Film Review - Hellraiser: Bloodlines

Starring - Bruce Ramsay, Valentina Vargas, Doug Bradley | Directed by - Alan Smithee | Dimension DVD WS 85min R 1996

Review By Juliet

The mighty puzzle box is now in my hands to review the next installment of the Hellraiser series. Unlike the other reviewers before me, I'm brand new to the series and have been watching along here as Bloodline takes on this legendary series. I very quickly became a fan of the series and am very interested to see how it moves forward. So let's see how part 4 fares.

We open on the Space Station Minos in the year 2127. Dr. Paul Merchant uses a robot to open the infamous puzzle box. He's arrested by the others on board who he urges to leave the ship. He tells the story of his ancestor, Phillip L'Merchant, a toymaker who created the puzzle box on commission for Mousier de L'Isle, France's master magician. But de L'Isle isn't just an illusionist; he's a practitioner of the dark arts who uses the puzzle box in a ritual to open the gates of hell and summon forth a demon into the skin of a mutilated woman. Philip witnesses the ritual and sets out to create another machine to close the gates of hell. But Angelique (the demon women) and Jacques (de L'Isle's assistant who betrayed him) kill Phillip before he has a chance build new box or steal the original box. In 1996 in New York City, John Merchant, a descendent of Phillip L'Merchant, is a celebrated architect who suffers from strange dreams about Angelique. John is the man responsible for the building with the puzzle box interior that we see at the end of Hellraiser 3. Angelique visits the building and finds the original puzzle box buried the basement (where it was left at the end of the third film). She tricks a man into summoning Pinhead who refers to her as a princess. Angelique tries to seduce John, who still has Phillip's design for the light machine, but Pinhead grows impatient and decides to use John's wife and son as bait. Pinhead wants John to use the building to open a permanent pathway to hell. Angelique betrays Pinhead who kills John. Of course, John's son survived and continued the bloodline that led to Dr. Paul Merchant back in 2127. Pinhead and the Cenobites trick the crew members of the ship and pick them off one by one. Paul has a plan to defeat the demons and rid the world of them once and for all, but will he succeed?

This film opens in space, and I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback and worried. I like Hellraiser and space, but I wasn't sure how they'd mesh. Plus after the third film took on a very different vibe for the series, this initially felt like a move in the wrong direction. However, the space scenes are used sparingly and serve the plot well. So I retract my original apprehension. I was very pleased to see that this film ties directly into the end of the third film with the puzzle box building and the location of the original box. I love it when a series actually feels like a cohesive story, not just a string of films with the same villain. Speaking of the villain, our man Pinhead is back and better than ever. It's great to have the dry, sadistic, creepy, and slightly bored Pinhead back, as opposed to the different take on the character (that actually completely makes sense) in most of Part 3. Douglas Bradley once again gives a command performance. In this film, we get even more glimpses into the character of Pinhead (who I find totally fascinating). His interactions with Angelique were especially interesting, and I wish there had been more about their backstory together. In talking about more from this film, it's interesting to note that the director, Kevin Yagher, actually took his name off the film after the studio recut it, in part to speed up Pinhead's appearance (which was originally not supposed to happen until 40 minutes into the film). Kudos go to Yagher for the use of light and shadows, especially during the Phillip era of the film. I'm not sure who gets the credit (Yagher or the person who came on for the recut), but I really enjoyed the quick shots of the gore during Angelique's "birth." Those glimpses made the vibe of that part even creepier. Valentina Vargas, who played Angelique, was lovely and did a great job playing both the evil princess of hell and a desperate prisoner to her fate. Bruce Ramsay also did a great job playing 3 roles: Phillip, John and Paul. He did a good job creating different personalities for each character, especially given that this is a pretty short film. We also have new Cenobites in this film: Angelique in her Cenobite form, the Twins (or as we've been calling them around the office, the Twinobites) and the Beast, a kind of hell-hound. Apparently more Cenobites were planned for the film and featured in promotional photos, but never actually made it into the finished product.

DVD extras include trailers, and that's it. It's a shame because I would love have loved to have seen some of those scenes that didn't make the recut or even a director's cut with Yagher's original vision come to life. The cover features Pinhead looking very green.

While this film certainly isn't as magical as the first Hellraiser, it wasn't a bad watch at all, and I actually liked it a tad better than the third film because of Pinhead's characterization. It's certainly worth owning for fans of the series. If you were let down by part 3, then give this one a try. However, I wouldn't recommend watching this one if you haven't seen the first film.

Before I move on to the fifth film, a fun fact: while researching the issue surrounding Kevin Yagher and the recut, I found out that this film was actually offered to Guillermo del Toro. This blew my mind because when I watched the first Hellraiser film, I kept commenting on how Clive Barker's imagery obvious influenced del Toro's imagery in Pan's Labyrinth.