Labyrinths, Evil Queens, and Confirmed Safe Words for Cenobites: Revisiting Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

This is part of my Horrorathon for Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (aka MASK)Revisiting is a series where I revisit a horror film I’ve already seen a long time ago to see if I feel the same way about it.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

From IMDb: Kirsty is brought to an institution after the death of her family, where the occult-obsessive head resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites once again.

I’ve only ever seen Hellbound: Hellraiser II once, but I remember being really surprised by the dark fantasy elements in it, and found it to be pretty original for a horror film sequel (and not in the bad way).

Released a little over a year after the successful first film, Clive Barker stepped down from directing but still wrote the story and produced this film. The film’s director Tony Randel would go on to direct my favorite Amityville movie about a haunted object aka Amityville 1992: It’s About Time! With these two at the helm, I anticipate this being an enjoyable film.

Recap

We start with a brief montage of the end of the first Hellraiser with Kirsty solving the puzzle box sufficiently to send the Cenobites away again. And some very dramatic opening credits and music.

Arrested Development meme so dramatic and flamboyant on Bingeclock

After the recap and dramatic credits, we see a man playing with the infamous puzzle box in what looks like an army barrack of some kind. He opens the box, and the good old hooks and chains spring out. But surprise! They cut open his skin and start hammering nails in. We just got a certified Pinhead origin story!

Someone forgot their Cenobite safe word

The first film’s hero Kirsty wakes up in a psychiatric hospital. A homicide detective is there to interview her about what transpired at her father’s house because it is probably pretty suspicious that her father, stepmom, uncle, and three random men all died there. The detective mentions her boyfriend Steve already left the hospital hours ago, but corroborated her story about otherworldly demons being responsible for the scene. This is the last we will hear about Steve so I guess it wasn’t true love anyway, but as least he did Kirsty a solid by telling them what really happened.

We are introduced to the head of the hospital Dr. Channard, and his apprentice Kyle. Dr. Channard unloads quite the monologue while conducting brain surgery in front of fledgling new doctors.

“The mind is a labyrinth, ladies and gentleman. A puzzle. And while the paths of the brain are plainly visible, its waves deceptively apparent, it’s destinations are unknown. Its secrets, still secrets. And if we are honest, it is the lure of the labyrinth that draws us to our chosen field, to unlock those secrets. Others have been here before us and have have left us signs, but we, as explorers of the mind, must devote our lives and energies to going further. To tread the unexplored corridors in the hope of finding, ultimately, a final solution. We have to see. We have to know.”

Dr. Channard being a little too passionate about his work
Kyle wondering, probably not for the first time, if his boss is insane

The detectives find a bloodsoaked mattress where Julia died, and Kirsty pleads with her doctor and the detective to destroy the mattress, otherwise Julia could come back just like Frank did.

Later that night, Kirsty encounters a mute, puzzle-solving young blonde girl the nurses have named Tiffany, and bonds with Kyle. Even later she has a vision of a skinless man in her shower with the words “I am in hell help me” written in blood above his body. Somehow, because of Daddy Issue-itis, Kirsty believes this is a message from her father.

The next morning, Dr. Channard goes down to a secret floor of the asylum where the most mentally ill patients are kept in isolation. It looks incredibly abusive, so we know Dr. Channard is a bad guy.

Dr. Channard and Kyle interview Kirsty, and we are now shown another montage recap of the first movie with a voiceover from Kirsy. She explains that her evil Uncle Frank, “wanted hell, and hell was what he got” when he opened the puzzle box and summoned the Cenobites. Her montage also includes extended images of the original sex scene between Julia and Frank, so technically Kirsty is imagining her uncle and stepmom having sex for the sake of this montage in her own mind.

Dr. Channard convinces the police to give him the mattress Julia died on. Kyle breaks into Dr. Channard’s home office and finds that Channard is more than aware of the Cenobites. In fact he seems obsessed. Kyle’s professional assessment lines up pretty closely with mine.

And there are multiple puzzle boxes in jars in his office.

Before he can investigate further, Kyle hears Channard and hides. Channard brought home one of his solitary confinement patients. He instructs the patient to sit on the mattress, and gives him a straight razor. The patient starts cutting himself because he suffers from a delusion that there are bugs coming out of him.

After enough blood is shed, a skinless Julia bursts through the mattress and crawls after him, eventually tearing apart his flesh and consuming enough life’s blood to start regenerating herself.

Channard looks intrigued and horrified, but Julia then tells the doctor “Help me. Don’t be scared of me.”

He gives her a cigarette and a fresh white suit which seems like an ill-advised color choice for Julia’s current look. He also covers her in gauze since she is still very much skinless. The whole sequence takes a bizarrely long time, and she has an Eyes Without a Face/Goodnight Mommy type look by the end of it.

She also leaves a bloody handprint on the wall Channard doesn’t seem to appreciate.

Julia manages to somehow seduce this dumbass in her skinless form, and basically pulls a Frank on him, convincing him to help her get more blood and flesh so they can sleep together.

