Review Date: December 23, 2008
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 12/30/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Of all the major horror franchises to proliferate throughout the eighties, Hellraiser
always stood out from the pack. More fantastical, more surreal and more, well, British. While franchises like Friday the 13th
were exploring the multitude of ways a human can die by sharp object, Hellraiser
was dealing in higher brow fantasy with marital peril and deceit right out of a Merchant Ivory film. This divergence from the stalwart slasher scruples of the time can be explained by the literary origins of the first film, penned and directed by celebrated author and general madman, Clive Barker. Barker stepped down from the chair for the sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II
. It was released on Christmas weekend back in 1988, and Anchor Bay is hoping that this new anniversary DVD will scare up the same fan base 20 years later. Howís the DVD, and more importantly does the film cave to the prevalent eighties horror trends, or does it continue to carve the same matchless path of the first? Letís open the box and find out.
picks up literally where the first left off, with Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence
) hospitalized after the Cenobites, lead by Pinhead (Doug Bradley
) obliterated her family. She swears by her story that her dead uncle was reincarnated by a single drop of blood on her hardwood floor, and that he was subsequently given flesh by several bodily donations from his ex-lover Julia (Clare Higgins
). The doctors donít buy it, but one of them, Dr. Philip Channard (Kenneth Cranham
), decides to hypothesize. Heís a follower of the occult, and upon finding the mattress where Julia was decimated in the first film, he is able to bring her back to fleshless life. Sheís back and with her come Pinhead, Butterball, Chatterer and Female Cenobites. Itís not quite Hell on Earth, but the masochists are back.
As plot convenience would have it, Kirsty is not alone in her obsession with the Cenobites. Thereís also a young girl in the institution with a fascination with that soul shearing magic box. Give her some blocks of wood and sheíll build you a box. Too bad nobody had a Rubikís Cube on hand. Her mom was prematurely taken by those flesh tearing death keepers, and itís only with Kirstyís help that the girl, Tiffany (Imogen Boorman
), can help put them away for good. Sheís given the box, and back the Cenobites come, but they take with them a world of surreal dread, with drawn in lightning effects and specially distorted matte paintings. This is terror.
Basically, what happens is next is a lot of crazy gore scenes, supported by crazy characters and crazy set pieces. What follows isnít really worth describing (if it can even be described at all). Itís basically bad guys sneering, good girls running, flesh tearing and a whole lot of epic Christopher Young music. Will the girls triumph, and more importantly, why is a portal to hell housed inside of a tattered queen sized mattress?
Clive Barkerís films are a rarity in the way they are able to preach to both the high and the low. They always come bearing literary characters and devices, yet always seem to diverge into near wordless displays of carnage and hellish misery. Thatís what Iíve always liked about Hellraiser
, how behind all those gory transformations in the empty room was a pretty diabolical story of infidelity and comeuppance. Clive Barker pens this sequel, but, uh, they must have only used the second half. Hellbound
is a fantastical display of art direction, with amazing work form all facets of the visual department. Cameras spin and dolly every which way, the set designs awe with giant brick-laden rooms of destruction, and the gore provides a view of fleshless anatomy like no other. The visuals are virtuoso all the way, but thatís really all there is.
This second film aims to explain some of the history of the Cenobites and their world, notably showing Pinhead pre-pins, but even then it creates more questions than it does answers. Itís welcome to see so many of the characters from the first return, but had theyíd been new characters the anemic story (not fleshed out?) certainly would not have been able to support them. Hellbound
relies on a recollection of the backstory of the first for meaning Ė all else is eye candy. But what splendid eye candy it is.
Although this stays truthful to Barkerís hellish creations, Hellbound
also no doubt takes a few pages from the other successful franchises of the time. Pinhead starts sounding a lot like Freddy with quips like ďThe Doctor is in!Ē, the undead Julia may as well yell ďIíll swallow youíre soul!Ē and the reliance on a parallel, surreal universe brought upon by a geometric object screams all kinds of Phantasm
. Still, neither Phantasm
nor Freddy dug so deep into fusing gore, set design, camera work and even stop-motion animation into creating such a vivid tour de force of nightmarish vision after another. Itís a horror circus where the spectacle comes in full force and the most meaningful question afterwards is whether or not scalped human flesh really looks like a deflated balloon upon removal.
I never did have the original DVD, but I can safely say this new transfer looks great. Progressive scan in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the first thing that really jumps out is the rich saturation of all the colors. The cinematography and set design was masterful on this film, and it comes across so good on this mastering, with all the otherworldly blues and the bright red of all those fleshless bodies very deep and visually enticing. Thereís slight grain, but the image looks pretty sharp all things considered. Considering all the gore, itís nice to have that added bit of detail. Some scenes could now certainly pass for a biology lesson! The print is incredibly clean too, with hardly any white specs, not even during the optical sequences. Only the ending seems as if it could have used a bit of a brushing. Overall, though, itís a beautiful transfer that no doubt does the film justice on its twentieth year.
