Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

So many things made 1988 great. But it was probably the release of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, that was one of the best-est things. Fans of horror films were first titillated by Pinhead and his merry band of demon dominatrices only a year earlier. This was a good omen for many, as clearly this quick turnaround meant that surely we needed only wait 12-15 months for Bobby Brown to put out the follow-up to his already (and aptly titled) classic album, Don’t Be Cruel (the other best-est thing of 1988). But it turns out Bobby Brown was cruel. Bobby, the follow-up album, wouldn’t be released until 1992. Yet, it would be hard to match the cruelty in the knotted mind of the (then) Vice-President of 80’s horror, Clive Barker. Barker, who had directed the previous film, for some reason, decided to turn over almost everything about the franchise to (insert name of disposable director here). Would turning this franchise over to a “real” filmmaker experience result in a film as good/better/worse than the original? Let’s leave such things up to science. Where it belongs. So grab your scorecard. The nanobots are fired up and ready to go. Things are about to get icky.
  • Hey, remember the end of the first Hellraiser? You don’t? Well, allow us to remind you: “Hey, you signed the puzzle-box end-user agreement: Violation of the terms stated hereunder may result in penalties not to exceed $250,000 and/or the fiery destruction of all your material goods by Sesame-Street quality visual effects. = +23pts” (Courtesy of Technician John Ormond.) 
  • Remember when that fat cenobite was all about to kill the lead girl’s best boyfriend from the first movie and was felled by cheap dry-wall, thus sparing his life, and we all thought, “Wow, the gravity must be way different in hell dimensions because that looked like a bunch of Styrofoam”? Good times! = +3pts 
  • Subverting classic horror tropes by swapping the franchise title and number with the episode title. = +5pts 
  • Maintaining the classic horror tropes that matter: Like, for example, not having a single recognizable name attached to the movie, from grip to actor, from writer to director, outside of Clive Barker, whose legendary demands that everyone wear nipple clamps and cock rings still resonate in the contemporary bondage horror films of today. = +10pts 
  • On a completely unrelated note: “Director” Tony Randel’s body has never been recovered. They did, however, find his skin suit in the closet of an abandoned building in Birmingham, England. = +3pts (For closure.) 
  • Clive Barker is not gay. (In 1988, = +10pts, In 2013, = -10pts) 
  • Slow lingering shot of a soldier’s “uniform” with accompanying leather whips, belts, strings and harness. = +2pts 
  • Does this film come with a safe word? = No points. Just a question. 
  • Total screen time devoted to Pinhead’s origin story: 1(ish)-minute. = +60pts (Can somebody send this over to the people at Marvel Studios?) 
  • Recycling significant portions of the plot of Nightmare on Elm St III: Dream Warriors. = -4pts 
  • Storing a corpse in a bread basket. = +4pts 
  • In case you were wondering if the creepy brain surgeon was hiding a dark Nazi past, rest assured his references to a mysterious “final solution” and obvious egomaniacal demeanor make him a strong candidate for a good hooking. = +3pts (For complicating the narrative.) 
  • Naming your Nazi doctor Dr. Channard and not Dr. Makebelieve, a more accurate description of the type of medicine he practices. = -5pts 
  • Clive Barker doesn’t like doctors. He especially doesn’t like Psychiatrists. We wonder what would happened if he just combined the fields for narrative sake? Hmm… = -1pts 
  • On an unrelated note: Clive Barker is not gay. (In 1988, = +10pts, In 2013, = -10pts) 
  • Using the fact that you are a doctor—thus gainfully employed and ready to make babies—to try to pick up a mentally damaged young woman who just saw her skinless uncle and dad’s murderous wife ripped to pieces by a band of transdimensional sex demons. = -5pts (In any decade.) 
  • Man, that puzzle box sure was fun! Playing with it had such a positive outcome for all involved! Maybe I can help this traumatized blonde girl who doesn’t speak make her own! = +3pts 
  • Welcome to 1988: Where doctors could just walk up to you in their casual clothes and offer you a sketchy bottle of “sleeping medicine.” We’re on to you, “Kyle.” = -2pts 
  • Using your own blood to send a text from hell asking for help. = +5pts ( ;-) LOL) 
  • Tasting hell blood during the age of AIDS. = -5pts 
  • The sudden realization that the iconic puzzle box of the entire franchise was likely inspired by the gift stand at Sharper Image. = -4pts 
  • Doing dispassionate rounds on the scream floor of your local psychiatric ward. = -10pts (Unless you’re a Nazi. Then it’s like Christmas and off the charts good.) 
  • “Please, wait outside my open door while I have this incredibly suspicious conversations about something of which you may have tangential knowledge of.” = +4pts 
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II alternative title: Hellraiser Highlights: Hellraiser II. = -2pts (Just in case you forgot that borderline pornographic sex scene from the first movie.) 
  • On an unrelated note: Clive Barker is not gay. (In 1988, = +10pts, In 2013, = -10pts) 
  • Face painting with pieces of face. = +5pts 
  • Filming Herr Channard’s interior home shots in the same house that The Human Centipede was filmed in. = +3pts 
