October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!
Today’s post is about the Hellraiser series and unfortunately is NSFW – mostly because it’s damn near impossible to show work-safe images from the movies. Also LOTS OF gore, S&M, torture, physical, mental, and sexual abuse…
….Man… you start listing all the disturbing things in this series and wonder what you’re doing with your time…
ANYWAY! On to the review!
HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2
I saw Hellraiser 2 first, at a girl’s slumber party when I was about 12… as one does. Suffice to say it scared the holy living balls out of me and I believe I had my eyes covered for most of the viewing. I wish I could remember whose party it was, because if it was mine GOD I AM SO SORRY OTHER LITTLE GIRLS PLEASE FORGIVE ME.
Hellbound begins with the creation of Pinhead, showing his human side fiddling with the puzzle box before being flayed by disembodied hooks. He’s a British soldier who physically survived the horrors of the Great War, but didn’t make it through mentally and he’s been searching the world for his next big thrill as a means to combat his PTSD.
The story begins in a mental asylum where Kirsty has been dumped. Due to her somewhat far-fetched story about a magic puzzle box that summons a gang of demonic S&M enthusiasts who skinned her uncle and father, and murdered her stepmother before burning down her house (although the house still seems to be standing, maybe I was drunk and missed something), she’s having a rough time. She’s under the care of Doctor Channard, the kind of mental healthcare professional who is not above experimenting on his patients, experimenting with the occult, or experimenting with large, bloody mattresses that act as gateways to hell.
Kirsty’s dad leaves a bloody post on her wall (HA!) begging for help as he is now trapped in hell.
Channard has a secret; he already knows about the puzzle box and has been trying to solve it himself, by exploiting a possibly autistic girl named Tiffany who saw her mother murdered. Once Channard has the aforementioned bloody mattress, he leaves a poor, disturbed man prone to self-harm on it and the man proceeds to butcher himself in a heart-wrenching scene that was deeply upsetting to me. The patient is hallucinating that maggots are burrowing into his skin, and when given a straight razor, ‘shaves’ the maggots off himself. The blood-soaked mattress becomes a door and a skinless Julia is resurrected, who wrestles the mental patient to the floor before messily slitting his throat. Imagine a piece of jerky with eyes coming to life, covered with strawberry syrup, and you’ve got Julia.
Kirsty realizes what Channard’s up to with the help of a handsome doctor who lasts barely into the first 3rd of the movie, and then she and Tiffany escape into a portal to try and release Larry from hell. Instead, Kirsty finds Frank, who has gone full creepy uncle while trapped in hell and makes disturbing moves on Kirsty. He was the one who sent the original message it turns out, because he and his brother bear a striking resemblance when they aren’t wearing skin. Kirsty escapes him, and she and Tiffany encounter The Leviathan, which is the inanimate master of the hellish labyrinth, and there’ s a lot of running down decrepit stone hallways. That is as close as I can get to explaining what was going on.
Meanwhile, Channard was duped into the labyrinth by Julia and turned into a cenobite himself, apparently a more powerful one than the other cenobites, as he kills them. Fun fact: Channard is played by Kenneth Cranham, who appeared as Pompey Magnus in HBO’s wonderful Rome. He does a wonderfully understated job in this film, playing Channard as a man who is not blind to the horrors he’s witnessing, but not put off by them, either. Although he’s the mad doctor in search of truth and it’s a familiar trope, his pursuit is much more earnest than other portrayals I’ve seen. Great job, Mr. Cranham!
It’s at this point that I got really thrown by the rules of the world. The Leviathan of Christian Mythology is a giant sea monster that symbolizes many different things, but I always understood Barker’s interpretation of Leviathan to be a Prince of Hell. So you’d think it/he/she’d kind of be in control of things, but Channard runs wild, even going into the real world, and kills many of the cenobites. I suppose Leviathan is like a Roman Emperor, waiting to see which of his combatants will emerge victorious. Which makes me wonder, who is in control of the cenobites? The same four appear in both the first and second movies, then die, and then they come back in the third, establishing the pattern of Main Quartet + Guest Star Cenobites. It seems to be another way Barker was bucking the ‘slasher horror’ tropes in that his monsters were sometimes the antagonists and sometimes not. Or maybe there was an overbearing film executive who kept saying things like ‘Just do like in the first movie but more,’ even if it made no sense. Maybe I’m missing a huge chunk of the mythology.
Pinhead’s human side is revealed, and he sacrifices himself to save Kristy and Tiffany. Perhaps since he and the other cenobites remembered their humanity they have become weakened and the Leviathan no longer lends them its power. Or something. Channard is pulled apart by the big phallic tentacle growing out of his head and dies, and Kirsty and Tiffany escape to find the puzzle box and close the portal.
All is right with the world, until it isn’t again and the bloody mattress is opened and the whole thing starts over.
I suspect that the less creative input Clive Barker has over the movies the less cohesive their mythologies. In the first film, Pinhead was an enthusiastic enforcer of Hell’s torments. He and the other cenobites only appear to those who summon him, and since the summoners have usually been toddling down the road to self-destruction for some time before encountering the puzzle box, they’ve got some crimes to answer for. The cenobites fulfill a role in their victims’ punishment, and nothing more. In the second film, Pinhead experiences an existential crisis and loses his powers, or seems to. This splits his character into the human and the cenobite and sets up some of the conflict in the 3rd film, Hellraiser: Hell On Earth.
And that’s Hellraiser 2! Thanks for reading and join us on Friday for a discussion of the third installment. Hellraiser: Hell On Earth!