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Hellraiser: Bloodline

tn_h4HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE is produced and distributed by Miramax and, in related news, directed by Alan Smithee. It’s a mess, and it’s not surprising that it ended up being the last theatrical HELLRAISER.

You would remember it if you’ve seen it, ’cause it’s the one where Pinhead is in space. Hear me out, fellas. It’s a story that spans three time periods. It starts on a space station that has been hijacked by its own designer Merchant (Bruce Ramsay, BRICK MANSIONS). The space marines take him into custody and he tells them the story of how his ancestor invented the famous puzzle box that opens the gates to Hell, and now a debt has been passed on through the family and he’s trying to close them. Obviously they don’t get it, but he better convince them, because he has Pinhead trapped in a containment unit!

mp_h4His story begins in wig-wearing 1796 Paris, when the toymaker Phillip LeMarchand brings his masterpiece to the mansion of Duc de L’Isle (Mickey Cottrell, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO), the decadent magician who commissioned it. Little does LeMarchand know that this guy is a sicko who has just murdered and carved up a courtesan (Valentina Vargas, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, TWIN SITTERS) with the help of his assistant (Adam Scott from TORQUE and Parks & Recreation) and they’re gonna use the puzzle box to resurrect her into a demon called Angelique. This is before the invention of Cenobites, so she doesn’t have metal stuck in her, she’s just a beautiful, sensual woman who wanders the earth tempting people and shit. But I mean, she’s pretty evil too.

LeMarchand designs a box to close the gateway to Hell, but he fails, so his mission is picked up by his ’90s incarnation, the architect John Merchant, who created the puzzle box inspired skyscraper from the ending teaser of part III. He dreams of and is stalked by Angelique (who rips out the heart of still-alive Adam Scott when he objects to a trip to the U.S.). Then Pinhead (Doug Bradley) shows up. There’s some pretty cheesy business, partly because there’s not enough production value to pull off the building-as-puzzle-box idea (it’s obviously just a normal building with some large cut outs of some of the puzzle box inlays), but I like the tension between Pinhead and Angelique. When she sees him she says “Things seem to have changed.”

He says, “Hell is more ordered since your time, Princess. And much less amusing.”

(I believe she’s supposed to be some kind of Princess of Hell, he is not just being sexist.)

And he shames her for not being “what you truly are” (all S&Med out like a Cenobite).

A weird thing: since the loss of his pals Butterball, the Chatterer, Female Cenobite, CD Head, Camerahead, Terry Cenobite and JP Cenobite, Pinhead has started traveling with a pack of Cenobite hellhounds. The execution is spotty, and at the time I probly thought it was a laughable idea, but now I think it’s pretty cool. I just wish they showed them less so it would be a quick “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” funhouse thrill like The Engineer in part 1. Their weirdness is really more intimidating than their gnashing (or sometimes chattering) teeth.

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Pinhead also makes a new Cenobite, for some reason, when hunky twin brother security guards spot him in a hallway, and he causes a weird machine to twist their heads together. (When they show up again in the space scenes they separate and then smoosh a guy between them).

The plan to kill Pinhead in space is pretty cool. Merchant solves the puzzle remotely through a robot, which immediately explodes. He traps Pinhead, the pups, the twins and now-Cenobitic Angelique, but the space marines get in the way of folding the station into a giant box of perpetual light. Instead they end up setting the Cenobites loose to chop some people up.

The ending is weird. Merchant pulls it off, the whole thing blows up like the Death Star, his shuttle flies away, credits. No “He’ll be back?” horror teaser, no ALIEN style moment of contemplation. It feels unfinished.

And it is, of course. A November 1995 Cinefantastique article explains, “Miramax’s production of Barker’s franchise series has been caught in a lengthy process of editing, rewrites, subsequent filming and postponement of release dates. The numerous setbacks have caused most of the creative elements of this latest Pin Head saga to drop out of the production as they needed to move on to other scheduled projects.” Ironically the movie ended up being delayed another four months after the November 4th release date mentioned in the article. For extra measure, a quote about “the number of things that can go wrong” in making movies is followed by “says Barker, whose animated version of THE THIEF OF ALWAYS is set for release in late 1996.” That movie was shelved after Barker watched an animatic and hated it.

