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!
With a different director and no studio interference, Bloodline would have been a very different movie. As the Wiki points out, there was much studio interference with production, and no less than three directors are credited: Kevin Yagher, a well-known and respected effects wizard who, among other things, designed Freddy Krueger and the Cryptkeeper but walked off production because of the studio’s meddling; Joe LaChappelle, who was brought on to try and cobble together what he could out of the remaining production; and the most nefarious name of all, Alan Smithee… who does not actually exist.
Alan Smithee is a Hollywood pseudonym; it’s the name directors put on films they don’t want to be associated with. It’s usually what happens with, as we’ve just discussed, a movie gets fiddled and diddle with until it’s all but impossible to make anything useful out of it.
With no studio meddling, Bloodline might have been something more akin to Event Horizon, a brilliant, classic horror film that toyed with infernal presences in space. I’d sure like to think so; the movie’s storyline is actually pretty out of the box (HA!). The fact that several famous horror directors, including Guillermo Del Toro himself, passed on it, has become internet legend.
Rather than just throw more teenagers at Pinhead to kill, the story explores the mythology behind the LeMarchand Configuration, aka the puzzle box, and the literal bloodline of its maker across three different eras: 16th-century France; 20th-century New York/Paris; and the 21st century IN SPACE.
The movie begins in space, in a huge, secure containment facility. A robot in the room is manipulating the puzzle box, guided by a scientist wearing a VR apparatus. The robot finishes and summons Pinhead, who destroys it without much relish, and the trap is sprung– the doors slam shut. A military force appears and drags the scientist away from the console — he’s a Merchant, and he’s trying to fix a mistake made by his ancestors, he explains, but he’s taken over the space station in order to do it.
The bloodline in question belongs to the LeMarchand/Merchant family– whose part of the saga began in France. One night a French toymaker named Philip LeMarchand completes his most recent work, a personal request designed by a local libertine. Unbeknownst to LeMarchand, the libertine has requested a handheld machine of diabolical design that opens a doorway to hell. LeMarchand has a pregnant wife and needs money, so he heads to the fancy country estate to get paid, with the puzzle box in hand.
IMAGINE MY SURPRISE when who answers the door but none other than Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec, rocking a French Fancy Lad wig!
Of course I saw the name ‘Adam Scott’ in the credits but thought ‘Oh, that’s probably some other Adam Scott.’ TIS NOT SO! He’s Jacques, the libertine’s henchman, and he is every bit as arrogant and insouciant as you can imagine Ben Wyatt being as a snotty French aristocrat. The sun rose and set on this performance, folks. Also, Mr. Scott either has good genes, a great skincare regimen, or a scary portrait in his attic because he’s barely changed at all in the 20 or so years since this film came out.
Anyway, LeMarchand gives up the box, and the libertine and Ben Wyatt murder a prostitute and use her blood to open the doorway, which is common practice in French country houses when company arrives. They summon a demon, Angelique, played by the gorgeous Valentina Vargas, who I know from The Name of the Rose. Undone by terror, LeMarchand hauls ass home to begin work on a second box that can reverse the effects of the first. The libertines immediately begin indulging in filthy sex and murder, with Jacques killing his master and taking over control of the demon, which is also common practice in French country houses.
LeMarchand comes back packing and gets himself smoked, but his child is still alive and continues the bloodline. Here endeth the 16th-century segment of the film.
In the 20th century, the descendant of LeMarchand, John Merchant, is a famous architect and has unwittingly designed a skyscraper around the puzzle box. Photos of the building appear in a French architecture magazine and Angelique wants to go to America in search of it. Jacques, made immortal by her influence, wants to stay in Paris and party, and thus breaks his covenant to not oppose hell, getting himself killed. Angelique manages to summon Pinhead, and the two begin hunting John Merchant and his family, after summoning or creating more cenobites. Chatterer has been replaced by a dog version, and there’s a pair of twins who got screwed (HA!).
One particularly fascinating scene has Pinhead threatening Merchant’s son. I can’t say I was engrossed in the characters enough to worry about the kid, but I did wonder how they got him to act with Doug Bradley. Did they introduce Pinhead fully made up, or did they show the kid the makeup process over time? Did they get to know each other beforehand? Is the kid still acting or sitting quietly in a room somewhere waiting for the med cart to roll through? These and all my other questions could probably be answered by watching the commentary track, if there was one. Or by Googling, if I wasn’t lazy.
Last thoughts: Bloodline was not the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen, but the studio’s efforts to beef up Pinhead’s role in the movie did more harm than good. That said, I really like the idea of nowhere being too far away for Pinhead to reach humanity, since we bring evil and its servants with us wherever we go– after all, we created them. The performances were decent and there were some really good scares and moments of tension. I definitely enjoyed seeing it more than I did when it first came out. And I LOVED the space station folding in on itself to form a giant Lament Configuration. It felt like a really fitting end to the series, one that the movie had really earned… even though it wasn’t the ending. It’s never the end of Pinhead, not really! There are more Hellraiser movies, and I might watch them without reviewing.
Well, thanks so much for tuning in for Hell Week, part of Horror Movie Month!
Please keep reading, the next round of posts are ‘Creepy, Creaky Old Houses Week,’ where we’ll switch gears from gore and peeling skin off, to eerie mists, whispering voices, mental illness, and creepy children for some atmospheric, subtle, psychological scares!
Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have a great week!