Directed by: ,
Written by:
Starring: , ,

Reviewed by Ross Hughes

Its amazing how full circle the franchise of Hellraiser has gone.  What was the strongest delight of the original is now the worst part of the 4th chapter in the saga, and what I am about to say will shock fans of the series.  I am talking about Pinhead, the character that all fans who watch the films want to see, but for me every time he appears in this chapter he brings the film to a low level.

Why? Well its all in the plot.  Don’t let the name of Alan Smithee put you off by the way.  Usually a death notice for “really bad film!” this is nowhere near has awful as the reputation it as gained.  If you ignore the fan based negativity surrounding this film and look deeper past the criticism then you will find something very much to like in this horror.  First of all the notorious tag of “Pinhead in space” is totally wrong and for newcomers who are expecting a kind of Critters 4 version will be in for one heck of a shock.  Yes, the film starts and ends on a space ship, but for the majority of the time it serves as a prequel, with events jumping from the 18th Century to the modern times of 1996.

Its in the 18th Century that this film shines.  There is something quite haunting and beautiful in those segments.  Think about it, its Hellraiser but done Hammer Horror, and for the first twenty minutes, the film is on such a high level that you hope that the whole film stays in this time zone.  Its on this stage that we see the origins of the puzzle box and how it came about.  Its also at this part that die hard fans will shake their heads because they know that in parts one and two, the box was established as Chinese origin, but here that notion is quickly dismissed.  Just remember, the franchise is now infamous for not listening to its own myth and rules, that if you find that plot logic a bit too much, then you are probably one of the many fans that should have given up at the end of part 2.  Yes, a lot of this movie if thought about, does not make much sense, the building that we see in 1996 seems to be the one that appears at the end of the number three, but that would not make much sense with the timing and date, but it seems that this story is trying to go back to basics, and its order is to give us the ambition and drive that made the original work and by doing this, ignoring all events of the previous film.

We start in the future, the big bold statement of this movie is that past, present and future will collide to finally end the terror of the cenobites, and to show us the makers mean business we start in space.  Now lets get the jokes out of the way.  Yes if you just walk into a room and see this playing on the background, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a Star Trek episode.  Yes, they do look like the Borg and yes you do expect Captain Picard to turn up any minute, but what confused me more is that they have a character called Rimmer which meant that I had Red Dwarf rattling up in my brain as well. We start with a man trying to open that puzzle box by using an extra from a Terminator movie and when he does, he is quickly arrested.  Its in a room when he is being questioned that he starts to tell the story of what he is doing, but to do that, he has to go back to 400 years ago………

A french toymaker Phiilip L’Merchent (Bruce Ramsey in three roles) is assigned by rich aristocrat Duc De L’Isle (Mickey Cottrell) to design and make the Lament Configuration, the friiggin box that as caused saw much suffering to those who play with it.  At first its just a simple toy, but in the hands of L’Isle it becomes a heck of lot more, as his practise of black magic opens the gate to another dimension.  A poor slave Angelique (Valentina Vargas) is caught in the mess, strangled and brutally skinned, then offered as a sacrifice, her body is then taken over by a demon who must obey the aristocrat and his apprentice but obviously does not, and the pretty hot demon kills the man who summoned her before killing the toymaker who after realising what hell he has unleashed, tries to save the day but fails.

Because of some strange reason never explained though, because the toymaker created the box, only he can stop it and with all the magic involved its his Bloodline alone that can close the gate.  Not much help then that he is dead but hang on, his wife his pregnant, so that means his son/daughter carries his bloodline, so…..well you can see where this is going!  Angelique now released to walk the earth has one mission alone and that is to stop the Merchent family from ever ending the power within the box, and while she is free from the depths of darkness, she is always binded by this responsibility.

So far so good.  We have new characters that are quite interesting, a story that gives us a fresh angle of the Hellraiser myth and also a bit of tension.  You can not help but beg the film to stay in the year 1784 as it somehow gives the film a much different outlook, you want this evil Angelique to roam the moors, to hunt down the pregnant mother which of course would be the most obvious thing to do, kill the expected to be so there is no bloodline and she is free to walk the earth, why she does not think of this is beyond me, but hey I did not write this shit!

So to our despair, the film moves to the present, well I say present, actually 1996 the year the film was released and we back in that tall building that we glimpsed at the end of the third.  Images of the puzzle box are all over the walls and floor and we find that the owner and builder is none other John Merchent (Ramsey again). whose dreams of a mystery woman (guess who? begins with A?) plagues him.  Finding out where the bloodline has ended up, Angelique tracks him down to the building to finally put to end the myth of the Merchent family.