The original BLOODLINE director (after Stuart Gordon almost did it!) was Kevin Yagher, the effects artist known for doing Freddy’s makeup in most of the ELM STREET sequels and designing Chucky and the Crypt Keeper, and who had started directing on episodes of Tales From the Crypt. Barker had suggested following a family through three time periods, II and III writer Peter Atkins suggested using the LeMarchands, as mentioned Barker’s original short story The Hellbound Heart. The script they developed, agreed on with Miramax and filmed was told in chronological order. But after, according to Barker in the article, “closing down this movie with three weeks of shooting still to be done,” the company decided they didn’t want a movie that took an hour getting to Pinhead.

The idea of starting the story in the future and going back isn’t necessarily a bad one, but it was too much for Yagher. “The bottom line was I had to decide to either basically dedicate another year to the film or go on on with my life and continue with other projects,” Yagher told Cinefantastique. “In the end, it wasn’t so much that I was upset with the direction that they wanted to take, as it was that I just didn’t have the time and energy.” (Later in the article he compares the process, less diplomatically, to “pulling butt hairs.”)

He left to direct SLEEPY HOLLOW. Hmm. I hope that turned out better for him.

Brought in for cleanup was Joe Chappelle, Miramax’s wonderboy at the time who’d come from advertising and had written and directed an independent crime film called THIEVES QUARTET (which was never distributed) and the terrible HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (which also had controversial reshoots forced on it). He was tasked with shooting as few new scenes as possible to re-order the story and salvage Yagher’s incomplete footage. He wasn’t happy with the movie either, so it’s a duel Alan Smithee credit.

Miramax/Dimension would continue to push Chappelle with PHANTOMS (starring Ben Affleck), and then the DTV movies TAKEDOWN (with Skeet Ulrich as the famous hacker Kevin Mitnick) before he did the non-Dimension THE SKULLS II. He eventually found his place in television, most notably as a producer and director of The Wire.

In a 2011 Vulture interview, Scott remembered,”We had, like, two sets of reshoots and it took forever to make that movie. I’m not really in it that much, but I remember we would do one reshoot and redo everything, and then six months later we would reshoot it again and everything was super different. My death changed from melting to getting my guts ripped out.”

By the way, I know Adam Scott is pretty popular now, so please enjoy these screengrabs summing up his role.

Strangling somebody:

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Watching a demon be summoned:

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Wearing an evil bathrobe:

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Toasting while wearing a suit that’s too big for him:

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Getting pinned against the wall and his heart ripped out TEMPLE OF DOOM style:

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The first reshoots were three scenes written by Atkins, but the re-reshoots were re-written by Rand Ravich, who had been suggested by Barker because he wrote CANDYMAN 2.

The original version (here‘s the script) started in Paris, and stayed there much longer. In this version, Angelique was already a demon, which we learn when she does a striptease in which “Her torso transforms – suddenly it is covered in a score of SCREAMING MOUTHS and DEMONIC EYES that stare balefully out into the room.” De L’Isle, instead of creating her, had summoned her using a pentagram. She’s the one behind commissioning the box, which she explicitly names as the “Lament Configuration” while showing it off to a group of gamblers, who have the misfortune of solving the puzzle and being turned into Cenobites.

Angelique comes to LeMarchand’s house and seduces him, inviting him to a masquerade ball, entertained by a troupe of clowns and acrobats whose “costumes are even more exaggerated and bizarre than normal and they all have strange half-smiles, as if they possess a secret knowledge. Or are close to the borders of sanity.” On their way to the party the entertainers kidnap Auguste (LeMarchand’s friend who convinces him to make an anti-Lament Configuration), ball-gag him and throw him into “a HUGE MAW OF HELL!”

When jealous De L’Isle tries to stab LeMarchand, Angelique “SNAPS HIS WRIST easily!” and “grasps D’ L’Isle by the throat and hoists him impossibly high with one hand… and effortlessly flings him more than thirty feet to SMASH through a glass window at the far end of the room!”

But LeMarchand is killed by the Cenobite gamblers, before Angelique explains the premise of the movie (unstated in the theatrical cut):

“Phillip Lemarchand can have no child. His bloodline must die with him lest his genius be reborn and turned against us.”

In this version, instead of being barb-wired to death off screen, De L’Isle actually redeems himself. He rescues LeMarchand’s pregnant wife Genevieve by tackling Angelique onto the pentagram and uttering a Latin invocation, destroying the Cenobites and bringing her back to Hell.

Genevieve then gives the Lament Configuration to a “derelict” merchant, presumably some ancestor or incarnation of the “What is your pleasure, sir?” guy who opens and closes the original HELLRAISER.

