Sep 18, 2015

13 Reasons to Give Hellraiser II a Second Chance

Article By: Tyler Doupe

Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a spectacular horror sequel but it has never really been given the level of critical acclaim it so richly deserves. Hellraiser II (as of the drafting of this article) sits at just a 50% rating on popular aggregate film ratings site Rotten Tomatoes, whereas the original film holds a fresh score of 63%. The biggest problem with that is that the second installment in the series is as good as the first (certain fans would even argue that is its better). But the second installment in the series is often discounted out of the gate on the basis of being a sequel. In an attempt to remedy that, we are showcasing 13 reasons why Hellraiser II is a near perfect horror sequel. 

1. It carries on the mythology without retreading old territory

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Hellraiser II expands the series’ mythology and builds upon what was established in the first film without being redundant or scraping the bottom of the barrel. The ideas in the second installment feel fresh and take the viewer on a ride that doesn’t stop until the end credits roll. Even though we are revisiting characters that we’ve seen before, the storyline goes in a new direction and never feels derivative. 


2. The pacing is on point

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Since the first film has laid the groundwork the second is free to get straight to the point. It dispenses with the pleasantries and gets right down to the action. Since the original set the stage, the sequel is able to hit the ground running. 


3. We see more of Pinhead

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Pinhead was only onscreen for about five minutes in the first film. In the sequel, we see a bit more of him and more of the man he once was. It’s a welcome sight to see the nail-faced villain from the original reprise his role and deliver pain and pleasure to those who seek more of both. 


4. The return of the original cast

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In addition to the return of Doug Bradley as Pinhead we also see Ashley Laurence reprising her role as Kirsty, Clare Higgins back as Julia, and Sean Chapman as Uncle Frank. 


5. The stop motion animatronics

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The film utilizes (what were at the time state of the art) stop motion techniques and even though they are dated by today’s CGI-heavy standards, the FX sequences still hold up incredibly well. They are definitely choppier than the ultra-smooth CG we see in the majority of films released today but I will gladly take that when presented with the alternative. There are a couple of scenes called out specifically in this piece but each and every FX sequence in the film is noteworthy and deserves recognition. 


6. Fierce Performances

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Ashley Laurence is every bit as fierce in Hellbound as she was in the original film but she amps thing up a notch here. As for Clare Higgins, she is actually even more wicked than she was in the previous installment. She really comes into her own and becomes one with her violent urges here. 


7. It establishes further backstory on the characters introduced in the original

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The introduction of Captain Elliot Spencer is a welcome expansion on the Pinhead character’s backstory. Doug Bradley does an impressive job of humanizing Pinhead and making the viewer almost sympathetic to his plight. 


8. The Julia skin suit

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I’ve always been a fan of skin suits and the one featured in this flick is among the best I’ve seen. I can’t help but squeal with delight every time Kirsty dons the Julia skin suit in the third act. It’s creepy, surreal, and it really surprised me the first time I watched Hellraiser II


9. Increased gore quotient

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Hellraiser II takes the level of violence from the first film (which was already impressive) and amplifies it. However, it does so without becoming self-satire or crossing any major taste boundaries. It walks the fine line between tasteful and over-the-top and manages to stay within the boundaries of good taste (for a horror film). 


10. Julia’s resurrection sequence

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I thought watching Frank come back to life was epic but Julia’s rebirth may be even better. The way her arms and legs burst through the nasty old mattress is among the coolest effects sequences I’ve seen committed to film. The impact is outstanding and it just looks so damn cool. 


11. The finale

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The final showdown in Hell is the kind of finale that gets nearly everything right. It imagines Hell in a way that is completely opposite what we’ve been told about it. It’s not fire and brimstone. It’s sterile and labyrinth-like. And the showdown that occurs there is a brilliant conclusion to the preceding 75 minutes. The whole sequence is a testament to the imagination of Clive Barker and the screenwriting prowess of Peter Atkins. 


12. The Dr. Philip Channard Cenobite

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The Doctor is in. The Cenobite version of Dr. Philip Channard is absolutely grotesque and totally exceptional all at the same time. The way the character came to life with his serpentine appendages is an accomplishment in practical FX work and really serves as the icing on the cake that is the finale to an already great film. 


13. Julia gets revenge against Frank

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As evil as Julia is, I was still surprised to see her retaliate against Frank as easily and gleefully as she does. She, quite literally, rips his heart out. And she does so with a smile on her face and tells him that, “It’s nothing personal” as he did to her after stabbing her in the first film. Certainly Frank had it coming but it was still quite a shock to see Julia dispense with him so easily after spending the entirety of the first film doing his bidding.

Tyler Doupe is a film critic and journalist. He is the managing editor at Wicked Horror and an occasional contributor to Fangoria and Rue Morgue.

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