  • For all of the probing psycho-sexual musings of Clive Barker, no observation has ever been as astutely (under)stated as Kyle’s monosyllabic utterance, “Weird,” spoken in the bowels of Dr. Channard’s library/lab (lab-rary?). You’re right, Kyle. It is weird that you have somehow found your way into your supervisor’s home, without an obvious key or apparent animal you’ve promised to feed. This never ends well for anyone. We hope you’ve had your anus bleached. = +10pts 
  • Skeletons always look cool when hung to look like they are screaming. We’ve been saying this for years. = +3pts 
  • “CHILDREN OF THE VORTEX: Puberty Link with Psychic Phenomena.” = +4pts (This explains so much! Our bodies ourselves!) 
  • On an unrelated note: Clive Barker is…not gay. (In 1988, = +10pts, In 2013, = -10pts) 
  • “Is death the fourth dimension?” Let us help with that one, Encyclopedia Brown; it’s Spacetime. = -4pts 
  • We don’t know what this crazy guy’s problem is. Everybody knows maggots are good for infections. = -2pts 
  • Mattress resurrection. Giving “quality bed rest” a new name since 1988. = +15pts. 
  • Aunt Julia sure could use a drink. = +5pts 
  • Aunt Julia, we’d like you introduce you to our friend Uncle Tobias. We think you two would have a lot in common. = +3pts 
  • Disguising Aunt Julia as a used tampon for Halloween was a great idea, Herr Channard. She shouldn’t have any problems cavorting with the yokels now! = +9pts 
  • Wait, we were wrong. Sexy mummy is a way better idea and would go over much better at cocktail parties. = +3pts 
  • Leave it to Clive Barker to make a sexy woman without skin the pinnacle of horror. = +4pts 
  • On an unrelated note: Clive Barker is…not gay. (In 1988, = +10pts, In 2013, = -10pts) 
  • “Hello, I’m Kyle and I have a knack for appearing in private places. For the record: I was not implying your vagina.” = -4pts 
  • Kyle is such a terrible doctor that he thinks making clothes is part of his job. = -2pts 
  • What kind of doctor are you, Kyle? Medical? Psychiatric? Or are you a doctor in the way Dr. Dre is a doctor? We have no sense of your latent talents, other that appearing in previously locked rooms and your ability to score high quality roofies. = -5pts 
  • The establishing shot of Herr Channard clearly locking his centipede palace. = +2pts (For valuing quality security of potentially dimension destroying weaponry.) 
  • The subsequent shot of grifter Kyle and his favorite mental patient easily walking into the unlocked lab-rary door. = -4pts 
  • Kyle orders Kristine to not do anything helpful until Kyle can fill his pockets with swag. (Basically.) = -3pts 
  • Death by make-out. = +2pts 
  • On an unrelated note: Clive Barker is…not gay? (In 1988, = +10pts, In 2013, = -10pts) 
  • Aunt Julia is strangely overexcited to see the guys who reduced her to a bed stain. = -2pts 
  • Why do parts of this hell dimension look like Fraggle Rock? = -4pts 
  • Hell is full of clowns, skinless women, and babies! The reverse corollary being that heaven is full of nothing but young cowboys in assless chaps. = (In 1988, = -10pts, In 2013, = +10pts) 
  • On an unrelated note: Clive Barker is…probably gay? (In 1988, = -10pts, In 2013, = +10pts) 
  • Babies with their mouths sewn shut. Never let anyone tell you that Clive Barker doesn’t have strong ideas about parenting. = -4pts 
  • It’s never a good idea to cock-tease a gang of cenobites. = -3pts 
  • Never let anyone tell you that cenobites are ungracious hosts. = +5pts 
  • Hell is an MC Escher painting. You have no idea! Who wrote this movie, Jerry Saltz? Are we right? ARE WE RIGHT? = +2pts (For a quality post-modern critique of contemporary art.) 
  • The mouth rape of Herr Channard. = -3pts (All rape is bad. Even mouth rape in hell.) 
  • Private hell of Uncle Frank consists of being cock-teased by a trio of bloody sirens. He’ll feel better once he rapes and murders his niece, though. = -6pts  
  • On an unrelated note: Clive Barker is…probably gay. (In 1988, = -10pts, In 2013, = +10pts) 
  • Whirling anus lobotomy. = Suspended score (To be determined by your feelings around anus.) 
  • Super Herr Channard going Hentai-hands on a room of crazies. = +3pts 
  • Appealing to Pinhead’s memories of being an old-timey colonial fascist as a way of appealing to his soft side and getting out of a jam. = +5pts 
  • Man, Fat Cenobites are like the black people of hell dimensions. They can’t catch a break! = -5pts 
  • Wander into a hell dimension once, shame on you! Wander into a hell dimension twice and WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU GO BACK INTO A HELL DIMENSION?! = -5pts 
  • SPOILER ALERT: The Leviathan will make his return in the year 2013 and only Tom Cruise’s clone will be able to stop him. = -3pts 
  • You’ve seen an entire hell dimension, the countless deaths and dismemberment of many of your psychotic inmates, some hardcore double-penetration, as well as mutilated babies, and one image of ol’ Herr Super Max Hentai Channard getting decapitated by Tom Cruise’s daddy and now you scream? = -3pts (“Women are a terrifying mystery to be endlessly pondered.” –Clive Barker-ish) 
  • “My friend is about to die. I should probably run back into the maze and find my crazy aunt’s skin and dress and put it on so I can help!” = +7pts (For getting the job done.) 
  • 1:29:53 and FINALLY we get to see some dong. Talk about a tease! = +8pts
Total Score = +113pts
Available on: DVD, Netflix streaming

