Welcome back to the Hellbound Halloween! Today’s entry is the fourth film in the Hellraiser franchise, Hellraiser: Bloodline. Man, we’re making good time with all this–four down and only six more to go. At this rate I’ll be done well before October is over! Hm, if only I had planned for that eventuality and had some tricks up my sleeve… Anyway, let’s talk about a film directed by Alan Smithee. Oh, that’s never a good sign.
The framing device of the story is a guy in the future explaining past events, but let’s just go one time period at a… time. Hm. We start in 1796 France where Phillip LeMarchand (Mr. Bruce Ramsay) is a toymaker who made the iconic puzzle box as a commission to the evil Duc de L’Isle. Wait, “Phillip?” They spelled LeMarchand’s first name wrong, which is another bad sign. Anyway, L’Isle has his assistant, Jacques (Adam Scott, yes the same Adam Scott from Parks and Recreation) kill and skin a girl (Valentina Vargas, who is basically a French Noomi Rapace). L’Isle summons a demon into her skin named Angelique with the general rule that she’ll follow orders as long as you don’t get in her way. Jacques and Angelique kill de L’Isle and LeMarchand, but Phillip’s pregnant wife survives, as does his bloodline.
In 1996, John Merchant (Mr. Bruce Ramsay) has dreams of Angelique and is driven to put Lament Configuration elements into a building he’s built. Angelique kills Jacques–yes, he was somehow still alive–for getting in her way when she wants to meet LeMarchand’s descendant. Pinhead gets summoned, who recognizes Angelique from the old order of Hell. Turns out Merchant’s building designs could act as a portal to Hell, allowing Pinhead to bring a conquering army into our world. But it fails, dragging Angelique back to Hell as Pinhead kills Merchant. Merchant’s son continues the bloodline, but I do want to mention that the wife/mother was wife Kim Myers, AKA Lisa from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. I’ll get to you one day, you halfway respected horror franchise…
Then it’s 2127 on the space station Minos, designed by Dr. Paul Merchant. Huh, it kind of looks like the pattern of a paper cube you have to cut and assemble yourself. I wonder if that’s going to be important later. Anyway, Paul summons Pinhead and a cenobite-ified Angelique to the station, but some space marines get in the way of his plans. Most of them die, but Merchant and one soldier escape before the space station is revealed to be one giant puzzle box, trapping light inside and magnifying it. Pinhead, Angelique, and the station are destroyed. So now we know the death date of the lead cenobite! Be sure to mark it on your calendar.
Wait one second… A story told over three periods of time where a recurring actor appears as three different characters, one in each period? I can’t imagine the filmmakers were inspired by The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, but I can’t unsee the connections.
These sequels keep trying to add new and exciting cenobites, and none of them have worked out very well. Angelique was a demon hiding in human flesh, but we never see what that actually looks like. No, by the time she gets dragged back to Hell, she’s just another Female Cenobite knockoff. Why keep her in her stolen skin? Unclear. Two twin security guards get their bodies pressed together, but while their faces merging and twisting into each other sounds terrifying on paper, the actual execution is lackluster. And there’s something called a Chatterer Beast that’s just a cenobite dog. Nothing exciting here.
“Directed by Alan Smithee” is a warning sign on any film. There is no Alan Smithee–I mean, there might actually be, but that’s not the point. It’s the go-to fake name directors who want to disown their films use instead of their own. In this case, director Kevin Yagher–who only directed two episodes of Tales from the Crypt before this film and nothing since–got fed up with changes being forced on him and quit before everything was shot. I don’t think the movie is awful, but it does at times reek of executive meddling. They wanted Pinhead featured more prominently, even if it required rewriting large chunks of the story. It’s apparent that not everyone agrees with my belief that the best Hellraiser movies don’t have the cenobites as the main antagonists.
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