critics were less than impressed with their second outing into hell. Roger Ebert among others criticized it for its disorganized story construction but as previously stated this was problematic due to quick re-writes following Andrew Robinson’s departure as Larry Cotton. “But this movie violates more rules than the First Rule of Repetition. It also violates a basic convention of story construction, which suggests that we should get at least a vague idea of where the story began and where it might be headed” were Ebert’s thoughts.
The film was commended by other critics for its well-crafted set design and special effects on such a low budget. Fans demonstrated disappointment at the fact that the film saw Channard easily defeat the cenobites resulting in screenwriter Peter Atkins obtaining hate mail! Atkins justified his decision by conveying to the audience that it must be understood that the cenobites were once human however to defuse the fans outrage he ensured them that in full demon mode Pinhead could easily defeat Channard.
With strict guidelines via the BBFC during the decade, Hellraiser II didn’t escape the cutting room floor in both the theatrical release and VHS version. The run-time has fluctuated between 89 minutes to 99 minutes depending on cuts. During Julia’s resurrection scene, a maggot slicing moment occurs, emerging as the biggest casualty losing 55 seconds of screen time. Every gory scene was trimmed down, including the opening flashback to part one of Frank’s demise. Finally in 2004 an uncut version the film was distributed onto DVD thanks to Anchor Bay.
Following Hellbound: Hellraiser II, seven more sequels emerged, mostly direct-to-video. Doug Bradley continued to reprise his iconic role in all but the controversial Hellraiser: Revelations (2011).
The Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II legacy continues in an upcoming and eagerly-anticipated documentary, Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, following a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Directed by K. John McDonagh, the documentary features interviews with cast and crew that were involved in both productions.
From the Facebook Page:
“Following the story of the films from their inception through production to release and the their subsequent lives and growing fan base, we aim to show fans and those less familiar with the films both the technical skills, the creative idea, the symbolism and the legacy of these movies.”
Its essential to take a trip to Hell this Halloween with one of Horror’s most inventive sequels and one of my personal favourites or it’ll tear your soul apart!
Hayley Alice Roberts.