Hellbound: Hellraiser II Blu-ray offers decent video and great audio in this overall recommended Blu-ray release
In 1988, it emerged as the shocking follow-up to the film that redefined the face of horror. Two decades later, it remains the most brutally original sequel in horror film history. Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and Kenneth Cranham co-star in this hit sequel from executive producer Clive Barker that experiences the flesh like no other. The time to play has come again: Surrender yourself to the infernal labyrinth of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II.
For more about Hellbound: Hellraiser II and the Hellbound: Hellraiser II Blu-ray release, see Hellbound: Hellraiser II Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on September 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
1987's "Hellraiser" dared to challenge the stagnant horror genre. Instead of slashings and stalkings, the picture submitted a low budget, but exhaustively unnerving depiction of sadomasochistic wonder smashed together with distorted monster movie mechanics. Expelled from the bottomless pit of despair known as Clive Barker's imagination, the film was an absolute humdinger, submitting a bold, original vision that genuinely terrified, making chiller product from that year resemble a church picnic by comparison. Finding cult success at the box office, a sequel was quickly ordered up by the producers, looking to capitalize on the uneasy introduction of the Cenobite invasion, hoping to extend the moderately profitable nightmare for one more feature. So, where does one take "Hellraiser" for its second adventure? To Hell, naturally.
After barely surviving the events of the first "Hellraiser," where her father (Andrew Robinson, here in archive footage) was murdered by his devious wife Julia (Clare Higgins) and perverse brother Frank (Sean Chapman), Kirsty (Ashley Laurence, lively and charmingly committed to the madness) is desperate to leave the gruesome experience behind her. Stuck in a psychiatric hospital run by the nefarious Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), Kirsty struggles to explain her outlandish experiences to the staff, ending up nowhere. However, Channard is well aware of the young woman's stories of Cenobites and puzzle boxes, setting out to reanimate Julia via bloodletting, pulling the woman out of Hell, presenting her with a feast of flesh to bring her back to life. Now whole again, Julia is willing to show Channard the miracle of pain, using the puzzle-solving skills of Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), a young mute girl kept at the hospital, to open the Lament Configuration box and open a portal to Hell. Unleashed once again, Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and the Cenobites are caught between the pleasure of tormenting their old foe Kirsty and silencing the underworld havoc caused by Julia.
To be perfectly blunt, "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" is nuts. It's a berserk production slapped together hurriedly (debuting 15 months after the original picture's release), lacking essential elements of logic and good taste, straining extraordinarily hard to continue the franchise down a dark, sadistic path of monsters and mayhem. Although Clive Barker is handed story and producing credits, his presence is merely the lube the production needed to successfully squeeze out a second chapter, with much of "Hellbound" lacking the creator's perverted grace, sense of surprise, and remarkable fascination with depravity. Nevertheless, what screenwriter Peter Atkins and director Tony Randel generate here is an impressive collection of nastiness and panic, doing their damndest to elevate "Hellraiser" to new level of revolting spectacle. It's a mess, but "Hellbound" is a perfectly compelling mess, rich with vicious behavior and monumental gross-outs, also providing a few answers in the continuing puzzle of the franchise.
Where "Hellraiser" felt a little confined and expository, "Hellbound" has more room to grow, though the direction feels hesitant to leave the nest, constantly inserting references or footage from the earlier story into this film. There's even a prologue that clarifies the origin of Pinhead, observing Captain Spencer (also Bradley) open the dreaded puzzle box for the very first time, sucking the poor sap into the merciless unknown, formed into the most feared Cenobite of them all. When not stuck in sequel mode, "Hellbound" follows a few interesting subplots, namely the dastardly work of Channard, a composed ghoul of a man who's been obsessed with the occult for most of his life, finding his lust inflamed by the reanimation of Julia, the bloody, duplicitous key to another dimension of existence he's been aching to visit. While brief (everything in this movie is brief), the material concerning Channard and Julia is fantastically twisted and bravely performed, carrying a bleak "Bride of Frankenstein" tone while displaying the gummy particulars of body acquisition. The very fact that Randel attempts to sell a skinless Julia as a figure of seduction is an inspired touch that leaves large sections of "Hellbound" unforgettable.