That script also had a little more of an ending, but not a great one. Instead of flying away in a shuttle, Merchant would’ve died inside the station with Pinhead. Then it would’ve gone into kind of a 2001 style psychedelic freakout which would then loop back to the opening of the film when LeMarchand has finished the box.

HOLY SHIT IT’S ALL STARTING OVER AGAIN! WE’RE DOOMED!

Some of these scenes were definitely filmed. There’s a “Reconstruction Workprint” version on Youtube that includes unfinished footage of the gambler striptease, some scenes animated like Taiwanese news re-enactments, and for some reason a section of HELLRAISER III.

Some stills of the missing scenes showed up in the April 1995 issue of Cinefantastique, almost a year before the film was finally released:

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But what could’ve been doesn’t really matter that much. It wasn’t. The finished film, even if no one will put their name on it, is unequivocally better than part III. It’s a better story, a better extension of the existing mythology, a better use of Pinhead, even if he has pets. It’s a closer match to the tone of the original HELLRAISER, and the origins of the puzzle box are more interesting than the origins of Pinhead.

Unfortunately, the execution is not as good as the ideas. If the space scenes could’ve had the production value of an ALIEN movie, or even the HELLRAISER copycat EVENT HORIZON, maybe people would’ve accepted the “Pinhead in space” concept more. Unfortunately it’s very cheap looking and always feels suspiciously like it was filmed in a stationary room on earth, not on a floating space station.

Maybe my biggest problem is Ramsay as the three different leads. He’s probly better now but in this he didn’t have the presence to be compelling or the gravitas to be convincing as a genius designer or architect, or a space prisoner who convinces people he has to close a doorway to Hell. It doesn’t help that he looks like Jimmy Fallon.

I have trouble hating it. It’s too unusual for that, and too not-having-a-guy-with-CDs-stuck-in-his-head. It’s better than some part 4s. It should’ve been worse.

APPENDIX: Notable horror movies released between HELL ON EARTH and BLOODLINE:

BRAINSCAN
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
CANDYMAN (came out on the same day as HELLRAISER III!?) and CANDYMAN 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH
CRONOS
THE DARK HALF
THE DAY OF THE BEAST
DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (a.k.a. CEMETERY MAN)
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY
LEPRECHAUN 1-3
LORD OF ILLUSIONS
MARY SHELLY’S FRANKENSTEIN
PHANTASM III: LORD OF THE DEAD
SPECIES
TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS DEMON KNIGHT
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON
WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2015 at 10:28 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Hellraiser: Bloodline”

  1. I pre-Caspered it, since we all knew that the review was coming. There really isn’t much to say about it, other that it gives the series after part III at least SOME dignity back. But not that much, since the behind the scenes trouble and apparently some huge MPAA scissors left their scars on the movie.

    Random notes:

    – I didn’t recognize that PARKS & RECRATION guy without his beard (I never saw that show and only know him from pictures and the underrated WALTER MITTY remake), but thought he looked oddly like Ashton Kutcher. And he is not the only person in this movie who looks like someone else. When we saw that evil magician in the first story for the first time, I thought: “Hey, how come nobody told me that Conan O’Brien is in that movie!?” And Merchant’s 1996 wife looks like Meryl Streep.

    – I’ve seen many scenes of people getting holes punched into their bodies, but this was the first time where the sound effect made me feel sick. Just that brutal PLOP after a few seconds when, I guess, she finally rips through the skin and/or muscles.

    – Damn! Valentina Vargas is hot!

    – The best use of the Cenobite dog is in his first appereance, when Angelique kills stereotypical sweaty average Joe business guy who would never say no to sex with a random woman and the walls open and we see the faint shape of something, that might either be a huge dog or a small polar bear in the fog.

    – If I can see one positive aspect of Hollywood’s current re-boot culture, it’s that at some point, maybe when the Weinsteins forget to make another shitty DTV sequel in time and lose the rights, someone will re-make this one the way it was intended to be. (Hey, who knows?)

  2. Adam Scott’s pre-PARTY DOWN work is always hilarious. He got hired a lot so clearly filmmakers liked what he had to offer but it’s clear that they had no earthly idea what to do with him. He looks so at sea in whatever outrageously miscast role they put him in that he always seems like he’s in a Funny Or Die parody.

