Fuck. I just finished Hellraiser IV, and I already spent the joke about pain surpassing pleasure writing about Hellraiser III. If you want to read my thoughts about the first three (read: the best three) Hellraiser films you can find them here for Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and the link for Hellraiser III is above.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is directed by Alan Smithee. That’s all I need to tell you. Turn off your computer, go outside and do something productive. For those of you who don’t know, Alan Smithee is the pseudonym a director uses when they don’t want to be associated with a film, typically because of studio interference. It traditionally means the film is hot garbage.
Hellraiser IV is Hellraiser in space. Hellraiser. In. Space. Sounds awesome right? Like, Event Horizon but not as good, which is still pretty good. But, unfortunately for us, Bloodlines is an origin story for the Lament Configuration, the puzzle box that opens a gate to Hell and summons Pinhead and his Cenobites when solved. This film follows three different generations of a family known as the Merchants: an 18th century French toy maker, a 20th century architect, and a 22nd century space…man? It’s not really clear what he does for a living. Anyways, Hellraiser IV follows the Merchants across space and time, showing how the Lament Configuration has been intertwined in their lives since its inception.
This is a cool premise. The Lament Configuration and Pinhead through the ages, seducing people and torturing them or transforming them into Cenobites. I can dig that. And that’s what I think the original script was planning on going for, but you can definitely tell that enough meddling went on that this film was worthy of an Alan Smithee director credit. You’ve got another different definition brought into play as to how Cenobites and are formed and the rules that govern them compared to Hellraiser II and III, and the use of one family through multiple centuries seems interesting in theory but in practice it totally falls apart.
When the film starts, you get hyped up for Pinhead dropping mofos in a big space station, then the setting changes to 18th century France, where you’re shown the original assembly and use of the Lament Configuration which is also super interesting, and then the film changes to the mid ’90s where it’s just a regular old slasher film which isn’t very interesting. All of these could make fine enough deep sequels to a franchise like Hellraiser, except Hellraiser IV is just enough of each to get you going, but not enough for you to get anything worthwhile out of it. Having Cenobites do their thing in Enlightenment or Revolution era France would be wild and different. It would come totally out of left field for a horror franchise as big as this one, and while it might not work, you could commend it for taking a risk and sticking to it. It’s the constant shuffling between time periods that really sucks the momentum out of this movie, and when Pinhead is barely in it for the first two-thirds (and let’s be honest, at this point in the franchise, we just want to see Pinhead do his Cenobite thing to some unsuspecting people) time moves at a glacial pace while you suffer through the awful acting and production value.
I’ve read in multiple places that some people don’t totally hate Hellraiser IV, and that it’s the best “goes to space” sequel out there, but honestly, this whole film was pretty lackluster. It failed to contain the quality and gravity that the first two films had, as well as the self-aware goofiness the third had, and ended up as an undercooked pile of slop. I think one of the reasons I disliked this movie as much as I did was because I just came off of Hellraiser III a couple days ago, which has Doug Bradley being the most intense Pinhead he could be. Seeing him more subdued (similar to how he was in the original) but with much less poignancy and power to his lines than before was kind of sad to see. He still dominates the screen physically and is still the best part of the film by far, but it’s sad to see his character put on a leash after the chaos that reigned though the third film and the intelligence he brought to the first two. Even the Hellraising in this one isn’t as good as before. We’ve seen Pinhead’s chains tear the skin and flesh off of people’s bones a million times before, and even with the creation of the Siamese Twins Cenobite, we don’t get to see anything much different or taken further than in the previous movies.
I’ve got nothing else. Don’t watch this one. Just go pick up The Scarlet Box and be happy with awesome remasters of the original three films. That being said, for your sadistic pleasure and because I hate myself, I will probably, hopefully, possibly, maybe work my way through the rest of these movies. I made it (mostly) through Halloween so far, I can do it to Hellraiser.
My suffering will be legendary, even in Hell.