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John's Horror Banana-nanza Episode Four: Hellraiser (The Series)
So in episode four, we will examine how a wonderful book can turn into a brutally awesome movie, spawn a terrific sequel, a half decent trilogy, a movie where the director refuses to take credit, and then four direct to video sequels. That's right, we're reviewing the "Hellraiser" series. Now I want everyone to stop for a second with your Pinhead love. If you have read the comics or the book, Clive Barker's "Hellbound Heart", you know that Pinhead is not really that important a character. Sure he's a charming demon that'll rip you to pieces, but had this movie not come out at the same time as Freddy, Jason, Chucky, Mike Myers, Angela (yeah, we'll get to her) and the other popular killers, this series might not have degraded to such ridiculous levels.
So here's my ranking of the movies, because I have sat through all of them somehow.
8. Hellraiser: Deader
7. Hellraiser: Hellworld
6. Hellraiser: Bloodline
5. Hellraiser: Hellseeker
4. Hellraiser: Inferno
3. Hellraiser III - Hell on Earth
1. Hellbound: Hellraiser II
First off, any movie that makes up a word that sounds like it came out of a three year old's mouth deserves no credit whatsoever. In this movie, some reporter working in London is sent to investigate a suicide cult called the "Deaders." I guess if you're all getting together to commit suicide, there's no need to have a good name. Pinhead tells Amy the reporter that she's in danger after she finds the box, then a bunch of weird stuff including a re-animating corpse takes place. There's some cenobites in this one, but basically they just complain a lot and babble about the rules of Hell and how people shouldn't be able to go there whenever they feel like it. They rip some guy to pieces too. This movie is bizarre. It goes around in circles, and in the end, it leaves more room for a sequel, which probably won't happen, but there is a rumor that the original is being remade. It's not gonna kill you to not watch this one, but if you really really really love Hellraiser, check it out.
The best part about this movie is that Lance Henriksen is in it. It's about a group of video game geeks playing a game called "Hellworld" that go to a party thrown by Henriksen. They wonder off and get killed by either Pinhead, Henriksen or two other random Cenobites. It's not too shabby of a movie, especially the scene with the crazy saw-like chair, or the room with all the body parts in jars. I watched this one a few times because I really liked it. It didn't really fit with the Hellraiser series, but it was still a fun watch with a half-decent ending that I won't ruin.
So ok, there's some things about this movie that are just plain stupid. First off, it's directed by Alan Smithee. You know, the same guy who directed the animated movie for the Mighty Ducks? Actually, the name is used when a director/producer is not satisfied with his work. And I don't blame this guy. I think he had some sort of other vision for this movie, but it never panned out. The movie describes where the box came from, who made it, and who currently has the bloodline. It goes from somewhere in 1800's France to modern day New York (or London, I can't remember) where the building at the end of the last movie is revealed to be the work of a descendant of the L'Merchant toymaker from the 1800's. He tries to make a reverse box-thing and send the demons back to hell, but gets killed. So fast forward to space, where the newest of the bloodline made a reverse-box out of a computer animated spaceship! Neat! So Pinhead, a lady Cenobite, two guards from New York/London made into a Cenobite, and an inside out dog chase the dumbasses who inhabit the ship around until....well, I'm not telling you, but it's both awesome (Doug Bradley plays his Pinhead well) and insanely stupid and abrupt. This was the last one to make it into theaters, but maybe shouldn't have been there. It looks and feels like a college video project.
Here's why I think this one is okay. Bringing back Kirsty Cotton is a good idea if you've ever read the comics. The box is a means of communicating with the Cenobites, and sometimes, if you work for them, you can be spared. As was shown in the first two movies, Kirsty can really be a pal to Pinhead and his sadistic pals. So that's all I'm telling you about this one because the ending is very crazy, and it works with every comic adaptation of the series you'll ever see.
This was the first attempt to bring the series straight to DVD, and it worked, although fans of the series may completely disagree. There's not a lot of Cenobites, the blood is cut back considerably, and you're left a lot of the time wondering what the hell is going on and when is something exciting gonna happen? When you find out the ending, and it keeps on not really being the ending, you'll probably either be confused or go "OH! I see." There's this detective who's going after a killer called "The Engineer," which is awesome, because in "Hellbound Heart" the main villain is the Engineer, not some stupid pyramid thing. What he finds is bizarre, and terrifying. Go watch it. Trust me, you might start out confused, but it's a great entry in the series.
Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth
So we pick up in a hospital where some guy blows up after being ripped apart by chains. A reporter is there, and she's having flashbacks to her dad in a war. Turns out that's where the guy who turned into Pinhead has been hiding. In dream land. So she meets this other club girl who stays with her, but eventually goes back to the club, and gets swayed by the magic that is Pinhead in a cube. Pinhead gets out and slaughters the whole club for no real reason, and makes a few new Cenobites. So the reporter meets Pinhead a few times, and Pinhead meets himself once as well. I know this isn't the best description of the movie, but it's one you need to see for yourself. My only gripe is that it takes Pinhead in the direction of the serial killer genre, like Friday the 13th and Halloween. That's not what he's supposed to be, and I think he goes back to his roots more in the direct to video sequels. Anyway, the atmosphere and storytelling is awesome in this movie, and the new Cenobites are creative and fun to look at. Very good entry in the series.
Frank Cotton hates his life. At least, he's not satisfied with it. So he buys a puzzle box from some peddler in the desert. After solving it, he's torn apart by chains in some demented, dirty room. We cut to a family, the Cottons, moving into a new home in London. Julia apparently had a run-in of the sexual kind with Frank, her current husband's brother, at some point in the past. So as her husband Larry is moving furniture and cuts his hand. The blood seeps into the floor, bringing Frank back to life, sort of. He's actually just a mangled mess without skin. So Julia finds out and starts bringing men back to the house for Frank to feed on. So we're fifty minutes in and there's been almost no sign of Pinhead. Good. Because he's not supposed to be a main character at all. Anyway, Kirsty keeps having weird, scary dreams. Then one day she visits the house and finds Frank all kinds of fucked up. So she steals the box and runs out the door, only to pass out in the street. She wakes up in the hospital with the box and starts fiddling around with it, which opens the gates to Hell. The four Cenobytes appear and try to bring her to Hell, but she bargains with them and agrees to bring them to Frank, who escaped them. Before they get there, Frank kills Larry and steals his skin, and now pretty much looks like him. Kirsty comes to warn her father Larry about what's happening, but Larry, who is Frank, claims that they killed Frank earlier. However, Kirsty figures out what happened, then the Cenobites arrive, and all kinds of crazy hell breaks loose. The ending is a little muddled to me, because I don't think you just play with the box more than you already did and it destroys the Cenobytes, but whatever. Turns out the peddler from the beginning is actually Satan and he takes the box and flies away. Weird. I know a lot of people think the original of ANY series is the best, but this one just misses the brilliance that it's sequel delivers.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Christopher Young stepped it up 100 notches in this entry with his eerie, horrifying, mesmerizing soundtrack. It is truly the highlight of the movie. So we pick up with Kirsty in a mental hospital after the insane events she just went through in the previous movie. There's a doctor by the name of Channard who experiments with the same stuff that everyone who gets ahold of the box seems to toy with. He finds the mattress that Julia was murdered on in the last entry and using one of his patients (in a really gruesome manner) brings Julia back to life (again, sort of). So we go through the same scenario from the last movie in the ugliest montage of all time, until Julia is pretty much human again. Then she agrees to show Channard what Hell looks like. Meanwhile, Kirsty thinks her father is calling from Hell, so she goes to Channard's house, only to find a little girl named Tiffany playing with the box. The portal is opened, and the Cenobites come out, but Pinhead tells them not to harm the girl, because she's not the reason they are there. Hmm...sounds like these mass-killers actually have...a MOTIVE? Holy shitcakes! That's just absurd, to give the killers a reason to kill people! Anyway, Kirsty and Tiffany follow Channard and Julia to Hell, and end up in a maze for a really long time. Channard gets double crossed by Julia, who's working for Laviathan, and gets turned to a Cenobite controlled directly by the engineer to do its bidding. Kirsty runs into Pinhead and shows him a picture of himself from before he was a Cenobite, and that makes him and the rest of his clan remember, which is a sin in Hell. So Laviathan sends in Channard to kill the Cenobites, and they all turn back to their human form, including Pinhead. But the movie's not over! How can Pinhead be dead? Well, because HE'S NOT THE MAIN CHARACTER! Anyway, Channard chases Kirsty and Tiffany around some more in the maze, then they all run into Laviathan, which is basically a big diamond version of the box that floats around. Kirsty solves the puzzle and the gates to Hell are closed. Now despite my description of all this, I didn't really describe the crazy brutal effects and makeup in these movies. As awesome as the storytelling can sometimes be, there is some insane ultra-violence, especially in this entry. Don't show the kids, but then again, would you really want to show your kids something titled "Hellraiser"?