    The “What The Fuck Does Adam Scott Think He’s Doing In This Movie?” factor might just be enough to make this the official Hellraiser entry in my yearly Halloween roundup.

    Speaking of THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, that one has a similar rubbernecking attraction, except with Paul Rudd.

  3. So here’s a question… if Pinhead was created in WW2 (or around that era), how did he appear in the 1700s? Or was he not in the flashback scenes? It’s been a while since I’ve seen it. Did he not appear on-screen until the current-day portion of the movie? And if so, then what was his “Hell has changed since you’ve been gone?” line all about, as Angelique has been around much longer than Pinhead, and most likely, never occupied Hell at the same time. Is Hell just a timeless state of existence, so that it doesn’t matter when you first entered, your existence there is simply eternal? Or am I thinking way too much into something that isn’t worth the trouble?

  4. He showed up for the first time in 1996, but since Angelique, who came to earth centuries ago knew him, that leads to a lot of questions.

  5. When I read in the review that Adam Scott was in this, I immediately ran to google and searched “Adam Scott in Hellraiser 4.” If I had a little more faith, I would have realized that Vern would have included these screenshots in the review and that all I need to do was scroll down.

  6. I can’t really figure out why a Hellraiser mash-up doesn’t exist using this scene: (NSFW, of course)

  7. Shit.

    Kenny Powers gets offered by tampa

    Pat Anderson (adam scott) makes kenny powers (danny mcbride) an offer he can not refuse

  8. There are some clever ideas in this one and Valentina Vargas brings the gorgeous. I thought that the guy who played Marchand was a FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES-level actor and the only parts I actually cared about were the beginning and the end. The rest of it felt like a generic 90s-slasher film (the film quality of slasher movies in the 90s looked way too clean and bright, do you know what I’m saying?) and it’s kind of the same thing that happened to WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON, especially the shit that happens to the Twins in this movie (you can practically hear Pinhead saying, “Welcome to the other side of reality.”)

    Anyway, I gave these guys my high school non-earned money in the theater (but tickets were $5 at the time) and I thought the Lament Configuration In Space was a pretty cool idea (Jason and the Leprechaun didn’t get there until years later), but the rest of it didn’t have that special atmosphere that the first two had.

  9. I do appreciate this one’s ambition, it’s almost THE FOUNTIAN of Hellraiser movies. But boy, does it not pull off anything it attempts, at all. Anything. At. All. Kinda the opposite of what I think of HELLRAISER III — that one’s dumb as rocks, but generally pulls of what it’s attempting. This one wants to be great, but utterly, abysmally bungles the execution on every imaginable level.

    Controversial opinion: I think the studio was right to start us off in space; the movie makes it clear that Pinhead is the real antagonist here, so it makes sense that they want to get to him sooner. They should have just left him out, though, because the movie spends waaay too much time with Angelique for her to end up a second fiddle villain who doesn’t really pay off in the end.

  10. I don’t disagree with your controversial opinion (Kevin Yagher said in at least one interview that he didn’t either), but the problem was that they decided this after the movie was already filmed, which in my opinion is poor timing.

  11. I actually really like this one. Might have something to do with this being the first hellraiser movie I saw in bits and pieces late one night on SBS. Before I actually sat down and watched em propper.
    The cenobite with the two dudes twisted together is my faviourte shit in the franchise.

  12. As bad as Hellraiser 3 was, it’s a fucking masterpiece compared to this one.

  13. I stopped watching the HELLRAISER series after this. And I´ve still yet to see a HELLRAISER movie in a newer format than a VHS copy.

  14. Saw the Barker adaptation BOOK OF BLOOD the other night. It plays with the gateway-to-other-dimensions idea, the voice-over saying something like “The dead have their own highway that intersect with the living..”, but it’s dressed up like a haunted house ghost movie. You wouldn’t identify it as a Barker, except it had that strange sexual tension thing from the first two Hellraisers. Like, I shouldn’t be getting turned on by this, but damn if it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain…

  15. Yeah the ambition of this one is admirable but the way it lazily plods through a plot thread promised by the end of part III is pretty discouraging and makes you not want to deal with the rest of it. They get points for a Lament Configuration space station (pretty inspired!) and for trying to create a “new Julia” and take things back to the roots a bit and further away from the mainstream slasherness of HELL ON EARTH but the space scenes are really the best part of it. Yet they pale in comparison to stuff in JASON X and even CRITTERS IN SPACE.

