The Hellish sequel gets a impressive Blu-ray release from Arrow Video
How do you top a low budget, perturbing slice of original horror, rooted in a burgeoning mythology and embracing a twisted, bleak sensibility? You go big, you blow open that mythos, you up the gore, and you ramp up the spectacle of it all. Such is the case with Hellbound, the sequel to Hellraiser, a film which recently got an exceptional release from Arrow Video, and is now joined by an equally resplendent presentation of its sequel.
Picking up right where Hellraiser left off, Hellbound: Hellraiser II expands upon the terrifying universe created in Clive Barker’s original film — taking the story into the very depths of Hell itself.
Having escaped the clutches of Pinhead and the demonic Cenobites, Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) awakens to finds herself detained at the Channard Institute, a hospital for the mentally ill. But her torments are far from over — the chief doctor at the institute is determined to unleash the powers of Hell to achieve his own twisted ends.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is one of the most celebrated horror sequels of all time, offering a vision that is both more gruesome and fantastical than its predecessor.
Picking up just after the end of the first film, we return to the journey of Ashley Laurence’s Kirsty. Her experiences with the Lament configuration and the denizens of a Hell dimension have driven her to incarceration at a psychiatric institution. Supervising her recovery is Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who has a secret familiarity with the Lament configuration and the Cenobites. Uncovering details about them from Kirsty’s sessions, he manages to pull Julia (a returning Clare Higgins) from Hell and goes about opening up a gateway to the Cenobites’ realm, endangering everyone, but offering Kirsty a chance to save her father, who is reaching out from the darkness for help.
Screenwriter Peter Atkins and director Tony Randel took over the reins from Clive Barker, who remained on as producer. Despite this, the sequel manages to both maintain and build on the mythology of the original. More graphic, upping the gore in more elaborate sequences, its bigger budget allows for a realization of Hell and its minions. The return of Laurence is welcome, setting off a rather predictable plot that takes a twist that feeds into a interesting delve into the mythology of the series. Higgins is also back as the deliciously duplicitous Julia. Perhaps the film’s most successful move is the addition of Cranham as the villainous Channard, whose own journey in the film again adds to the exploration of the Cenobites, reinforced by the elevation of Doug Bradley’s creation from “Lead Cenobite” in the original film, into something more befitting his iconic status, Pinhead. The origins of these demonic entities, the possibility of conflict within, and enduring temptation adds a lot more tragedy and shades of gray to the films, which is where Barker’s creation is at its most interesting.
Like Hellraiser, Hellbound comes courtesy of a 2K scan and restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon. This reviewer has never seen the film look better, with good detail, colors being natural and robust, and blacks/contrast being impressive. There are some inconsistencies in grain/noise level, notably in the flashbacks to the first film (slice in footage?), but nothing too egregious. Extra features again impress:
• Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II — brand new version of the definitive documentary on the making of Hellbound, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members: The second part of the massive documentary, picking up from the first segment included in the Hellraiser Blu-ray. General production details, special effects, makeup, and information on the efforts to tie the film to its progenitor and build on Barker’s mythos.
• Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound — actor Sean Chapman talks about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in the first Hellraiser sequel: Personal thoughts on the film’s direction and look, not all of it positive.
• Surgeon Scene — the legendary excised sequence: Albeit with incomplete special effects.
• Lost in the Labyrinth — vintage featurette including interviews with Barker, Randel, Keen, Atkins, and others: Just under 20 minutes, a breezy series of interviews assembled from a number of cast and crew members.
• Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellbound: Hellraiser II: Another interview, this time with the man who brings Pinhead to life, and similarly focused on working on a film in this universe not helmed by Barker.
• On-set interview with Clive Barker/cast & crew: Short interviews that don’t really dig too deeply into any details.
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Rare and unseen storyboards: Film storyboards including an alternate ending.
• Draft Screenplay [BD-ROM content]
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Image Gallery: Production stills and behind the scenes photos.
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
The Bottom Line
Hellbound: Hellraiser II somehow takes the bold, chilling, original vision that Clive Barker crafted for Hellraiser, and swings at something bigger in scale, more gruesome, and more devilishly fun. Arrow Video has put together a great presentation supported by a tempting selection of extra features that a Cenobite would be proud of.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is available via Arrow Video from September 2019.