After arguably the most harrowing experience of Kirsty’s young life (I’m assuming she hasn’t been to the Aldi on the Seven Sisters Road) the last thing she needs is to
wake up the following day and go through it all again.
Unfortunately that is exactly what happens to our poor heroine, but this time things are a little more complicated. And bizarre, slightly more interesting and a whole lot more daft.
This instalment benefits from the terrific casting decision in British theatre, TV and film stalwart Kenneth Cranham as the snooker loopy Dr. Channard. He hams it up
for all he’s worth and admirably keeps a straight face throughout. He pulls off the character with aplomb, stealing the show and featuring in my absolute favourite
scene of the film.
In other fantastic news Clare Higgins is back as the delicious Julia. If you read my review of Hellraiser, or indeed have ever seen Clare Higgins circa late 1980’s, hell, if you’ve just flat out ever seen her, you’ll know she is wonderfully saucy. Clare really gets to enjoy her role in this instalment relishing in her status as chief villain.
So, back to Kirsty. Waking up in the Channard Institute for inadequate actors, our protagonist (Ashley Laurence) is haunted by her recent experience with vile creep
Uncle Frank and the Cenobites, in which her father was murdered and her conniving step-mother Julia was also killed.
After a fair bit of back and forth, we learn that the Channard Institute has been set up in order for the deranged Dr. Channard to reach and experience the realm of the Cenobites. The evidence:
• He has interred in the institute a mute girl with a gift for solving puzzles
• He has acquired a filthy bloody mattress, which he has no intention of
• He has loads of creepy paraphernalia in his ghastly minimalist house
• He has the lament configuration box!!
• He has resurrected a skinless Julia!! (yuk! And yes!)
With this knowledge we can now reasonably accurately predict the developments of the rest of the film and therefore you don’t really need me to go into any more detail.
But to satiate your obvious curiosity you will want to know that the puzzle box is solved, they all go to hell, some people lose some skin, some people gain some skin, the puzzle box is put back together and some people escape hell only to realise their acting careers are over.
Despite the plot, Hellraiser II is not without its merits. Cranham and Higgins deliver (unfortunately for them) career defining performances – jeez, what a thing to have on your CV eh? The cenobites and the M.C. Escher concept for ‘Hell’ are reasonably well conceived and the film has much greater scope than the fairly claustrophobic first instalment.
Some significant differences now exist between the information and characters revealed in the first film and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. The alternate dimension of the Cenobites is now almost exclusively referred to as Hell. This was never the case in the original. Pinhead and his chums also take on a slightly different modus operandi, seemingly willing to protect certain people and even going as far as to squabble amongst themselves, as Cenobite kills Cenobite.
Hellraiser II is probably the starting point for a great deal of the frankly mind-boggling mythology that people with too much time on their hands have chosen to create.
Whether this was Clive Barkers intention or not, he does seem to be able to sit back and watch his concept blow up out of all fathomable proportion. Limited glimpses of the inner workings of the cenobite realm and the creation and history of Pinhead are briefly revealed apparently providing enough ammunition for people to roll with.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II, as far as I’m concerned, is a good sequel and remains probably the best entry in the series. It is more over the top, features more skin-swapping than any film I can think of and has Kenneth Cranham shouting about unnecessary surgical procedures:
‘I recommend AMPUTATION!!’ Brilliant.
‘What was on today’s agenda? Ah yes, EVISCERATION!’ Stupefying.
In an interesting bit of internet tittle-tattle, it was intended that the third film follow on with Higgins’ Julia carrying the film and Pinhead no longer featuring. Such was
the popularity of the character this concept was discarded in favour of Pinhead going postal in New York in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. I’m 100% sure I would have preferred the Julia version. It could have just featured her combing her hair for 90 minutes to be honest.