You haven’t even been in quarantine! Come on Channard

Meanwhile, Kyle breaks Kirsty out of the asylum after realizing everything she said is true. Kirsty is furious Julia is alive again, and Kyle tells her Channard has more boxes. She starts to rush off to break into Channard’s place, and Kyle asks if she is crazy which leads to one of my favorite Kirsty moments.

Kyle agrees to help her, but they are already too late because the timeline of this movie is utterly ridiculous. Somehow Channard has already provided Julia at least eight victims from the asylum, letting her feast on them in his attic. By the eighth body, she is restored to her former self.

Kirsty and Kyle sneak in, and Kirsty goes to grab a puzzle box. But dumbass Kyle insists on “checking the house” which makes no sense. He runs into Julia, and his reaction to a strange woman sneaking up on him in a house he just broke in to is to calmly heed her indication for him to shush and brace himself before he enters the attic of eight thousand corpses.

At this point, Julia becomes awesome.

So awkward to be a third wheel sometimes

Before Kyle can react in a more appropriate way to this situation, Julia grabs him and sucks the life out of him too.

Kirsty rushes upstairs and Julia is in full bitch mode, almost veering into full camp.

“Oh Kirsty, they didn’t tell you, did they? I’m afraid they’ve changed the rules of the fairy tale; I’m no longer just the wicked stepmother. I’m the evil queen. So come on. Take your best shot Snow White.”

Queen B Julia

After Julia backhands Kirsty unconscious, Dr. Channard brings Tiffany into the house. He wants her to solve the puzzle so he can visit the Cenobites.

Our fearsome foursome arrive, and Pinhead is already jocking Julia for the number one diva spot with an entrance that looks like he ripped it straight from the WWE playbook, with some decidedly less literary dialogue once he realizes his dramatic entrance was for nothing.

I guess they DO have a safe word

Pinhead realizes it wasn’t really Tiffany who seeked them out. Meanwhile Julia and Channard as they use one of the passages that opened to explore the hell dimension. Julia is pretty hyped to be back in the hell dimension.

College Basketball Dancing GIF by UNC Tar Heels - Find & Share on GIPHY
Julia walking through the labyrinth tunnels

Kirsty wakes up in the hell dimension, and grabs the puzzle box. The hell dimension resembles an M.C. Escher piece.

Tiffany finds herself in a circus themed nightmare, with visions of her mom pleading with someone to help her daughter before her mother’s mouth gets covered by a black gloved hand. It indicates through flashbacks that Channard murdered her mom in order to use Tiffany to help him explore the hell dimension.

Kirsty finds herself in her childhood home, but when she looks at a picture of her mom everything starts bleeding and MOST egregiously the picture of her mom turns into a picture of her arch nemesis Julia. The Cenobites appear and begin teasing her, and I love this exchange which reads a bit like a Facebook argument.

Kirsty’s like “dude, I didn’t even open the box.” And they are like “now you didn’t open the box, before you didn’t know what the box was. Whatever, you obviously want eternal torture.”

They also explain the box won’t make them go away because she is already in their world now, and that she will never find her father because he is in his own private hell like she is. She manages to get away and finds Tiffany, telling the girl they need to work together to get out of there.

Meanwhile Channard hears a baby crying somewhere in the distance before Julia shows him a stop motion threesome through a hole in the stone wall.

So there’s that.

Julia leads Channard to a giant version of the main puzzle box which is now in double triangle form.

She explains it houses Leviathan, the “god of flesh, hunger, and desire.” As Channard begins to realize what a bad decision he has made chasing this WAP, Julia tells him she serves this god, and that it needs souls. It traps him and excessively mutilates him while we stan our extremely problematic Queen Julia.

Kirsty finds what appears to be the entrance to her father’s house in the labyrinth, and tells Tiffany she has to go in. Inside the house, she finds a dungeon like space with bodies sexually writhing under sheets on blocks that pop in and out from holes in the walls.

Just in case you didn’t believe me

More alarmly, she finds Frank who reveals that he was the one who sent her the message to help him escape hell, not Larry.

But now that Kirsty paid a visit to Frank’s private hell, he decides he would rather assault Kirsty. Kirsty tries to burn the place down rather than let Frank win which results in his skin melting off, and him literally yelling “NOT MY FACE” as it does.

Then Julia appears with Tiffany. Frank is relieved, expecting Julia to be the old Julia. But this is the new Queen B Julia, and she is done with Frank’s bullshit. She rips his heart out while throwing his “nothing personal, babe” right back at him.

Good For Her GIFs | Tenor

Meanwhile Dr. Channard pops out the giant puzzle box as a newly minted Cenobite, saying “and to think I hesitated.”

Now Julia, Tiffany, and Kirsty get trapped in a wind tunnel?

Wut

But not before Julia turns to Kirsty while she is holding on for dear life and delivers one last Queen B Julia one liner:

Pun Dog | Know Your Meme
Leonardo DiCaprio Laughing | Know Your Meme

Tiffany reaches for Julia to try and get the puzzle box, but when she grabs Julia, Julia’s skin rips off her body and her skinless body flies away down the wind tunnel.

