(The gist: Hellbound: Hellraiser II lives up to but does not surpass its predecessor, Hellraiser. For me, both movies were unbelievable makeup special FX coupled with a decent horror movie. Both times, the FX were more than enough to win me over.)
When I watched the original Hellraiser for the first time a couple weeks ago, I was blown away. I was so dazzled and entranced by the special FX that I scarcely cared to evaluate the other components of the movie. I would not care if the movie was atrocious, if I could watch Frank’s resurrection scene over and over. However, I do think the movie as a whole holds up in its genre.
When I went to watch Hellbound: Hellraiser II, I was slightly more prepared for what the franchise had to offer. Nonetheless, I was transfixed once more by the epic makeup FX. Skinless Julia was, in one word, AMAZING. Amazing that many years ago, amazing today. Once again, I found that that level of horror brilliance could outshadow any other flaw the film may have had.
Like many 80s horror franchises, Hellraiser II picks up where its predecessor leaves off, complete with a little montage to remind us of the gist of the first Hellraiser. Hellraiser II reminded me of Halloween II when we pick up with Laurie, recovering in the hospital, when Michael Meyers returns to kill her. Kirsty is in a mental institution rather than a medical hospital, and the Cenobites are a bit more supernatural than early Michael Meyers, but the reminiscence is there.
Kirsty has the unfortunate luck of being under the care of an occult-obsessed director who resurrects Julia (Kirsty’s deranged stepmom who bit it in the first movie) and invokes the Cenobites, this time bringing the plot into Hell rather than Hell into the plot.
If I am comparing Hellraiser II to Hellraiser, I definitely prefer the first movie. I like the Cenobites being intruders in our world, being more mysterious and unexplained. Plus I came in without expectation. Hellraiser II was still exceptional with makeup FX. I still consider it groundbreaking and necessary horror. I just not so much dig on how ridiculous Hell became (and the doctor cenobite) toward the end.
All of that, however, I can live with in light of the rest of the movie.
Skinless Julia. I cannot rave about skinless Julia enough. I think I watched every scene with her with my jaw on the floor. The anatomy and the artistry of her makeup was simply gorgeous. It reminded me of the Bodies exhibit, where the human bodies were preserved, rubberized, and dissected. I loved that exhibit (every time I saw it), and I loved looking at skinless Julia.
Honestly, you could have shown me the skinless Julia sequence then the worst movie ever, and I probably would have still given it the thumbs up. Thankfully, Hellraiser II was skinless Julia and a legitimately good horror movie.
I wish I had heard the rest of the franchise kept the quality; however, I have heard only the opposite. I may press on and have my heart broken just on principle.