There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Today we continue our discussion of the Hellraiser franchise with the fourth installment entitled Hellraiser Bloodline. This time, Before Jason travels into the final frontier, Pinhead goes into space…
Today’s Key Movie:
Dr. Paul merchant has hijacked a space station in hopes to draw out Pinhead and his cenobites in a last attempt to trap them forever. As he does this, we learn the origins of the Puzzle Box itself, the Lament Configuration.
Why this movie?
While I did not get to see this one in theaters, I did pick up a copy on VHS looking forward to what was in store with the Cenobites and their ilk and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by what was presented. That being said, this film would mark my final Hellraiser that I watched as a youth and, seeing that I don’t remember watching any of the other sequels, I will be treating those as first time views even if they are not. At the time Bloodline was released, I had become not only a fan of Hellraiser, but of author Clive Barker himself. So, upon learning that Barker was not overly keen on the Hellraiser films and was parting ways with the franchise after this one, I too pretty much followed suit. That being said, this was not a terrible film to end the franchise on for me, as it takes the world into the far flung future and is technically the final film in the chronological history of Hellraiser.
Wanting to take the franchise in a new direction, Barker worked with Director Kevin Yagher (credited as Alan Smithee) and writer Peter Atkins to develop a story that took place over three timelines to tell the story of the origins of the Lament Configuration and it’s affect on the LeMarchand family. Once again, Doug Bradly returns as his classic character Pinhead in a story that transcends time and space but we also have the first appearance of Angelique played by Valentina Vargas. Starting in the future we are treated with a well told tale that ultimately brings an end to the cenobites themselves through the Bloodline of those who created the puzzlebox to begin with.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
When I first saw this, I was a bit concerned about taking the Cenobites into space and, even though it would be some time before Jason would ruin the ‘creature in space’ trope for us, I feared that this was just an attempt to essentially cash in on the scifi fandom at the time. Thankfully I was completely wrong in my suspicions and really enjoyed the film through and through on my initial viewing. Thankfully my memories from nearly 25 years ago were not colored by blood as this movie has honestly aged well even today. Blending a story that transcends several generations with the origins of the Cenobites first appearances on Earth via the puzzlebox makes for a tremendous story that never skimps on the death and gore. Where Hellraiser 3 Hell On Earth came off as more of a campy B-movie, Bloodline feels more like a deep exploration of the mythos behind the creatures we have come to know and love.
Having read much of Barker’s other works I am convinced that the ultimate plot of this film, for LaMarchand to build a device that attracts beings from Hell itself is loosely inspired by a short story of Barker’s entitled ‘Down, Satan’. In that story, a businessman, who believes God has abandoned him, builds a literal Hell on Earth believing that God will arrive to save him when Satan is attracted to it. Instead, the Business man attracts the Devil himself and goes insane. While the last part does not occur, it is the building of a monument to Satan himself that I believe was the inspiration for the Space Station and the L’Marchent designs of the updated Puzzle Box that is meant to trap the Cenobites themselves. While this has never been confirmed, it seems too similar to have not been at least a passing inspiration.
One aspect I love about this film is how it not only continues the mythos but builds on it establishing Angelique as one of the first Cenobites and a previous Princess of Hell itself. In fact, we quickly learn that this demonic beauty was the predecessor to Pinhead himself and it is the bloodline of the L’Merchants themselves that brings her back to find them and pull them into hell itself. Valentina Vargas owns her role in every scene nearly upstaging Doug Bradley himself every time they are on screen together. The two of them have a chemistry that is palpable making their dark lust feel real even when they are simply standing next to one another.
The rest of the cast are also incredible with Bruce Ramsay playing multiple generations of L’Merchant inventors along and Kim Myers (of Nightmare on Elmstreet 2 fame) as his wife in the 90’s. However, I was surprised to see Courtland Mead in the role of Jack Merchant, one of the future L’Merchant’s ancestors. Courtland would later star in my favorite adaptation of The Shining with Stephen Webber and Rebecca De Mornay and would later provide the voice of Gus in the Recess animated series. Courtland is a tremendous actor and was even at that age providing a truly innocent and fearful nature while somehow seeming older than he was. The kid’s cherubic nature was his draw for these horror films but boy could he act.
Production wise, this movie is top notch. Most of the transformations and makeup in this were done using practical effects and it shows. Thankfully, while there is some use of CGI, it is not abused in the least giving the movie a gravity that is lacking in a CG heavy films. In addition to the stellar markup and effects, the sets themselves are something to behold. Using the Puzzle Box itself as inspiration, we see the Lament Configuration used in everything from Office walls (not unlike the end of Hell on Earth) to the Space Station itself. To say that this film’s overall design is inspired is an understatement and it only serves to give this sequel a gravitas that makes it a worthy entry in the Hellraiser saga.
Overall, Hellraiser Bloodline is a surprisingly solid movie that takes the franchise in a new and exciting direction. I don’t know if the sequels we will be reviewing in the coming weeks will live up to the bar this one set but I honestly hope they do…even though I have my doubts.
OK, where do I get this movie?
Hellraiser Bloodline is available in a two disc set coupled with Inferno, which I can not speak to at the moment as I really don’t remember it. That being said, you can get it pretty cheap this way so you really cant go wrong. Personally, this is among my favorite of the Hellraiser franchise and one that I highly recommend. With an awesome story and tremendous effects, you really can’t go wrong with this one.
Next week we will continue our journey into the depths of despair with Hellraiser Inferno. Until then…
Late To The Game 6/24/2021
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