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‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 24, 1988


Tony Randel
Clare Higgins;
Ashley Laurence;
Kenneth Cranham
Under 17 restricted

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With Clive Barker, you get blood. Lots and lots of blood. The Technicolor equivalent of Sensurround in blood.

In "Hellbound: Hellraiser II," not only does the blood flow copiously, but several of the main characters are skinless, which means their bodies are all slick bloody sinew, as if those classic medical encyclopedia illustrations had come to life. In fact, it's death itself that comes to life in "Hellbound," a sequel to the Barker-written and -directed "Hellraiser." Unfortunately, while Barker is listed as executive producer, it's only his characters and concepts that live on via writer Peter Atkins and director Tony Randel, who makes a determined bid for the "I Can Outdo Ken Russell's 'Lair of the White Worm' Award."

"Hellbound" is a film of many excesses -- beyond the blood, there's the heightened sound of pain, some bizarre sexuality and a slew of sadistic effects. Barker's original conception was intriguing: an ornate puzzle box serves as a passage into an underworld (the Outer Darkness) where the thin line between pleasure and pain is constantly being tested both by weak-willed humans who fall under the box's power and its citizen Cenobites, ghastly demons who embody, in extremely visual ways, all their realized perversions.

If you missed the original "Hellraiser," it's briefly recapitulated halfway through "Hellbound." Its lone surviving human, the teen-age Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), is stuck in a Bedlam-style asylum, trying to figure out how her father, uncle and stepmother ended up dead, and then not dead, and maybe dead again (apparently only taxes are certain these days). The head psychiatrist, the sinister Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), turns out to be something of a head case himself, one with a longtime desire to get to the other side. By manipulating Kirsty and the bloody mattress from hell that contains the evil spirit of stepmom Julia (Clare Higgins, also back from the first "Hellraiser"), the Doc unleashes assorted demons and brings Julia back to life again, feeding her the skin and blood of assorted patients kept in the basement of the asylum.

There are other characters -- the mute Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), whose gift is puzzle solving; a medical assistant who learns too much, too late -- and there are some unnecessary digressions, but when it finally gets on track about halfway through, "Hellbound" starts to pack some visceral punches. Even if you discount the cliche's, there are enough bizarre and shocking effects here to satisfy all but the most demanding genre fans.

This is definitely not a film for the squeamish; besides the blood, there is much pain and nastiness as folks explore "the suffering, the sweet suffering."

"Hellbound's" most striking character, Pinhead (Doug Bradley), is back, looking like an acupuncturist's cushion and leading his truly bizarre minions through their paces (is it just me, or does one of them look like quarterback Jim McMahon?). Later, when Channard himself is turned into a Cenobite, he starts using Freddie Krueger's gag writer ("you have your whole lives behind you now"), but visually, he's a disgusting fright and twice as nasty to boot.

The effects are generally good, and those Cenobites are definitely not the kind of folks you'd have over on New Year's Eve. Still, it's odd that the most intriguing, and threatening, items in the film are those darn puzzle boxes.

"Hellbound: Hellraiser II" is rated R and contains much graphic violence and bloodletting.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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