    I actually enjoy the one after this the most outside of the first 2. I think I said it in the LORD OF ILLUSIONS review but that one could’ve easily been adjusted to become a Harry D’Amour story and finally introduce him to the world of cenobites where he belongs. As it is it’s still pretty good if a bit more cliche than it would’ve been if it was something with D’Amour as opposed to some standard shady cop.

  16. The Original Paul

    October 16th, 2015 at 7:49 am

    There was a CRITTERS IN SPACE??!!!!

    Man, the stuff I learn by reading this website and its comments.

  17. But…Critters are from space. CRITTERS ON EARTH should be the big deal.

  18. Yeah, I am pretty sure the first CRITTERS film opens somewhere in deep space.

  19. The Original Paul

    October 16th, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Well I know that… but… they don’t stay there!

    CRITTERS in space would be like… if that Matt Damon film that just came out was him trapped in his garden shed or something, instead of Mars. And I could be way off-base here, but I don’t think MATT DAMON TRAPPED IN A SHED would have quite the same box-office draw!

  20. Man, looking at those 18th-century gamblers, I can’t believe they cut that part out. They would have easily been the coolest-looking thing in the whole movie.

    Poeface — As far as I’m concerned, BOOK OF BLOOD is probably the single worst Barker adaptation, even more embarrassing than the later HELLRAISER sequels, which were at least mildly eventful. BOOK OF BLOOD is so padded with dull nonevents, it barely even qualifies as a movie. They fucking repeat that monologue about “The dead have highways…” in full what feels like a dozen times.

    I reviewed it for my annual October horrorfest last years … (shameless plug: click on my name to see this year’s crop)

  21. Yeah Mr S, I can’t argue for anything positive about BOB and think your review nailed it. BOB needed more “Toothless dead ghost-hookers servicing meth-addled ghost truckies on that highway of the dead” as you pondered, and it would have been great!

  22. AnimalRamirez1976

    October 17th, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    I guess Mr S and I just have completely opposite sensibilities. The directing here is boring, plodding, uninspired, and dull, but I can’t say its bad. I never had thoughts like “What a disconcertingly fake looking shot!” or “Were these actors specifically directed to be listless and self-conscious?”. The big issues here are plot and production values. This movie clearly has a much lower budget than III. There’s nothing as elaborate as The Boiler Room or even PJ’s loft here. Not a good thing for a film taking place in three time periods spanning hundreds of years. The space station looks particularly generic. The ALIEN-style cat-and-mouse games are pretty snoozeville.

    But a much much bigger issue for me that I really don’t have any idea what these fucking boxes do and what they are for, what Pinhead wants from the Merchants, what the different Merchants are trying to do and so on. The rules here are not clear, or they keep changing and are made more elaborate. The boxes open the door to Hell and Pinhead walks out but sometimes they are weapons that send him back to Hell, I think? And Angelique has to obey Jacques for hundreds of years but then she kills him because he “got in Hell’s way” which means he didn’t let her go to New York? And LeMarchard’s goofy-looking friend tells him to build another box to destroy Angelique but does he do that? And what did Pinhead and Angelique want John to do exactly? Build a bigger box (why?) and wasn’t the building already just a bigger box? And future Merchant let Pinhead out of the box so he could trap him in a bigger box and blow the bigger box up so why didn’t he just blow up the little box and so on and so on. And all this is surrounded by clouds by of really pretentious exposition delivered (mostly) in a English accent.

    The first Hellraiser is the strongest because of its simplicity and the Frank/Julia relationship. The second one was already going off the rails and needed those crazy set pieces and visual effects to keep things lively. Here the mythology is even more muddled and there are no strong images to compensate.

  23. I can’t answer all of those questions, but the space station/perpetual light box is the thing that LeMarchand had been trying to build since the beginning, to close the door to Hell that he had mistakenly opened.

    But you’re right, the Lament Configurations seem to have the power to send the Cenobites back sometimes, including in the first one.

  24. AnimalRamirez1976

    October 18th, 2015 at 6:55 am

    Never meant to give the impression that I wanted answers to all those questions. Sorry about that. It was rhetorical. There are explanations, and the viewers can figure it out what’s going on (more or less) if they go with the flow a little bit.

    It’s not that this movie is confusing so much as it is uninvolving. Everything feels rushed and papered over, like a whole of season (or three) of American Horror Story squeezed into one 90 minute movie.

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