Horror fantasist Clive Barker, director of the original Hellraiser, maintained creative control over this worthy sequel as executive producer, but was unable to occupy the director's chair due to his involvement on other projects. His creative touch is still quite evident here, as the original film's story is expanded in scope and intensity. The story picks up immediately after the events of the original, with the mentally unbalanced Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) confined to a mental hospital after her experiences in the hellish domain of the grotesque Cenobites, which included the gruesome death of her father. Her case attracts the attention of hospital director Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), whose marked interest in her story has more than a little to do with his research into the occult. The chief focus of this extracurricular activity seems centered on his impressive collection of puzzle boxes, many of which are versions of the Lament Configuration -- the device which opens the gateway to the Cenobites' dimension. To further realize his diabolical obsession, Channard conducts grisly human sacrifices to resurrect the body of Kirsty's evil stepmother, Julia (Clare Higgins) -- who has literally been through hell and back. He also recruits mute autistic patient Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), an expert at solving puzzles, to decipher the correct version of the box. Haunted by visions of her mutilated father suffering in hell, Kirsty joins Tiffany in hopes of rescuing him from the Cenobites' dimension. Tiffany gains them access to the portal, and they make the nightmarish journey down the corridors of hell. Narrowly escaping the diabolical Pinhead (Doug Bradley), they come face to face with Julia, who has already handed Dr. Channard over to the Cenobites to be transformed into a hideous new creation. First-time director Tony Randel acquits himself nicely, and seems to have a real flair for the surreal material; the script by longtime Barker collaborator Peter Atkins elaborates on elements only hinted at in its predecessor. It should follow that the slightly larger budget would allow ample room for this expansion, but the production values actually appear somewhat slimmer. What the film lacks in refined style it makes up for in utter dementia, particularly in its depiction of graphic bloodletting -- numerous scenes were trimmed or deleted altogether in order to obtain an R rating from the MPAA.~Cavett Binion
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a rare horror sequel in that it actually manages to exist for a reason other than to bank in on the original success. This film genuinely adds to the mythos of the first, and continues the stories of the first film's characters.
The film picks up right after the first ended, finding Kirstie, who was the only one in her family to survive the first time around, being brought to a mental hospital because of her ravings about the Cenobites and their murder of her family. There she is the patient of Dr. Channard, who as it turns out is on a quest to summon the Cenobites and learn of their power. To do this, he resurrects Kirstie's stepmother, Julia, who started the whole mess in the first place. Kirstie learns of this just as she learns that her father is trapped by the Cenobites and needs her help, and thus she must find a way to save him. Dr. Channard uses a young patient who is gifted with puzzles to once more unleash the Cenobites, and thus new horrors are unleashed.
I found this to be a really solid horror film. The gore was actually upped this time around, which shocked me becasue the original was disturbingly violent already. Also, I was very pleasantly surprised to get some backstory on Pinhead, the leader of the Cenobites, which was well incorporated into the story. The story itself, in fact, flowed quite well from the original, and was even very interesting. At the end of this film, it feels like there is an even greater level of closure than after the first one.
This film is shockingly violent, first and foremost. There's no denying it. If you can't take that, avoid this at all cost. however, if that doesn't bother you (or you genuinely like it), then you will also be treated to a very good horror story, which is more than you usually get from a genre that has become a lot more about visceral and cheap thrills. I really enjoyed it.
This review is from Hellbound: Hellraiser II [20th Anniversary Edition] [DVD]