Kirsty and Tiffany end up in the psychiatric hospital again, but it is really Cenobite Channard’s nightmarish playground. And the Channard Cenobite is studying the Pinhead school of dramatic WWE style entrances.

And he WWE style entrance is fitting because there is about to be a Cenobite fight!

Kirsty and Tiffany run away from Channard who thinks he is the new Freddy Krueger but really just laughs way too hard at his own jokes. Kirsty and Tiffany once again encounter Pinhead, Butterball, Chatterbox, and Girl (TM) who tell Kirsty there will be no deals this time. But Kirsty like a budding librarian says there will be no deals, she only wants to share some information with them. And that is to remind them they were all once humans, which she evidences with a picture of Pinhead pre…well pre the pins in his head.

She obtained it from Channard’s office, and seemed to just have a feeling that it was Pinhead.

Channard bursts in, and the fearsome foursome decide to fight him because Kirsty reminded them they were once human! I guess!

Bernie Sanders' Steel Chair | Inauguration of Donald Trump | Know Your Meme
Just kidding they of course use their trademark hooks and chains

The fearsome fearsome get whooped as soon as Channard breaks off their hooks and chains, and each reverts back to their human form when they die.

Girl and Big Boi are pretty spot on, but Chatterbox is a (literally) little twist

My wife: “Damn I thought you at least had to be 18 to be a Cenobite!”

Channard declares to Pinhead he’s in charge of this “operation” now (I think he thinks making medical references are puns at this point), and that Kirsty and Tiffany will be his first patients.

Wasn’t this guy you literally just tortured while yelling “I recommend…amputation!” and laughing maniacally technically your first patient?

Even Pinhead is dispatched in record time.

Aw Pinhead

Tiffany tells Kirsty they have to go back to the hell labyrinth, and she takes the original puzzle box from Julia’s skinsuit. The puzzle’s double ended spike shape resembles the god Leviathan’s dwelling, and Tiffany is trying to solve the puzzle to put a stop to Channard since he is still attached to the giant puzzle box. Channard appears and knocks Kirsty out, and after some more medical references that I once again thinks Channard thinks are puns, it seems like Tiffany is done for. Even more so when Julia appears again! Flesh and body combined once again.

They get distracted kissing because of course?

Which allows Tiffany a chance to sneak away and solve the puzzle. This results in Channard being ripped in two at the jaw.

Someone needed to put a stop to Channard trying to be Freddy Krueger

This freaks out Tiffany so much she falls off the side the labyrinth. Julia reaches out, telling Tiffany to trust her. Tiffany lets Julia pull her up, and before you can go “what the…why…” surprise! You just got Face/Off‘ed again!

Live long enough as the hero, you become the villain but just while you borrow their skinsuit. I love that she took the time to put Julia’s earrings on as if Channard would notice.

Kirsty and Tiffany escape the hell dimension as Leviathan’s lair folds in on itself, and they leave the psychiatric hospital together. All seems well, till movers are dispatched to Channard’s home to vacate his property, leading to one of the movers stumbling across the bloody mattress and seemingly unleashing the possibility of some hell getting raised once again.

But since all the Cenobites are dead I guess I just finished this series! Wait what? There are how many sequels featuring Pinhead anyway?!

Random Observations

  • This film has a strong A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors vibe with the psychiatric hospital setting and Channard turning into an imitation of Freddy that is so cheesy even Freddy would be embarrassed. Tiffany could also be a shoe in for a young Patricia Arquette. Also I love Kirsty and Nancy from the Nightmare series, but they both suffer from severe cases of Daddy Issue-itis.
  • Once again, the gore and effects are really fantastic even 32 years later.
  • The pacing was really off in the first half of the film, but once Julia starts sucking on bodies it picks up.
  • The biggest criticism I have of this film is the lazy and abrupt way it disposes of Julia, the very character it builds up as one of the main antagonists. Julia was meant to become the main villain of the series, but once audiences took one look at Pinhead’s unique behavior and design it was all Pinhead all the time. So I guess I’m glad Julia still gets to be a Queen B for most the film, but it just sucks to remember “oh yeah Leviathan blew her down a wind tunnel and killed her again. The end.”
  • I am shocked by how much I liked Julia as a villain in this, but I have to give credit to the vampy writing for some of her dialogue mixed with seeing her empowered vs. cluelessly helping Frank despite his clear indifference towards her. #JuliaForCenobite
  • I still think it is laughable Kirsty shows Pinhead a picture of his human self and they immediately recognize their former humanity and start helping her only to instantly get dispatched by Channard.
  • I can logic a lot of this story’s plot holes, but how on earth are so many people so competent at encasing themselves in flesh suits?!
  • My wife’s review: “Gross. Most of the time I spent looking at my computer instead of the TV because it was gross. What little I could see over my computer screen? Gross.”

Verdict

I definitely recommend this sequel. It is a satisfying companion to the first film and adds to the world and backstory without overwhelming it. The first half was a bit slow, but the way it leans into the fantasy elements of the story really makes it standout from other horror film sequels. It is original and creative in its own right without feeling disjointed from the first.

2 thoughts on “Labyrinths, Evil Queens, and Confirmed Safe Words for Cenobites: Revisiting Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

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