I have seen the first three Hellraiser movies multiple times but I never really paid much attention to the sequels that followed them. Let’s be honest, it’s not hard for someone who’s a fan of the series to find out that the quality of the films started to take a steady decline after ‘Hellraiser 3: Hell On Earth’ and some would even argue that it was the third that started the downfall. Hellraiser fans are very vocal about this and the scores and ratings for the movies on sites such as IMDB tell the story very plainly; they’re just not up to par compared to the earlier titles. Knowing this I never really had an interest in seeing these movies until recently, I decided I wanted to judge them for myself so I sat down and watched Hellraiser 4: Bloodline.
How bad is this movie? Well, it’s actually not to bad at all. It begins at a Space Station in the year 2127 which is certainly not what I expect to see in the opening credits of a Hellraiser movie; the effects are actually quite decent here though. Paul Merchant, the man who built the station, has a robot solve the deadly puzzle box (the robot is subsequently destroyed); however, several guards led by Rimmer capture Paul before he can finish his experiment. While being questioned Paul informs Rimmer that he is part of a distant bloodline that spans many centuries and attempts to explain what he was trying to do.
A flashback is shown to around 400 years ago. Philip L’Merchant, a French toymaker, makes the puzzle box for a wealthy aristocrat, who is obsessed with dark magic. He and his apprentice, Jacques kill a woman and use her to summon the Cenobite slave Angelique. However, Angelique and Jacques betray and kill the aristocrat. In the process of inventing a design to destroy the demons; Philip attempts to steal back the box but is discovered. Jacques callously informs the toymaker that he and his bloodline are cursed until the end of time because of the box he created, before ordering Angelique to kill him.
I found the origin story of the puzzle box to be really interesting and it gave some much needed answers to questions surrounding the box. Around 200 years later, John Merchant has built the building witnessed at the end of Hellraiser III. Upon realizing that the Merchant bloodline has survived, Angelique informs Jacques that she wishes to go to America. However, Jacques denies her permission, upon which Angelique kills him.
Angelique releases Pinhead from the puzzle box and they both work together in an attempt to get John to complete his work on another project that if completed would allow Pinhead and his Cenobites to roam freely between Hell and Earth as he pleases. We get a rather strange scene in which Pinhead holds and strokes a pigeon, you read that right… He then feeds said pigeon to a chattering dog Cenobite. The issue I have with that is why would Pinhead turn a dog into a Cenobite? I mean it does look awesome and the effects are really well done but it just didn’t make sense within the established mythology of the films.
Angelique thinks that seducing John into doing what she wants is the best course of action but Pinhead says screw that; in other words anyway. Pinhead thinks that some good old fashioned torture is the way to go so he kidnaps John’s son but not before creating himself a new Cenobite. We see two identical twins that just so happen to both be security guards brutally twisted and forced permanently together in one of my favourite Hellraiser torture scenes to date, the effects are to a very high standard.
Pinhead offers John the ultimatum but he refuses and runs away while Pinhead slowly strolls behind him. Eventually Pinhead catches up to John and beheads him with a chain in serious brutal, sadistic fashion; seriously this is one of the best head decapitations I’ve ever seen. At this point John’s wife who I haven’t mentioned up to this point because her character is so damn pointless uses the box to send all of the Cenobites back to Hell.
The movie returns to 2127 and just before Rimmer releases Paul to finish his work a generic solider releases Pinhead and his Cenobites and get our climax. There are some really awesome kills here but it eventually comes to one of the biggest issues that this film has; Pinhead talks to much and is made to look very stupid and naive throughout.
Once again much of the mystery behind the character is lost and even though he does have some really decent one liners the majority of his speeches about pain and hell are rather boring and go on for far too long. There is a moment near the end in which John basically distracts Pinhead with an image of Earth; Pinhead goes on a long rant about torture, pain, the usual and when he turns back John is gone and it makes him look really dumb. I understand that having him walk so slowly is for effect but I genuinely think that he would get things done easier if he just picked up the pace a little.
The final scenes have some good effects and the way in which Pinhead is dispatched although does make him look mentally challenged is different and you don’t really see it coming. Hellraiser 4: Bloodline is by no means a bad movie but it’s also not a great one either. It answers many important questions surrounding the origins of the series but leaves too many new questions up for assumption. I’m really confused why this needed to be set in space, it really added nothing to the plot but I guess Leprechaun was released that year and that was set in space.
The makeup and effects are quite decent and the acting is pretty solid all round but nothing special. Also I just thought there was something off about Doug Bradley’s performance here, something about the delivery of some of his lines seemed tired and bored.
Hellraiser: Bloodline continued the formula of ‘Hell On Earth’, it’s an entertaining movie with a decent plot but fails to be much more than that. It lacks the grittiness of the first two movies and fails to be scary even in the slightest. Some of the deaths are some of the best in the series and the torture scene involving the twins is a highlight. Pinhead is given too much personality here and is made to look really stupid at times, it makes me wonder why hell keeps sending him if he keeps getting defeated so easily.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline