Judge Patrick Naugle's college nickname was Zippy, a different kind of pinhead.
A double dose of exquisite pain and pleasure!
Who would have guessed that Clive Barker's little 1987 indie horror movie Hellraiser (based on one of his novellas, "The Hellbound Heart") would go on to spawn seven sequels—rivaling the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise—and offer up one of the most memorable movie monsters of the decade, the torturous Cenobite Pinhead? Echo Bridge Entertainment has acquired many of Miramax's older catalog titles and have released two Hellraiser films in hi-def: Hellraiser: Bloodline (the final film to have a theatrical release) and Hellraiser: Inferno (which started Pinhead's straight-to-video movement).
Get ready to bring on the pain!
Facts of the Case
Hellraiser: Bloodline opens in 2127 on a space station orbiting far above earth's atmosphere. Engineer Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsey, Alive) has taken over the ship and constructed a trap for Pinhead (Doug Bradley), the leader of the vicious and dastardly Cenobites. Before he's able to complete his final task, Merchant is taken into custody by the ship's security team. During his interrogation Merchant tells his captors about his family's history with Pinhead and the Lament Configuration Box (which is what brings forth Pinhead and his hellish minions). From France, where toymaker Phillip L'Merchant (Ramsey again) built the Lament contraption to the mid-1990s and on into the future, Merchant's family has wrestled with these other worldly demons for centuries. Merchant's only hope is to escape from his intergalactic captors and finish what his family started centuries ago before Pinhead finds a way back to our home planet!
In Hellraiser: Inferno, Detective Joseph Throne (Craig Sheffer, Nightbreed) finds himself knee deep in Pinhead's game of life and death. Throne is a talented and successful detective but a failure as a human being—he spends most of his free time visiting hookers, snorting cocaine, neglecting his wife and child and bending the rules at his job. After an old acquaintance turns up dead and mutilated, Thorne takes over the case only to find himself opening the dreaded Lament Configuration box and summoning Pinhead's denizens of the dark once more. As Throne continues to work on his latest case, it becomes increasingly obvious that there is more to this unsolved crime than meets the eye—and Throne's fate just might hang in the balance!
Nothing is better than getting two movies in one package! Well, except when one movie is only passable and the other movie is flat out terrible. Welcome to Echo Bridge's Hellraiser: Bloodline/Hellraiser: Inferno Miramax double feature!
Let's start with Hellraiser: Bloodline, the far, far better of the two films. The Hellraiser series was one of three to thrust its main villain into outer space; Friday the 13th and Leprechaun followed suit after Pinhead took his little cosmic endeavor to the stars. The sad fact is that '80s horror just doesn't lend itself to the confines of outer space. Rarely does a horror movie on a space shuttle prove effective—save for the Alien franchise, I can't think of a single horror flick set in the cosmos that is even mildly frightening. Then again, you can't blame a series for trying to inject new life in what had become an old, stale formula.
But I digress. Thankfully, Hellraiser: Bloodline doesn't spend its entire runtime on a space station. The film's plotline is a triple play of the past, present and future. The story of L'Merchant and his family's history with the Cenobites is actually engaging and fairly interesting (if, you know…you're into this kind of thing). The thread that takes place in France is the best of the lot—there is something about that time period that lends itself to creator Clive Barker's original vision. A very young Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation and 2010's Piranha remake) has a supporting role as one of the Cenobite's slaves, almost Renfield in nature. A lot of faux grizzle and grime permeates these scenes and makes Hellraiser: Bloodline worth the ride.
Then the film shifts to the present where it starts to falter. Bruce Ramsey plays his entire bloodline down through the ages, but his performance as each relative is wooden and disengaging. The story set in the 1990s seems to lose its way and feels like filler. Only when Hellraiser: Bloodline shifts back to the space station does it start to pick up a little more steam. Unfortunately, the film was made during the infancy of CGI and a lot of the effects work looks muddled and amateurish by comparison (director and special effects creator Kevin Yagher was so embarrassed after Dimension re-edited the film that he insisted his name be removed from the picture, leaving the dreaded Alan Smithee to take the credit). At least Doug Bradley gets some well needed time in as Pinhead, once again offering his trademark menacing speeches before dispatching a dog that looks like a Doberman crossbred with a tanker truck. I think his name may have been Fifi, but don't quote me.
