Clive Barker’s uneasy blend of thrusting hedonism and abject nihilism never did touch the Hellraiser series with the same brutal ripeness as it did his urban nightmare Candyman. But at least he got in one properly sloshy sequel before the overproduced Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth massacred an entire nightclub without even faintly suggesting the sting of death. Hellbound: Hellraiser II sort of ignores the fact that a flying Skelator snatched the Lament Configuration puzzle box and flew away in order to continue the first film’s story without skipping a beat. Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) is still understandably distraught over the fact that her dead uncle Frank sucked the flesh right off the bones of her father Larry. Meanwhile, her stepmother Julia is following in Frank’s footsteps: escaping Hell, sucking blood, and regenerating her old form. (Hellbound’s twice warmed-over depiction of resurrection was sensibly released on Christmas weekend in 1988.)
Again, Pinhead is mostly peripheral. If the original film’s true heavy was the rapacious Frank, the sequel’s horrors belong to Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who runs an insane asylum where helpless people are locked up in what looks suspiciously like Freddy Krueger’s boiler room. That’s if they’re lucky; if they’re not, they get their brains scrambled by a three-pronged drill. And that’s even before Channard gets retrofitted into a Cenobite. It’s probably a stretch to surmise that, just as the first film’s subtext dealt with health fears, the sequel mines its dread from the horror of malpractice—as when Channard memorably “prescribes” a straight-razor to the patient who thinks he’s got maggots crawling all over his torso. Nevertheless, the sequel’s cure proves infinitely bloodier than the original’s disease, and its over-the-top depictions of brimstone and flesh are so loopy and unmoored, you’d swear the place where nobody dared to go suddenly became Xanadu.