Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser - Bloodline (1996)

This year, the past, the present and the future will all meet at the crossroads of hell.

In 2127, Dr Merchant leads a team of scientists on board a space station in attempting to permanently close the gates of Hell for good, having been opened back in 18th century France by one of his ancestors. For centuries, his descendants have been trying to find a way to reverse the Lament Configuration Box and now he believes he has found a way. But Pinhead and the Cenobites do not want the gateway closing.

 

The last of the Hellraiser films to obtain a cinematic release, Hellraiser: Bloodline was a misguided attempt to revive the flagging fortunes of the series. Like many horror franchises (Leprechaun, Friday the 13th, even Critters), when all other potential storylines had been exhausted, there was always the opportunity to blast their villains into outer space. The third instalment wasn’t overly thrilling but that didn’t stop the money men from milking the cash cow. Director Kevin Yagher, going under the infamous Alan Smithee pseudonym to officially disown his film, was involved in many arguments with the studio over this sequel and it shows in the final product. Hellraiser: Bloodline isn’t perhaps the total dud that it’s made out to be.

The main problem with the Hellraiser sequels, save for the first one, is that they all progressively moved further away from the dark taboos that Clive Barker had dreamt up. The whole pleasure-pain and Heaven-Hell binaries, films full of sadism, torture and moral choices – these were exactly the sort of ingredients needed to make thought-provoking horror. With a greater focus on the ready-made horror icon Pinhead, the sequels shifted away from this, turning into little more than glorified supernatural slashers. Hellraiser: Bloodline is the perfect example of this – a film which is top heavy with Pinhead, features plenty of gruesome set pieces and a cast of undeveloped fodder to feed to the Cenobites when needed. There are still signs of Barker’s original visions but they’ve been papered over with generic horror clichés and turned into more of a fast food horror film than a thinking man’s.

The story on its own is decent. Seeing how the numerous generations of Merchants have tried to deal with the Lament Configuration Box sounds solid in theory but less so when it is all put together. The jumps from the past to the future are too frequent and the loose structure allows for little connection between the three separate stories. The two stories set in the past are much more interesting, particularly the one in France as its nice to see horror films set in period settings without the trappings of science, knowledge and a couple of bullets to deal with the monster. As the story moves forward in time, so the interest diminishes. The whole staging aboard on the space station in the final third just seems like a poor man’s retread of Alien, only with Cenobites stalking the soldiers in the dark. It’s hardly inspiring stuff and you’ll have seen it done before.

Though Pinhead was grossly overused in the sequels (he wasn’t even given a name in the original), turning into another Freddy Krueger-like talking villain, it’s still nice to see him in his prime before the following sequels turned him into a running cameo. Doug Bradley is comfortable in the role at this point, relishing the lines he has to deliver and speaking with gusto and malice. The character gets some of his best lines in this one like “I am pain” and “Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?” He still gets too much screen time but as he’s the best thing on display by a mile here, it’s the lesser of two evils. The rest of the cast are pretty dire although Valentina Vargas acts with her body at times.

The gory set pieces have been given the focus in this one. Whilst the original featured its fair share of flesh ripping, the sequels tried to out-do it in terms of gratuitousness. There’s a scene in which a pair of cops are hideously mauled together and their heads and bodies twisted and contorted together to form a single Cenobite. Later on, the twins absorb another victim. In the final third where the soldiers are picked off one-by-one, there are the usual chains and hooks as well as a fancy mirror death. It’s all very imaginative stuff but the deaths are quick. There’s no suffering. There’s no drawn out agony. Pinhead preaches a lot about suffering and pain yet his goons decide to kill their victims within a heart beat rather than draw out a long, lingering death. Kevin Yagher was a make-up effects guy before he stepped into the hot seat and it shows, delivering a series of sterling gore moments.

 

Hellraiser: Bloodline is nowhere near as bad as people would have you believe. There is enough gore, a quite high body count, plenty of flesh-ripping hooks and special effects to keep horror fans interested, and of course, there is always Pinhead. But messy editing, poor acting and a poor script spoil it. I would like to have seen Kevin Yagher’s original vision for the film as there was potential in here but the studios think they know best, not the guys who actually make the film.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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