Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 19 - Your favorite horror film involving the powers of Hell

There are a hell of a lot of great movies that involve Satan and the powers of hell. My favorite, however, is unique in that it involves the powers of an apparently Satan-less hell. What the hell? A hell with no Satan? Clive Barker says hell yes. Clive introduced the Cenobites in Hellraiser, but in Hellraiser 2: Hellbound, he introduces an entire new mythology and hierarchy to the infernal realm. Instead of the biblical lake of fire or Dante’s circles of hell, we get a never ending maze, more Cenobites, Leviathan, and a much more personal hell. It’s a hell of a movie.

Hellraiser is one of those series where I like the second film the best. Don’t get me wrong, Hellraiser is an amazing movie, and I know that is blasphemy to some, but I think this is a bigger, better, meaner, scarier, all around more horrific Hellraiser movie. The plot is pretty basic. Of course, no one believes Kirsty about the events of the first movie, so they throw her in Dr. Channard’s asylum. Channard, it turns out, is obsessed with the Cenobites. He resurrects Julia (hell hath no fury like a woman scorned) and tricks a mute patient named Tiffany into solving the puzzle box, opening the gates of hell. Kirsty has been tricked by Frank into thinking that he is her father. She is determined to save her father come hell or high water, so she goes into hell to find him. Channard and Julia go to hell because Channard is curious. The Cenobites seemingly head back just for the hell of it. Tiffany gets drug along and becomes a pawn in the game. Violence and much running through hallways screaming each others names ensues. Will they all live happily ever after? Like hell!

This film plays out a little less like the straight ahead horror of the first and goes for more of a dark fantasy feel. Normally I wouldn’t dig that change, but here it works. It ups the blood and grue quotient of the first. The violence here is pretty hellacious. The movie even starts like a bat out of hell, giving us the bloody origin of Pinhead. Short version; open the box and there’s hell to pay. The visuals, aside from a stylish as hell but very obvious matte painting, are great. The acting is actually much better than in the first movie. Ashley Laurence had obviously grown as an actress, and Kenneth Cranham as Dr. Channard is spot on. He has a low key British elegance underlying the evil, perfect for a wicked psychiatrist. Hellbound also advances the Cenobite concept, showing us how one is “made.” I dig the hell out of the fact that this movie set up its own version of hell that didn’t really draw upon any other mythos. Satan? Who the hell is he? Here we have Leviathan, infernal lord of law and order. I also dig the concept of each person having their own personal hell according to their own vices and sins. “Fire and brimstone” is just generic as hell.

I talk about acting, direction, story, effects, and that sort of thing a lot, but one aspect of film that I don’t mention a whole hell of a lot is score. I’m not big on orchestral scores usually. One really has to be something special to make me take notice, and Christopher Young’s score did just that. It is grandiose gothic at its finest. Dramatic as hell. My favorite use of the score is in the scene where Tiffany opens the portal to hell. The strings, horns, and choral elements swell and recede at just the right moments. It’s evocative of the almost regal presence of Pinhead mixed with an other-worldly frightening quality. Like the Cenobites themselves, it is genuinely creepy yet darkly beautiful. This score will only be matched when hell freezes over.

There are 2 things I’m not crazy about in this movie though. One is Channard’s conversion into a Cenobite. His human character is creepy as hell, the “Cenobite machine” is a cool touch, but when he emerges it all goes straight to hell. Cenobite Channard had the potential to be an incredibly cool character, but instead he starts spouting one liners that Commando era Schwarzenegger would have balked at. Then he beats the hell out of Pinhead and the original Cenobites. Just trounces them. Guys, what the hell were you thinking? That should never have happened. The other is when Pinhead stops the Cenobites from touching Tiffany after she opens the box because “It is not hands that call us, it is desire.” Um, excuse me Pinhead, but weren’t you eager as hell to take Kirsty when she unknowingly opened the box in the first movie? A bit hypocritical there, don’t ya think? Actually, I think Pinhead just has a thing for Ashley Laurence. I can’t say I blame him. I sure as hell would love to have an eternity to know her flesh.

Plot issues not withstanding, I’m a hell of a lot more forgiving than many are towards the Hellraiser series. Most seem to be hell bent on the fact that anything past the first one or two sucked. I thought they were good all the way through Bloodline. After that it went to hell in a hand basket. While I love the first Hellraiser, I think the series reached its peak with Hellbound. It’s one of my favorites of all time. Two severed thumbs way the hell up. Nathan says check it out. Hell.

1 comment:

Cash Wampum said...

I agree Hellbound is the best of the series. I seem to be the only one from these parts that really enjoyed Bloodline. Most people hate it. I do not.

I hear you on the Channard cenobite taking out Pinhead and his cohorts so effortlessly. This has been a huge problem for fans since the movie debuted. I always rationalised it by thinking Channard was an uber-cenobite as if Leviathan was the boss and his manifestation was just THAT bad ass that he could slay a group of hardcore cenobites at will. Channard's ability to revert Pinhead back to his former flesh impacted that decision for me as well. He was the big boy and Pinhead's revolution was a huge failure.

Up until that scene it was easy to think that Pinhead was omnipotent, especially within the labyrinth from which he dwells so when they were all slayed so quickly, I was entertained but thoroughly disappointed.

I recently listened to a DVD commentary at that point of the movie and the director gave us the writer's reason for this scene, which makes a bit of sense. Since Kirsty had just dumped a bunch of hard reality onto their laps, ie. let them know they were all once human, this batch of cenobites were "spiritually drained" and hence, easy pickings for the newer, more charged Channard cenobite. OK, I'll buy that. The scene stills kicks ass. I don't care how you slice it.

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