Picking up right where Hellraiser left off, Hellbound continues the trend of spectacular horror effects and less than desirable acting. Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) wakes up in a psychiatric hospital following the gruesome finale of the original film, relaying horrific details to an incredulous police detective. She is visited in a dream by her father who sends out a distress signal (pictured above) and drives the plot.
At first Hellbound appears to be a rehash sequel, with Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) using his most mentally unstable patients as “food” in attempts to resurrect Julia (Clare Higgins) and satiate his own desires about the other world. It’s a particularly grotesque sequence, as the wailing patient hallucinates insects crawling over his body he slices at his skin with the razor provided by the doctor, performing an unwilling blood sacrifice to the “soul” of Julia. Soon Julia is resurrected, glistening with blood and plasma, lacking skin, seducing the already enticed Channard into completing her transformation.
The film works best in moments such as that, resurrecting themes of human insatiable desire for forbidden knowledge, only to be tortured (eternally) for their discovery. Director Tony Randel successfully inserts a bit of the sexual perversion and lust that permeated the original, occasionally favoring sexual imagery for the gory effects. One Kirsty finds herself in Hell, however, searching frantically for her father and struggling to survive, Hellbound (a suitable title) takes a bit of a downward turn.
The make-up and special effects consistently create some of the most terrifying and effective physical horror of the decade, nearly matching the original. Unfortunately Randel’s handling of the Labyrinth (an interesting depiction of Hell) sacrifices much of the perverse and haunting atmosphere of Hellraiser in favor of a more flamboyant and cinematic experience. Dr. Channard gets some superb one-liners as the film sheds itself of its brooding and atmospheric beginnings and devolves into overblown climax, so not all is lost. Unfortunately, when juxtaposed with its earlier tone, the cheesiness of the third act isn’t terribly delightful. The film does showcase some truly fantastic horror imagery, thanks to a superlative effects team, but Hellbound is ultimately a slight missed opportunity, with the mishandled third act foreshadowing what the series would later become.