For a film in which the talent of most people on camera is borderline amateurish, Hellbound: Hellraiser II offers up quite a few great horror moments. One of the reasons has to be the fact that most of the film’s budget clearly went to the costumes and effects, which remain relevant and repugnant to this day. While, Pinhead and his gang remain awesomely grotesque, the film also does a great job of alluding to the complexities and politics of their interdimensional sex abattoir (sex-attoir?).

Still, we must ask: Why, during the age of endless horror remakes (we see you TCM!), has the world of Hellraiser never been re-launched properly? The answer to this question is probably that its world is so grafted to its creator, Clive Barker (minus the Lovecraft ending), that everything about it seems inseparable from him. Revelations of Barker’s sexuality non-withstanding, his worlds have always been dark places where looking too deeply into the minds of humanity was the surest way to go insane. The way that sex devolves into an agonizing and tortuous experience, and the manner in which blood and flesh reveal an individual’s true nature--to the point where many of the antagonists literally climb out of their skins in ecstasy and horror-- clearly suggest that Barker was suffering from a lot of identity issues. Something, let’s face it, Jason, Michael, and Freddy never really struggled with. It would be wrong, given the context of everything we know, to reduce the first two Hellraiser films to exercises in extreme fetish. Perhaps there is something dated about the underlying metaphor that clearly informed the work. Maybe the struggle for sexual identity in the face of real violence and shame in the age of Glee and the collapse of DOMA comes across as downright quaint and old world in comparison to what can be found in the dark corners of youporn.

Score Technician: Sean McConnell

No comments:

Post a Comment