Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline

For more of the Scorecard's irrefutable Hellraiser coverage, click here.

One way to measure the strength of a horror franchise is to count how many installments it takes before it ends up in space. Nightmare on Elm Street went on for eight films, and while it eventually broke the fourth wall, it did so without ever leaving the earth's atmosphere. Friday the 13th held out until part ten before Jason started chasing horny space teens around a galaxy hopping pontoon. According to this metric, Hellraiser is about on par with Leprechaun and Critters, each of which could only make it to episode four before blasting off into the great icy void.

By Bloodline pretty much everything that initially drew you to this series is starting to feel like a distant memory. Add to the mix a troubled production, and you ought to have a recipe for at least a captivating disaster, right?
  • Directed by Alan Smithee. Probably not the last time we will be called to evaluate one of his works. = +10pts 
  • Robot fingers solving the puzzle box rendered in the finest CGI 1996 had to offer. = -4pts  
  • Before Dr. Paul Merchant can settle his score with Pinhead, his party gets interrupted by a bunch of space cops. Guess he should have gotten the station's busted tail light fixed after all. = -2pts 
  • Commander space cop drops some handy exposition: "So, we have the company's most productive station hijacked and taken out of orbit by the man who built it." Pretty serious situation. How will the company go on businessing without its most productive station? = -8pts 
  • The name of the space soldier/psychologist tasked with interrogating Paul is "Rimmer." = +6pts 
  • By the way, Paul summoned Pinhead bare seconds before he was apprehended, so basically the Pontiff of Hell is just wandering around the space station while Paul relates his entire four-century family history to Rimmer. = +5pts 
  • Upon seeing her husband's puzzle box, the ultimate testament of his toymaking skill and the sum total of his lifetime of work and study, Phillip Lemarchand's wife responds with a mildly disappointed: "Oh, it doesn't actually do anything." = +22pts (Pinhead might not be the cruelest character in this movie.) 
  • Holy shit, that's Adam Scott playing the French warlock's stooge. = +30pts 
  • The Duc de L'Isle demonstrates his arcane power by producing a scarf from behind his escort's ear. His next feat of dark sorcery will surely be to remove and reattach his thumb. = -3pts 
  • Watching Ben Wyatt garrote a prostitute to death with a nylon cord. = -11pts 
  • De L'Isle's painting of a devil slitting the throat of damned soul looks like it was painted by a serial killer. Not so much for the subject matter, but for the quality of the workmanship. = -5pts 
  • Rather than running to notify the authorities, Lemarchand spends what we surmise to be several hours watching de L'Isle field-dress a dead prostitute, suspend her hide from an set of meathooks, pour her blood into a pentagram carved into the floor, and summon a demon into her skin. = -9pts 
  • Again the next day, rather than notifying the authorities, Lemarchand relates what he witnessed to his atheist buddy who works at the corpse-flaying plant. = +7pts 
  • Infallible 18th-century logic: "You designed a machine that you fear can bring forth demons...Then design a machine that can destroy them." = -4pts 
  • Yep, nailed it. All you have to do is build this. = -18pts 
  • Lemarchand breaks into de L'Isle's mansion to steal back the puzzle box, only to find the Duc (mostly) dead, and Adam Scott and the demon Angelique engaged in a post-murder game of hide the baguette. = +5pts 
  • Adam Scott makes his boldest attempt at coming off like a degenerate in his cosplay wig as he orders Lemarchand's death. = -3pts 
  • Flash forward to 1996 and Lemarchand's great-to-the-whatever-power grandson is complaining about winning too many awards for designing that puzzle box building at the end of HR III. Meanwhile, his son tries to score a little product-placement cash while showing off his sweet KinexTM Ferris wheel. = -6pts 
  • The eternally young Adam Scott is still knocking around Europe, rocking an outfit that falls somewhere between "Miami Vice chic" and "zoot-suited cartoon jazz man." = +11pts 
  • For attempting to prevent her from going to America, Angelique subjects Adam Scott to the most heinous make-up effects the film's low-rent team is capable of imagining. = -7pts 
  • The hollow concrete pylon made it convenient for Angelique to retrieve the puzzle box, but we're a little concerned for the structural integrity of Merchant's building. = -4pts 
  • Pinhead informs Angelique that "Hell is more ordered since your time." These hints of Hell's shifting political landscape are by far the most interesting idea this movie has to offer, so naturally, this never gets revisited in any meaningful way. = -10pts 
  • Angelique shows up at Merchant's office to seduce him into "completing his work." It's worth mentioning that at no point in this movie is it ever clear what this entails. = -25pts 
  • Philip Lamarchand's demon-killing design is finally realized as a bitchin' scrensaver. = +9pts 
  • Pinhead talks to his dog about how bored he is of waiting for Merchant to succumb to Angelique's wiles. Dude, slow your roll. It hasn't even been twenty-four hours... = -5pts 
  • Are we wrong to assume those twin security guards had to double-team a producer in order to land this part? = -4pts (Probably while wearing those uniforms, too.)
  • A free backrub to anyone who can explain to us what the fuck is going on in this scene. = -12pts 
  • If the camera-man were any more up in Pinhead's grill in this shot, he'd be filming from inside Doug Bradley's mouth. = -3pts 
  • Also, while we're on the subject of Mr. Bradley, it's a mark of his skill as a performer that the patently ridiculous things the script has him say still sound frightening. = +50pts 
  • Why does Merchant's wife need to pass through Crime Alley in order to get to her building's laundry room? = -6pts 
  • Pinhead's three-point plan to opening the gates of Hell on earth: 
    • Phase 1: Kidnap Merchant's wife and son in order to force him to do your bidding.
    • Phase 2: ?
    • Phase 3: Profit!
    = +13pts
  • We kind of love that Merchant's bright idea for escaping from Pinhead consists entirely of "dart down this hallway all of a sudden." = +7pts 
  • Merchant's wife opens the puzzlebox and send the Chatterer Dog back to hell because who even cares anymore? = -14pts 
  • And now the Cenobites think Merchant using his computer to do that thing they want, but really he makes a laser shoot out and bounce around and it sort of distracts them we guess? It doesn't matter. None of this matters. = -23pts 
  • For flashing back to the first five goddam minutes of this movie. We remember what happened. We've been here the whole time. = -5pts 
  • PCS Reader Poll: Which Cenobite is a greater affront to Clive Barker's original designs? This piece of shit?
    Or these two assholes?
= -40pts
  • So many unremarkable characters dying in such stupid ways. = -8pts 
  • Rimmer traps the chattering dog in the Room that Lets You Arbitrarily Adjust the Pressure until the Thing Inside of It Explodes (they're standard in the designs of all 22nd century space stations). = +6pts 
  • The movie mercifully comes to a swift end after Paul Merchant traps and kills Pinhead in his Cube of Questionable CGI. = +30pts
Total Score = -33pts
Available on: Netflix, but seriously, you have better things to do with your time

Even without the absurd 22nd century framing device, Hellraiser IV was a bit of a mess. Yet amidst the perfunctory tortures and convoluted plot twists, the discerning viewer will pick up traces of the more interesting sequel that this started out as. Maybe that's fitting, though. Like the cenobites themselves, these bright spots peek out from under mounds of mutilation and scar tissue, serving as a cruel reminder of what this film once was and what it might have been. In any case, don't even think about going near this one without a Scorecard.

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

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