The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 only. There was no stereo mix on the original disc either, so we can blame it on oversight rather than omission. If youíre only going to include a 5.1 remix, then youíre in good shape if itís Chace Digital, and thatís just the track included here. Like all their other quality surround mixes for Anchor Bay at the start of the decade, this is another full sounding track. Voices separate well from the ambient noise, and Christopher Youngís track sounds very rich. There are some good ambient effects too, with all that echo present in those hellish chambers. Top notch stuff.
already had a special edition all those years ago. It was originally an exclusive extra in Anchor Bayís collectable tin for the first film, and was then subsequently re-released on its own. It had a commentary, a few short featurettes and some promotional material. This new edition packs in over an hour of never before seen interviews, as well as some tidings from the Anchor Bay UK release. Thereís even a nice fold out poster bundled inside, too. Itís a puzzle box of extras, so letís start with the new stuff:
Michael Felsher and his Red Shirt outfit bring forth another three featurettes to this 20th Anniversary Edition, and like always, they are well produced and at times cinematic in quality. After watching three of them in a row, though, the drawn out intros and title cards do end up a wee bit excessive, though. As for content, weíre talking interviews with all the Cenobites, new bits with the director and even a word from our demented doctor.
The first, ďThe Soul PatrolĒ, runs just shy of 20-minutes and features interviews with Cenobites Simon Bamford (Chatterbox), Nicholas Vince (Butterball) and Barbie Wild (Female Cenobite). The three of them paint a very accurate portrait of what itís like to work under thick prosthetics for long laborious days on the film set, and some of the anecdotes are both painful and amusing. Bamford almost got a hook to the jaw and Vince shed more than a few tears in secret behind his mask. ďOutside the BoxĒ has Tony Randel explaining how he worked under Roger Corman and how he eventually worked his way up to director of Hellbound
. Itís a fascinating 14-minutes, showing how he went from working in the mail room to working under Corman in a matter of months. Besides several juicy bits about the film itself, he also talks about his other work with Corman, like doing optical on Saturday the 14th
! The last of the Red Shirt interviews is ďThe Doctor is InĒ with talk from Kenneth Cranham on his evil doctor. Heís pretty honest about his amazement at the fascination this series, and horror films in general, have with audiences, and has a few hearty laughs along the way. His best bit is explaining how young Randel was while directing and how Randel hadnít even heard of Macbeth. Yikes! Itís a jazzy 13-minutes, with lounge music used in the background to help offset the omnipresent ambient noise.
The other new supplement (for Region 1 users, anyway) is ďUnder the SkinĒ, a 10-minute interview with Doug Bradley recorded for the Anchor Bay UK release. Bradley has a bit more to say than the other Cenobites, particularly a notable story about being given uppers on set and freaking out, but overall still echoes the pain all the Cenobites had to go through for make-up. Considering the average shoot time is 12 hours on set, and they were in the makeup chairs for five hours before that, itís a wonder how they ever slept!
Ported from the previous release is the solid audio commentary with Tony Randel, Writer Peter Atkins and Ashley Laurence. The three are recorded together and have a fun time, alternating between joking whatís on screen and sharing production anecdotes. Thereís plenty of good here, and surprisingly little overlap from all the featurettes. That other featurette, the 17-minute ďLost in the LabyrinthĒ from the previous release is also included. It feels a little cheap and dated compared to the Felsher stuff, but is worth watching for video clips of Clive Barker talking about the good and bad of Hellbound
, and Peter Atkins sharing a funny anecdote about his preconceptions of the director. Oliver Smith, who played the skinless man at the start and then the mental patient with the Dracula-inspired nomenclature (Mr. Browning), also gets a few words in, too.
There are also two vintage promos for the film, with interviews with a very young-looking Clive Barker promising the blood would flow for the sequel. He was right! The first bit is entirely Clive at 3-minutes, and the second features the cast (including the reclusive Clare Higgins) dishing out some nice lines about the film as well. That runs 5-minutes.
This healthy serving of extras is rounded off with four fun video-era trailers, two TV spots, and a still gallery. The packaging is also nice and beefy, with the aforementioned fold out poster, a slipcase and even the insert that was included on the previous release. A nice easter egg with a montage of on-set clips is also included in the extras menu. Well done, Anchor Bay. Oh, but what the hell is with the Matthew McConaughey trailer for Surfer, Dude
The plot has as much meat as some of those fleshless corpses, but Hellbound
is nevertheless an effective display of gory set pieces and fantastical effects. With all those creatures and torture chambers, gore fans wonít really care if all the relationship double crossing from the first has been completely abandoned. Anchor Bay makes this a worthy anniversary, with a beautiful visual transfer, a full 5.1 audio overhaul and a tapestry of supplements both new and old. Whatís your pleasure, sir? Because whether youíre looking for audio, video or extras, this release delivers quality on all spectrums. Pin this one to the top of your last minute Christmas wish list!
Movie - B-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - A-
Supplements - A-
- Running time - 1 hour 49 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- Audio commentary with director Tony Randel, writer Peter Atkins and star Ashley Laurence
- 5 featurettes (3 new, 1 new to North America)
- 2 promo shorts
- Fold-out poster
- Theatrical trailers
- TV spots
- Still gallery
- Easter egg