Sadly, this would be one of the last times Pinhead would take center stage in the Hellraiser franchise. Which brings us to…
Hellraiser: Inferno. Yikes. What a dreadful little movie. The problems are many, the biggest being that this is 100% not a Hellraiser movie. Where is Pinhead? Where are the Cenobites? It was clear that this film's budget meant things had to be reigned in, and Hellraiser: Inferno doesn't even come close to resembling the Hellraiser universe. Clive Barker's original vision was one of sex, pain, pleasure, leather, sharp objects and dread. Hellraiser: Inferno is what would happen if a film studio decided to take one of its horror properties and remake it in the vein of L.A. Confidential. If you enjoy shadowy corridors and lots of creepy music, this movie is for you. If, however, you are looking for, oh I don't know MAYBE THE PROMISE OF THIS BEING A HELLRAISER MOVIE, then you are royally screwed.
There isn't much to recommend in this pitiful little C-level stinker. Craig Sheffer looks like he knows he's in a terrible straight-to-video sequel and gives a performance that skirts sleepwalking. His acting—especially his character's 'descent into madness'—is just this side of a ham sandwich. Because the budget is so low the special effects work is almost non-existent when you compare Inferno to the previous four films. The law of sequels states that "for every sequel, the number of effects will be twofold." Hellraiser: Inferno breaks that law by taking all those ooey-gooey sequences from the previous movies and watering them down until there's hardly anything left. It's kind of like what would happen if Michael Bay decided the next Transformers movie should be reduced to the scale of something like The Trip to Bountiful.
Neither of these movies are works of art, but at least Hellraiser: Bloodline feels as if it's trying to get a good movie across your TV screen (even if it often fails). Hellraiser: Inferno is just a limp retread that doesn't even bother trying to wiggle its way into the original grooves of the first four films. And that's not even the worst news…
Hellraiser: Bloodline is presented in 1.78:1 1080p widescreen while Hellraiser: Inferno is presented in 1.78:1 1080i widescreen. How do these transfers look? If I tell you they have been released by Echo Bridge, would that mean anything to you? If your toes just curled up and your bodily orifices puckered, then you know what's coming: two very mediocre transfers. Hellraiser: Bloodline fares the best with a 1080p resolution, even though it still doesn't have the kind of clarity catalog titles deserve. Sometimes the image looks very good and sometimes it just looks terrible, even slightly out-of-focus. Even so, this is a far better looking image than the original non-anamorphic DVD transfer from the late 1990s. Hellraiser: Inferno's transfer isn't quite as good, though in all honesty this movie is so terrible that it's not much of a hindrance on the movie. Colors are decent but never exciting. Clarity is non-existent most of the time, making this an only minor upgrade from the original DVD release. It's a shame Echo Bridge didn't put more effort into these titles—this may be the last time we see these two films on a physical format, and it's not an impressive swan song.
Hellraiser: Bloodline and Hellraiser: Inferno both feature DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mixes, and nether are impressive. Again, it's surprising that so little work was put into these two audio mixes. The good news (if you can call it that) is that each mix is clearly rendered without any major noise or defects. The bad news is…that's all you get. Nothing here 'pops' on your surround sound system, and what little directional effects there are get lost in the shuffle. I'd like to say these are eons better than the DVD mixes, but frankly I can't really tell the difference. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
If you've read this far already it really shouldn't come as a surprise to you that neither Hellraiser: Bloodline nor Hellraiser: Inferno include anything in the way of supplemental materials.
This double feature package isn't going to break your bank (around fifteen dollars on Amazon), but it's also not something fans need to rush to buy. The transfer for Hellraiser: Bloodline is only average and Hellraiser: Inferno's is slightly below par. The movies themselves don't lend themselves to repeat viewings, so this may be something to Netflix before you plop down your hard earned cash.
Hellraiser: Bloodline gets a very razor thin pass while Hellraiser: Inferno is sentenced to ten years hard labor in the "I'm a Sucky Sequel" Work Camp.
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