Commentary Comments: Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Tony Randel, 1988)


I usually watch a movie with commentary less because I want to learn something than because I still need to process my feelings about it. This has proved especially true with the first two Hellraiser movies. Heck, I watched the first one three times over consecutive days, twice with commentaries. It didn’t even matter that Clive Barker was on both and he repeated himself a fair bit. Having never seen these movies before, I’m suddenly fascinated by them. The fact that the commentaries are indeed full of interesting behind the scenes information makes them all the more worthwhile.

The Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 commentary features Peter Atkins (screenwriter), Tony Randel (director), and Ashley Lawrence (Kirsty). It’s a slightly uncomfortable listen, as this is an obviously flawed film, and Randel, a producer on Hellraiser who made his directorial debut with Hellbound, has some strong regrets about it. I also suspect that Lawrence got along better with Barker than with these two (Barker seemed quite appreciative of her on the Hellraiser commentaries), and has little to say. Still, there’s a lot to learn from this discussion.

Budget cuts definitely seem to have hurt Hellbound. Scenes such as Captain Spencer’s procurement of the puzzle box would have been good to see, and if that thing attached to Channard’s head (which, yes, is meant to look like a giant Hellpenis (no one mentions that it also looks like one of the surgical tools he was using in his first scene, which makes a lot of sense)) was linked back to Leviathan, as intended, that’d make the connection between them more clear.

Randel is displeased with the scenes involving Frank, seeing them as too tied to Hellraiser rather than the events of this film. The problem was that Andrew J. Robinson dropped out at the last minute and the script needed to be rewritten.  Robinson makes anything better, and Larry being there definitely would have been an improvement. Still, Atkins defends the film as it stands by saying that Larry shouldn’t be in Hell. Fair enough, but it’s not unimaginable that Larry could have wound up trapped in there despite not being a bad guy. Atkins also says that Kirsty’s confrontation with Frank gives her the strength to help Tiffany later in the film. He bemoans a mindset that privileges action and pacing over characterisation. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to have all three.

Atkins seems rather irritated as he describes how much hate he’s gotten from fans about Channard killing the Cenobites. Now, I generally think fans claim too much ownership over their favourite things, and while creative decisions are certainly open to criticism, the people who make them don’t deserve personal abuse. Regardless, this particular scene is, indeed, TERRIBLE. Everything about the way it occurs suggests a major battle that we don’t get, and the characters we’ve known from the last movie should not be killed off so quickly by a catchphrase spouting newcomer. Pinhead and his Cenobites are powerful figures, and the movie as it stands does not establish why Channard should be stronger. It’s not even fully evident whether they’re defending Kirsty, holding onto their place in Hell’s pecking order, or just fighting for their lives.

Atkins claims that the Cenobites have been weakened by Kirsty’s reminder that they were once human. I can also read into it that Leviathan wants to replace them with Channard, as he was more evil in his former life than they ever were. I can buy this because the movie has a strong sense of mystery about it that suggests there is more going on behind the scenes than what we get onscreen. Nonetheless, this sense of mystery, though it covers for problems with the script and direction, is owed more than anything else to Barker’s concepts and Christopher Young’s magnificent score. I’m not sure how much credit Atkins and Randel deserve for what they get away with in Hellbound.

Amusingly, Lawrence makes a comment about Kirsty and Tiffany getting together at the end of the movie, but she and Atkins also ship Kirsty and Pinhead. They’re not the only ones; they’ve seen the evidence in fanzines. Hellraiser fanfic? The mind boggles.


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