DECEMBER 21, 2008
Earlier today I was interviewed for a documentary about horror fans and why they do the things they do, like, I dunno, watch and write about a horror movie every single day of their life. One question was about whether or not I plan my movies, which I do not, and noted that I still didn't even know what I was going to watch today. But that was kind of a lie, because I had just gotten the new Anchor Bay release of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and I was eager to revisit it.
Like the first film (I can't believe it's been almost a year since I watched it?), I only saw Hellraiser II once, when I was in eighth grade and watched all three (this was a happier, pre-Dimension time) back to back. Being a fan primarily of slashers, I didn't really care for any of them, and if it wasn't for Horror Movie A Day I probably still wouldn't have revisited them or watched any of the DTV sequels. Which is a shame, because the films are far better than I remembered.
While Pinhead may look cool and all that, the story is simply better suited for an older audience. The themes (the lengths one would go to satisfy their obsessions, for example) just don't really resonate with a kid who is watching it mainly for boobs and blood. I'm not even sure I understood what was going on inside Frank's personal hell back then.
The movie also had some surprising revelations for me. For example, I am currently editing a documentary, and at one point the subject of the film chuckles to himself after saying "What was on the agenda? Ah yes... an evisceration!" I have always been a bit baffled as to why he was saying that, but now I know that it's a line from the movie. Also, I think this movie may be responsible for my seething hatred of having wet skin under my clothes. When I shower, I dry myself for like a half hour, because if I feel any wetness on the interior of my clothing, I practically freak out (and instantly re-dry and put a different shirt on). Hell, even when I see people in movies just toss their jeans on immediately after getting out of a shower, I cringe. I think the scene where a skinless Julia puts on Channard's shirt, getting blood all over it, may have been the root cause of this odd phobia.
That or I'm just a giant fucking baby.
Also, as a sequel, it really delivers what you would hope for. It's not a copy of the first film, but it retains the same feel and brings back a lot of the characters (IMDb's trivia notes that the film feels muddled without Andy Robinson, but honestly I didn't mind his absence at all. It gave even more weight to the Frank scene), while expanding the mythology and introducing new villains/threats, particularly Dr. Channard. Having recently seen the lackluster sequels, the film's overall high quality is even more impressive; certainly Dimension has proven time and time again that it's pretty easy to make a shitty Hellraiser movie.
Not that it's a perfect film. There are some odd omissions of character, such as the rather personable cop who appears in the film's first 20 minutes and is then never seen again. And Kirsty has apparently gone back and read some of Clive Barker's notes or something, because all of a sudden she is an expert on the Cenobites (how did she even learn the term?), apparently gaining all of her knowledge after just looking at them for a few minutes. And while Tony Randel does an admirable job of taking over from Barker as director, I think he could have stood to lose three or even two hundred of the shots of Kirsty and Tiffany running down hallways together. There would still be several thousand for us to enjoy, so I don't think it would have been any real loss.
Speaking of the hallway, it's kind of funny how time/better technology has sort of ruined certain movie effects. Being more hip to movie magic, it's pretty easy to see that the "endless maze of hallways" is really just three hallways (if that) shot from different angles. Also, even as a kid, I was always aware of bad effects in movies (such as the abysmal composite shot in Nightmare on Elm St 3 when the skeleton is fighting Craig Wasson), but I didn't see anything wrong with Hellbound when I watched it on an EP mode VHS copy. Now, in a glorious anamorphic transfer on upscaled DVD, I can see that the matte/composite shots in this movie are pretty damn cheesy, as are some of the effects on Dr. Channard. Don't get me wrong, they are imaginative and all, but the clarity of DVD really diminishes their impact. Another thing that I noticed about the effects which was just more amusing - whenever they cut to a closeup of a head being inflicted with some incredibly serious pain (such as pins being driven into it), the head doesn't move at all. I'd be squirming like a mother fucker!
Speaking of Nightmare 3... anyone else ever notice how similar the dynamic is with the female leads in the two films? Which movie am I describing? A curly brown haired woman from the first film helps a new character, a blond with bad 80s hair, fight the returning monster while running around both a mental institute and Hell.
One other minor thing - while I always love the idea of a villain redeeming himself in the face of a greater threat, it seems really abrupt when it happens here. Pinhead has no recollection of his human side, but once he sees a picture of himself, he instantly finds it in his heart to help Kristy out. It's an interesting story idea, I just wish it was threaded more into the narrative instead of coming more or less out of nowhere in the final reel.
Anchor Bay has put together a pretty great collection for this release, and it's pretty impressive how good the movie looks when you consider that there is an additional 90 minutes of extra features. The commentary and making of are carried over from the 2000 release, then 2 features are imported from other sources, and finally 3 all new featurettes were created specially for this edition. Unsurprisingly, the new ones are the more interesting, as they deal with folks we don't often hear from. Barker, Bradly, and Ashley Laurence are not in any of the new features, so instead we hear the thoughts of the other three cenobites, as well as Kenneth Cranham, who is delightfully British (read: dryly hilarious) as he recollects his turn as Dr. Channard. There is also a new interview with director Tony Randel, who talks about how he moved up from being a film librarian at Corman's company to a full fledged director. The old making of is typical of such pieces for films that were made before special editions were in vogue, in that for every minute of interview footage, there's two minutes of film. Even though it was produced by Barker himself, it's actually the weakest in the lot. Finally, there's an old interview with Barker from the set, and a new-ish (2004) interview with Bradley. Plus the usual trailers and such. Oddly enough, the box art makes no mention of the fact that this is the full unrated 99 minute cut, not the theatrical version you might expect. Which got me thinking: what if someone preferred the theatrical? Is it available on DVD anywhere? I know unrated cuts are generally more enticing, but more often than not, the added shit is worthless (see: Crimson Tide), so the choice should at least be available.
What say you?