Then it all goes a bit silly.  This is a woman who has walked the Earth for over 400 years with no help or need, and is quite capable of being quite an evil bitch, but for some strange reason decides to call on help to kill just one man, and with the theme tune of Ghostbusters playing at the background who you gonna call?” yes he with the pins all in his head.  This is when the film goes flat, all the built up momentum wrecked in a single moment, because bowing to fan pressure by including the franchise spearhead. sorry pinhead….makes the film with nowhere to go.  It makes the two characters of evil, pointless and very redundant.  It seems that the writers had simply run out of ideas and it says a lot when you just wish that Angelique was the main focus, and Pinhead was just left in the box.  Its a criticism because Pinhead does nothing in this movie.  If you think he talked a lot in part 3 then wait until you see him in here.  His constant rambling goes on and on and finally you get to realise the pleasure and pain angle of the box.  The pain is listening to him go on and on at how he is going to make you suffer, and the pleasure is when he Finally does so you do not have to listen anymore to the crap he talks.  It is so bad that the innocent victims are really thick.  If they just used their heads they could run out of the door before being killed as Pinhead loves the sound of his voice so much, he probably would not notice they are gone.  Years ago BT had ET to advertise their phone service, if they really want to go down that route again then they should really consider this man, because he emphasis their term of “Its good to talk!”

For the majority of the time he is stuck in a basement, probably talking to himself and when he and Anqelique finally decide to get off their arse and do something, he comes up with such an original plan to “kidnap the son!”…..oh yes, the memory of the good old Hellraiser slowly fades into the background.  What used to be such a simple concept of “whoever opens the box, they come” as transcended into just a run of the mill horror with Pinhead the catalyst for jokes especially when he has a quite awful hell dog for company and his body jerk that signals the arrival of chains coming from behind him to kill some poor victim.  Constantly he moves his body back and foe with his eyes wide open which is a sign he is to kill someone and he does it so many times in this film that its quite annoying, especially when its followed by a loud evil laugh, and then by you guessed it, a long speech a how evil he is!

Finally we get to the finale where the future segment is in full display, with Pinhead and his bunch of cenobites running amok on a space craft.  Its here we discover that the man arrested at the beginning is none other than Paul Merchent (yes….its Ramsey again) who has built the station to finally end the curse of his family.  Its at this point of time that the film is nothing but silly with the slash genre in full swing.  Characters that we have never met, get killed while Pinhead stands around talking a lot and then it comes to the climatic battle that finally ends the terror of the cenobites and their master.  By the way that is not a spoiler.  If you think about it, the films that followed were all set in modern times, with this way in the future, this shows how this evil was stopped for good, and so in someway does bring closure to the franchise.  Who who would have thought that when we first encounter these creatures in a house in London, we would end up on a space craft.  But then that is how far removed this franchise has become.

I started by saying that this in not as bad as the reputation it has got.  Seriously, anyone expecting a terrible movie will be in for a shock.  There is something quite splendid for the opening half, the film showing enough freshness that it seems we are heading for something special.  I do not know if the studio interference that made director Kevin Yager walk, is the reason why the film ends up like it does, but its a rotten shame.  There is enough vibe around it that make it a much better film than Hell On Earth, but the need to please the fans is apparent.  There are death scenes that are not needed, gore that is not required, if they just stuck with the basic principle with what they had, a good story, then we may be looking at this in a total different light.  Instead it gets lost in its own confused mess, its not the Pinhead in Space angle that wrecks this film, its a need to sell out to horror cliche which is not what Hellraiser is about, the famous tagline of the film is that “It will tear your soul apart!” it did, but only to its own self. and that is the biggest shame of it all……

OVERALL: Much better than the 3rd, this shows enough drive and ambition in the early stages to wet the taste of Hellraiser fans, but then loses it all by giving in to fan power and the needs of the franchise, that brings out the cry of despair to those who were desperate for something different……

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

[pt-filmtitle]Hellraiser Bloodline[/pt-filmtitle]

About Ross Hughes 1931 Articles
Since my mother sat me down at the age of five years of age and watched a little called Halloween, I have been hooked on horror. There is no other genre that gets me excited and takes me to the edge of entertainment. I watch everything from old, new, to cheap and blockbusters, but I promise all my readers that I will always give an honest opinion, and I hope whoever reads this review section, will find a film that they too can love as much as I do! Have fun reading, and please DO HAVE NIGHTMARES!!!!!!

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