Yes much like the original Barker film, I’ve yet to ever really see “Hellbound,” as it’s managed to elude me for many years. I can recall seeing bits of it on a local cable station in America and never quite being able to experience it in its entirety. Tragically the only remotely interesting character in the entirety of “Hellbound” is Tiffany. Introduced as one of the more gifted and confounding of the patients within the mental institution, the character is a labyrinth within a labyrinth, a taskmaster disguised as mentally ill whose own personality and identity is about as enigmatic as the demonic puzzlebox. Imogen Boorman gives a rather striking performance as this walking riddle who consumes most of her time solving puzzles and tricks that doctor Channard gives her.
As you can guess she is just one giant plot device invented for the sole purposes of giving these characters a reason to go back in to hell, but Boorman’s wide eyed mystifying performance as Tiffany is the most memorable aspect of this cookie cutter sequel with a personality that is just compelling as she grabs on to every scene and manages to invoke fascination even from the dread cenobites who see her more as a nemesis rather than a victim. She is the only truly strong female presence in Randel’s sequel to Barker’s horror film, and she makes up a good dose of original material in “Hellbound” with a back story and exposition that is also something of a grand puzzle to be solved. We’re given chunks of who she is and where she came from, but Randel leaves much of her origin ambiguous to the overall narrative.
She’s probably the closest entity that serves as a heroine in the series and Boorman takes what limited screen time she has to dominate the tone of the picture and become something of a saving grace who can prove a worthy match for the cenobites. It’s a shame we never saw much of her after the sequel since Tiffany had the ability to become a long enduring heroine who could pose a threat to the cenobites and the dreaded puzzlebox. Beyond Boorman being the only truly fleshed out character, Clare Higgins gives a truly menacing performance as Julia, the newly born cenobite who has completely embraced her darkside seeking payback and using the sadism of Dr. Channard to accomplish her goals of looking for the answers to the underworld Pinhead and his minions inhabit. Sadly with Higgins moving on, Julia is really the only complex villain of the piece adding a truly despicable flavor to an otherwise flawed sequel.
Ah the suffering… of plot holes. And “Hellbound” has a variety of them that are never quite explained. Uncle Frank’s house abruptly burned to the ground in “Hellraiser” yet the sequel opens with Kirsty being examined by a psychiatrist as she learns the police are exploring the deserted house of Frank discovering the rotting corpses of the evil Julia and her father. How did that happen? The fans have explained that since the sequel was rushed in to production that most of the stories inconsistencies were not sealed up, and that’s sadly the downfall of “Hellraiser II,” the odd plot holes that plague what could have been a great follow-up. Plus we never quite learn what happened to Kirsty’s boyfriend who helped in the finale of the original film and is suddenly written out. “Hellbound” is a film that’s obviously been rushed in to production, as Randel’s narrative is utterly disjointed and most of the time absolutely pointless.
For example, we’re given the brief origin of Pinhead that makes no real feasible sense to the whole of the story other than to feed in to the audience that finds Pinhead alluring and exciting. The rest of the story is basically just a cookie cutter romance in which we’re introduced to sadistic Dr. Channard, a psychiatrist already on the brink of evil who inexplicably happens to have the grotesque Julia in his examination room who is feeding off of the blood and skin of demented patients Channard lures in. For a good portion of the story, Randel xeroxes the original film making Channard now a lovelorn seduced madman enticed by Julia and her gruesome methods while Julia is in Frank’s position relying on Channard for sustenance with a goal that is never made apparent to anyone here. Why is Julia trying to get in to hell again? Is she trying to get Frank back? Is she trying to dominate the underworld? How can she accomplish that?
How did she escape the cenobites when Barker claims again and again in the original film that they’re malevolent beings who seemingly know all? Why is Kirsty being accused of her parents deaths again? Why didn’t Channard ever quite bring to attention the presence of Kirsty to Julia? Why did Frank take Larry’s skin and become Larry, but Julia took someone else’s skin and looks like herself in all of her glory? And what was really the point of the sub-plot involving Kirsty’s infatuation with the young doctor Kyle when he’s rendered ultimately useless by the time Julia returns to do her evil deeds? Kirsty also takes a backstroke in to completely useless as her transformation to victim to heroine is forgotten as she’s once again reduced to a screaming crying numbskull who can barely do anything in spite of her knowledge of the box and the cenobites.
Furthermore it’s never explained at all why Dr. Channard is able to conquer his fellow cenobites when turned in to one of them, especially when it’s never indicated that the cenobites are capable of destroying one another or dominating the labyrinth underworld within the box. And what of the holder of the box from the original? Is he the true master? Does he hold the answers? One can only really imagine as “Hellbound” is a follow-up filled with potential never fully realized thanks to an obviously hastily written script. Tony Randel’s follow-up “Hellbound” is a mixed bag that I just didn’t fully embrace in the end. Randel attempts to live up to Barker’s act by introducing the excellent enigmatic heroine Tiffany played by Imogen Boorman who steals just about every scene she’s in as Clare Higgins is delightfully despicable as the sinister Julia, but beyond that the story is just a regurgitation of the original with plot holes, gaping lapses in logic, unanswered questions, and blatant plot devices that insult our intelligence rather than lead us in to a more complex narrative.