Your Suffering Will Be Legendary – Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) Blu-ray

Clive Barker’s stylish, creepy Hellraiser made such a splash in 1987 that studio New World Pictures moved quickly to cash in with a sequel ready for release less than one year later. With Barker himself and most of the original cast still attached, Hellbound: Hellraiser II is often regarded as the best of the many follow-ups the franchise would eventually produce. Sadly, that’s not saying very much.

Most of the Hellraiser sequels are inept and awful. In a lot of ways, so is Hellraiser II, to be perfectly frank about it. However, the film makes a good-faith effort to continue and expand upon the story from its predecessor, which should earn it some points in the eyes of fans, even if its execution is mostly lackluster.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) - Kirsty
Title:Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Year of Release: 1988
Director: Tony Randel
Watched On: Blu-ray
Also Available On: Amazon Prime Video
The Roku Channel
Various VOD rental and purchase platforms

Hellbound picks up directly from the end of Hellraiser. In fact, it opens by replaying a few minutes of clips from the first movie to remind audiences what happened (and to pad the running time). After discovering her father’s murder and fighting off some terrifying sadomasochists from beyond the grave, young Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital while the police, who think her story about what happened is completely loony, investigate the deaths. Even Kirsty herself questions if she’s losing her mind, but brain surgeon and psychiatrist (the movie conflates the two jobs) Dr. Channard assures her that he can bring her back to sanity. Unfortunately, Channard (Kenneth Cranham) is a pretty sketchy dude who keeps a dungeon full of secret test subjects locked in the hospital basement and is obsessed with the occult. As it happens, he has no less than three demonic puzzle boxes in his home and has researched the Cenobites for years, hoping one day to witness them for himself and learn their secrets.

In short order, Channard manages to resurrect Kirsty’s wicked stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins) and finds her flayed body a huge turn-on. Replaying some of the plot from the first film, Julia convinces Channard to help her murder a series of victims that will restore her bodily tissue and skin. The doctor then uses a traumatized young patient named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) to solve one of the Cenobite boxes, opening a doorway to hell through which he and Julia can slip in. Meanwhile, Kirsty escapes the hospital and, desperate to save her father, convinces the Cenobites to let her take a look around and search for him. With everyone wandering the maze-like corridors of hell, events culminate in some betrayals, more gory deaths, the return of another familiar character, and the birth of a new Cenobite.

Also, it turns out that the Cenobites have a god, a giant rotating obelisk called Leviathan that looks at least partially inspired by a Pink Floyd album cover.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) - Julia

Although he’s credited with providing the story, Clive Barker did not return to the director’s chair for Hellraiser II. The author’s writing career had kicked into high gear at that point and he had a lot going on, so he chose to step back into an Executive Producer role for the second film. Directing duties fell instead to Tony Randel, who’d handled some uncredited production duties and editing on the original, while the screenplay was fleshed-out and finished by first-timer Peter Atkins. Neither of them is an auteur on the level of Barker, regrettably.

Hellbound follows the template set by Hellraiser as closely as it can, albeit in a decidedly more pedestrian fashion. The sequel has some pretty good gore effects, and Julia’s disturbing seduction of Channard almost lives up to the dark kink of the first film. On the other hand, it also has a lot of cheesy opticals, hammy acting, and corny stop-motion monster action. The hospital and house sets look really cheap, and hell is mostly envisioned with some bad, M.C. Escher knockoff matte paintings. At a couple of points, the film incorporates more lengthy recaps of clips from the first movie to fill some time, and the climax is a clumsily-edited, confusing mess. Despite its theatrical release, the whole thing feels like a cheapie direct-to-video tie-in. Make no mistake, Hellraiser had a lot of weaknesses in its production quality as well, but every failing seems exacerbated here.

To its credit, the sequel does attempt to build a more detailed and elaborate mythology around the Cenobites, including a full backstory for leader Pinhead (Doug Bradley). However, doing so only serves to demystify them and sap them of all the mystery that made them interesting in the first place. The demons do entirely too much talking in this outing, and mostly just stand around for Channard to take over as the real villain.

All that said, Hellbound: Hellraiser II has a reasonable number of aspects to merit a Hellraiser fan’s attention. If nothing else, it’s the only sequel with a legitimate connection to the original. Though not saying much, it’s also a less incompetent or insipid movie than the next two theatrical follow-ups, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) or Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996). The less said about the numerous DTV entries after that point, the better.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) - Julia & Dr. Channard

The Blu-ray

Hellbound: Hellraiser II was first released on Blu-ray by Image Entertainment in 2011, but Arrow Video remastered and reissued the film in 2016 as part of a trilogy collection called Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box. That was followed in 2019 by a standalone edition in a regular keepcase. The latter is the only copy I’ve ever owned, so I’m not able to do comparisons with the Image version.

Judged on its own, the Arrow Blu-ray for Hellbound looks a lot like the label’s disc for the first Hellraiser. Likewise credited as a “2K restoration” approved by cinematographer Robin Vidgeon, the 1.85:1 image is quite sharp and detailed, but also frequently swamped in extremely noisy grain. The vivid red of the gore effects pops nicely, but the picture is once again overly brightened and flat, which really exposes the fakeness of all the matte painting backdrops.

A PCM stereo soundtrack is set as the default audio and given priority in the disc setup menus, but in this case I strongly recommend switching to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix (presumably licensed from a prior distributor). The stereo track is extremely thin, frail, and weak, with tons of background hiss behind the dialogue. The 5.1 version, on the other hand, is cleaner and has better dynamic range, with a decent amount of surround activity. If still a little bright and shrill at times, it’s far preferable to the stereo option.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) - Cenobites

Supplements start with two audio commentaries. The first is by Tony Randel and Peter Atkins. The second finds the director and writer talking about the film once again, but this time joined by star Ashley Laurence.

Also crammed onto the same disc with the movie are a two-hour documentary and another half-hour of interviews with actors Sean Chapman (Frank) and Doug Bradley (Pinhead), all in HD video. Some vintage featurettes and interviews in standard-definition, plus a few trailers, TV spots, and a still gallery round out the extras.

The most amusing piece of content here must be the interview with Chapman, who remains fond of the original Hellraiser but was thoroughly unimpressed with the sequel.

Hellraiser II (1988) Blu-ray


One thought on “Your Suffering Will Be Legendary – Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) Blu-ray

  1. Have never seen a ‘Hellraiser’ movie, but was thoroughly amused by Clive Barker’s words about the 2011 ashcan copy: ‘If they claim it’s from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.’


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