Hellraiser: Bloodline

1 out of 5

Directed by: Alan Smithee (Kevin Yagher), Joe Chapelle

Hellraiser: Bloodline – Hellraiser IV – is, surprisingly, not a horrible movie.  Even though it could be laughingly referred to as Hellraiser In Space, which would seem to be a jump-the-shark move, returning scripter Peter Atkins actually makes some interesting attempts at expanding on the concept – mainly by exploring moreso the interrelationship of Hellraiser’s Hell, and its demons, and the humans that criss-cross with those things, as opposed to trying to beat sense into the Pain Is Pleasure! mantra that’s hovered at the edge of these flicks – and offers up a rather unique narrative layering for a horror franchise entry.  Special effects guy Kevin Yagher took to directing, and though some scenes were subsequently shot by Joe Chapelle – and more on that in a moment – the film, at points, has a solidly cold look with some intriguing camera work here and there.

Cribbed from wikipedia:  When Yagher was done with his take on Atkins’ script, the movie was 110 minutes.  The released movie is 85 minutes.  Atkins added in some scenes; Chapelle directed them.  Yagher asked for his credit to be removed from the film – feeling it no longer represented his take – and so we have an Alan Smithee directorial credit.  And the 85 minute movie only retains the faintest hints of what’s praised above; it is a butchered mess of spaceless sequences, nonsense one-liners, and an incomprehensible plot that was stitched together in such a way as to make it clear that those who wanted this revised version of the movie – i.e. the suits at Miramax – couldn’t have cared less about story, so long as Pinhead was on screen and there was blood.

Bloodline starts in the future; there’s another Lament Configuration box that a man – Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) – is opening remotely, via robot.  He’s halted in this process, and jailed by some police types (something something stolen spaceship), and allowed to tell a tale of the origin of the box, and the war over its control between demons Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and Angelique (Valentina Vargas), and how that war has haunted merchant through different generations of his ancestors – the late 1700s; the 1990s – and so we get a Hellraiser flick that plays out in three different timelines.  This is a cool idea, as is expanding the focus of an entry to, kinda-sorta, the politics of Hell.

But again, none of this is actually in the movie.  Motivations for actions are left on the cutting room floor.  Initially, it’s kind of intriguing – like they’re trusting the audience enough to put two and two together.  But as the movie starts to jump between scenes, pacing be damned, it becomes clearer that someone was just concerned with getting their money-paying audience to the slaughter scenes, which renders those pretty ineffective as well.  The cenobites are cool, as always, but an office building and the spaceship in which things end up playing out have no physical spaces defined for the viewer, leading to a lot of vague, chain-strewn hallways and such where someone turns a corner and it’s not really a surprise that Pinhead is there.

And give it a happy ending! they decreed, which does amount to one legitimate surprise, when the credits drop literally right after the climax, no denouncement or sequel sting.  A happy ending is fine, but the way it’s employed here, is, again, all too telling of studio interference.

I would’ve taken my name off of it too, Kevin.