No Sleep October: Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988)

Fuck this movie.

“Hellraiser II: Hellbound” picks up where the first movie ends, with Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) haunted by her experience with nasties Frank (Sean Chapman), Julia (Clare Higgins) and the Cenobites. I didn’t remember anything from the first movie, which I watched four years ago. “Hellbound” has several recap sequences at the start of the movie, but they didn’t help. I was confused the entire time. I was bored.

I was also deeply, deeply revolted.

 

“Hellbound” is unendingly nasty, a visual kick in the face every other scene. Example: The opening shot is a man being torn apart graphically. The special effects are 30 years old; you can see the seams if you really want to, but they’re quality in the way that your brain doesn’t care. When nasty man Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) lets one of his patients self-mutilate on a mattress in order to open a door to the Cenobite realm, the blood sacrifice brings Julia, the villain from the first movie, back from the grave. Except she doesn’t have any skin. There’s some skinless boning in this movie. You can tell they’re prosthetics but … oh, man. Revolting.

I’m not against feeling disgusted with a movie. In fact, I generally feel an odd sense of guilt when I turn something off because it bothers me. Which is why this column exists! I am as afraid of not knowing as I am of feeling grossed out or disturbed. This year, the first movie Sam Watermeier and I watched was “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom” because I got it in my head that we should, y’know, test our mettle with one of the most fucked-up movies ever made. They eat shit in that movie, literally! Why not watch it?

There is a pleasure in being revolted when you can look back and know that for two hours you were well served by something you’ve never seen before. You don’t have to agree with it or think it was good. I’m glad I watched “Hellbound,” but I’m not sure I feel any pleasure in having watched it.The first “Hellraiser” is a quality horror yarn with some imaginative and disturbing visuals. “Hellbound” has no real story. It is gory, graphic imagery with nothing behind it. Without characters or theme, the people being endlessly ripped to shreds became completely disorienting. I’ve been grossed out for about a month now. I can barely think about it without feeling uneasy.

You could argue that “Hellbound” worked for me in that it aims to elicit this precise feeling but — nah, I don’t buy it. The intersection of pleasure and pain is the thematic core of the franchise, but there has to be some pleasure in the actual story conveying the pain. There wasn’t here. All pain, no pleasure makes for a dull experience.

Pinhead is probably the most interesting example of how much “Hellbound” fails. He’s an iconic slasher character, the Dracula of his generation. His dry, dark intelligence contrasts him with his contemporaries. He’s hardly in “Hellbound,” and when he is he’s more of an ally. Pinhead’s cool as hell, but I think he’s a character whose legend really grew in the telling. His face on box art at Blockbuster, his image on posters and T-shirts, his movies playing late at night in an early ’90s dorm room or a high schooler’s basement when gore and violence feels taboo …

All this being said, despite its flaws it has stuck with me more than any other movie I watched for “No Sleep October” this year.


Administrator of Midwest Film Journal. Previously a staff writer for TheFilmYap.com, Evan has been writing film criticism in the Indianapolis area for over half a decade. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He also reviews Oreos.


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