Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellbound: Hellraiser II ★★½

A sequel that, at times, is more than capable of standing alongside the original. Building upon ideas, themes and characters previously established and also finding time and space to explore new ideas. Whilst it falls fall of some unfortunate cliches at several junctions, the backbone of the narrative is interesting enough to support its uneven weight.

Whereas the first film is riddled with metaphors and symbols of a sexual nature, the spilling of blood and ripping of flesh so objectified that it verges upon eroticism itself, the sequel approaches flesh in far more sanitized fashion, the world of medicine and surgery. Repurposing ideas and locations, twisting them into something grotesque. Trusted professionals, doctors, nurses and surgeons, that we trust with opening up our bodies and stitching them back again become figures of distrust and danger. It’s an altogether nihilistic worldview and damning depiction of authority. But what does this really bring to the story?

As so many sequels do, this widens the films world by unpackaging the mystery of the original. We’re going to learn how the cenobites came to be the way they are, where they come from and what eternal suffering actually looks like. These things are typically better when left to the imagination, and with Barker’s vision being so precise and specific, the attempts that have been made to replicate this on screen never quite match up. Unfortunately much of the scenes set in the labyrinthian hell feel a little too staged, too theatrical, cardboard walls and styrofoam stones. The original succeeds in turning a normal townhouse into a site of decay and horror with minimal effort, yet here everything is in overdrive. Hyper-bloody and hyper-stylized, perhaps beyond the limitations of the production.

That being said, those moments in which Doctor Channard is farming patients for his own complicated desires, and the steady creeping dread that accompanies the returning cenobites, still feel exciting. There is something interesting within the comparison of demons that take pleasure in tearing and destroying flesh and doctors that obsess and study over flesh to the point that it becomes objectified and no longer a part of the person. The detachment of person and body, seems to exist for both doctors and demons. And as exciting as it is to see Channard gliding through the hospital wards with his sticky appendages flicking razorblades at innocent throats, the subtlety is somewhat lost.

There are strong and provocative images throughout but unfortunately the franchises turn towards one-liners and excess over subtlety and symbolism is already beginning to show.

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