The violence of the film is legendary, splashing the screen with all types of body trauma and psychological torment, keeping matters triumphantly uncomfortable for the duration of the picture. An early scene where Channard offers a disturbed inmate a straight razor to help peel imagined maggots and worms off his skin is a real doozy, setting a sickening tone. Randel then proceeds to top it with numerous demonic sights and blood consumption. Despite flooding the frame with gore, "Hellbound" somehow manages to make the agony interesting (the make-up work is exceptional), not just as shock but as moviemaking creativity, extending Barker's original ideas to imagine new threats, including a Cenobite version of Channard (his head attached to a giant phallic creature) and the Leviathan, a towering puzzle deity that rules over Hell (imagined as a massive labyrinth), blasting those who dare stand before it with ghastly images of suffering. The fun house atmosphere is wildly compelling, excitedly playing into Barker's original concept of pain as pleasure, with a pronounced sexuality to sully the chaos. Again, few developments makes sense, the low budget is stretched to the breaking point ("brick" walls ripple in the wind), and there's actually very little room here for Pinhead, who basically supplies a cameo, though one with a curious emotional pull as the grid-faced terror is confronted with his human side. Quibbles aside, "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" has balls, big ones, madly dashing through 95 minutes of pure excess, coming out the other side bloodied, battered, and smiling. I wish more horror sequels had this type of vision, this superb feel for hate couture.
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio, 1080p) presentation for "Hellbound" is sure to disappoint "Hellraiser" fans. Lacking an extensive remastering for its release on Blu-ray, the image frankly leaves much to be desired, supplying softness throughout, lacking a certain textural heft associated with the format and the genre. Crush is a major concern, turning dense hairstyles and costuming into black blobs, while darker sequences are difficult to make out. There's heavy grain throughout the presentation, swallowing a few scenes, encouraging a lot of mosquito noise, losing its cinematic feel. Colors are pronounced, especially blood reds, which look spectacular here, stable and vivid, while the darker blues and greens also make their intended macabre impression. Skintones run a little hot at times but remain in solid condition. Detail isn't the strongest, helpful for intense close-ups and make-up work, but it's not a crisp, clean viewing experience, also plagued by numerous print defects.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix is a surprisingly effective sonic representation of the "Hellbound" event, pushing forward with superb circular control, generating a tight, evocative feeling with a needed loudness to keep matters haunting. Christopher Young's gorgeous gothic score is definitely a highlight, blasting through the surrounds confidently, satisfactorily separated from the rest of the elements. The music sounds amazing, providing crisp support to capture the moment. Atmospherics are also quite good, feeling out hospital commotion and drastic weather changes. Sound effects are eager, delivering aggressive squishes, snaps, and metal clangs, providing some sense of directional movement. Dialogue exchanges are subdued but easily understood, save for Channard Cenobite's medical ramblings, which aren't always intelligible. Voices are a little clotted, but nothing that raises concern. Low-end is responsive, carrying a demonic rumble once the action greets Leviathan.
The "Hellraiser" mythos has been subjected to nine motion picture adaptations, an enormous sum for any film series. Criminally, only two of them are of any worth, leaving "Hellbound" essentially the swan song in terms of creativity and showmanship when it comes to this franchise. Still, two movies are better than none, with the initial installments maintaining a welcome grasp on Barker's twisted realm of agony and salvation. "Hellbound" isn't pretty, but it provides a feast of repulsion, inflating the Cenobite reign to epic standards. For utter perversion and relentless ick, it's quite neat.
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The sequel to Clive Barker's iconic horror film, Hellbound: Hellraiser II will arrive on Blu-ray this September, courtesy of Image Entertainment. Picking up immediately after the events of the first Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II finds the depraved Cenobites ...
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