Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

hellraiser bloodline

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) Directed by Kevin Yagher and Joe Chappelle

This is the mid 90’s, where practically by this time every horror movie whether slasher or not had not one but more than two sequels, so it’s no use saying that ‘Hellraiser in space’ should never have existed, on the contrary, if it hadn’t it would have been wildly unusual. But of course, however justified its miserable existence may be, that doesn’t mean it’s not outrageously bad, because bad news for everyone, it’s flat-out stinky garbage. Hellraiser: Bloodline returns to elemental territory like Hell on Earth but this time it aims to decode its origins by jumping back and forth through different temporalities to establish itself as an intriguing concatenation between being a prequel and a sequel articulating a plot in unison of the same narration.

Substantially, it sounds in the beautiful world of theories like an attractive and entertaining idea of what the fourth Hellraiser installment should be like, it is tempting just to think of seeing a film with such a far-fetched structure like that, but it is a fleeting suasion only in the conception of ideas, or creative moments when a film is in the pre-production stage; because indeed in practice, it is not only a foolhardy endeavor, it should be inconceivable for any filmmaker with at least a little sense of logic. Yet logic is the least of their interests for the filmmakers of Hellraiser: Bloodline and they prefer to remain in the wishful  state of self-delusion that something fruitful can be gleaned from such a mindless form of filmmaking.

Hellraiser: Bloodline is fragmented into three distinct time periods, one in the aristocratic environment of 1796 in France, the other in the present day 1996, and the last in the future in the year 2127. The extravagant narrative configuration has a linear evolution and is composed in acts thought as a formation of events that originate the future consequences. At first glance, yes, it is a linear narrative, primarily because only one character tells the story, which interweaves the future in an orderly succession. Although something happens in this contrived ┬ádiversity of shaping the plot, and that is that each period that is shown becomes a facsimile of the same mistakes that the other acts also commit. It would be too short in a writing of this format to describe how profoundly disastrous they are with punctilious precisions that make it illustrative, but nothing more than that should warn you how messy it is with its cataclysmic flaws that take place in that incongruous and laughable narrative language. I think a better way to round out its ineffectiveness would be to specify that conceptually and in essence Hellraiser: Bloodline is synonymous with ‘destructure’.

Against all odds, there is something positive to rescue from this sequel to at least give it a nanoscopic merit, and that is that this fourth Hellraiser film carries in its personality a huge commitment to revive and especially expand the mythology of the first two films. There is something that Hell on Earth simply left out and that this one seeks to give it oxygen again, and that is the detailed exhibition of the depravity of its characters and their deep-seated desire to reach the maximum limits of orgiastic torture. Nevertheless, as much as I highlight these qualities and ethos that correspond more appropriately to the literature and praxis of the sadomasochistic worlds created by Clive Barker, that doesn’t mean that here they are formalized with more robust rebelliousness and visual emphasis than in the first two films. Disappointingly, if you thought that after the dry cinematography of Hellraiser 3 things would improve in the fourth, well let me give you the news that it gets aggressively worse. Gerry Lively, the same cinematographer from the previous film, returns to plasticize the quirky organism of the content to make everything look duller than ever. At least this time he understood that in-depth staging with no narrative values and wishy-washy in its design will do him absolutely no favors, however this one pluralizes his atrocious Dutch angles with the same cartoonish and deformed formula as in Hell on Earth but now he even uses them in establishing shots, yes, he’s an incorrigible guy.

Doug Bradley returns to his mythical role as Pinhead, the philosopher of suffering, vocalizing the word “exquisite” in the most mellifluous and compendious manner I’ve ever heard. Evidently, Pinhead’s ridiculousness can now be appreciated more as a villain you enjoy as much as any character in a slasher movie, but even so, one misses enormously those subtle appearances and frigid expressions of the first two films. Gone is that demonic character that really brought hell to the callers. Following the tradition of horror sequels, this one has performances as bad or worse than Hellraiser 3, although let’s face it, acting has never been Hellraiser‘s strong suit. However, as histrionic and bombastic as his performance is, Mickey Cottrell playing the deranged aristocrat Duc de L’Isle is fiendishly entertaining even though he’s not at a protagonist level, it’s like watching a sort of Marquis de Sade on cocaine performing supernatural rituals in utter delirium.

In the end, one could go on and on defining every infuriating flaw Hellraiser: Bloodline has to offer, but that would be a banality I’m not willing to experience. The theatrical cut is still just as shockingly terrible as when it had its 1996 release, despite all the creative conflicts surrounding this production, I don’t think even a director’s cut would change the awfulness of this film. It is said that director Kevin Yagher had a more nihilistic and structurally logical final conception of the story, but I really doubt that anything can be fixed in this film, it suffers dramatically from wanting to be the most original sequel and ultimately fails to be more of the same. Ironic, isn’t it?



Matteo Bedon
About Author

When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them.
Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.