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(Limited Edition Tin)

At the time of its release, Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER was a horror movie that took the genre in an interesting direction with its mix blood, gore and sexual perversity. HELLRAISER is also something of an acquired taste, and to be honest, I didn’t care very much for the film when I had initially seen it. This is a dark and very disturbing horror film that depicts the torments of hell as something that human being seek out, as the ultimate fulfillment of their sadomasochistic desires. HELLRAISER opens with a thrill seeker named Frank (Sean Chapman) purchasing a strange puzzle box that opens a doorway to hell and unleashes the Cenobites. The Cenobites are strange, leather-clad demons that take pleasure in their own suffering and administering unbelievable suffering to others. By the time the Cenobites are finished with Frank, he has been literally torn to pieces.

After Frank’s disappearance, his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into the family home with his second wife Julia (Clare Higgins). While moving into the house, Larry cuts his hand and bleeds onto the floor of the attic, which is the exact spot where Frank met grizzly demise. Somehow, Larry’s blood allows Frank to partially reconstitute himself and escape from his fate with the Cenobites. Unfortunately, this monstrous incarnation of Frank (Oliver Smith) requires more blood and more body parts to become whole again. In his present state, Frank needs an accomplice to lure victims up to the attic, so he chooses his former lover Julia to do his dirty work. However, the arrival of Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) complicates matters for Frank and Julia, when she discovers Uncle Frank hiding up in the attic, along with his unholy puzzle box.

While I was not immediately fond of HELLRAISER, HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II was a movie that I liked from the first time I saw it. Picking up the story only moments after the first film ended, HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II follows Kirsty to a mental hospital, where she is brought to recover from her experiences in HELLRAISER. At the hospital, Kirsty unfortunately encounters Doctor Channard (Kenneth Cranham), a man who is obsessed unlocking the secrets of the Cenobites and the mysteries of hell. After learning about Kirsty’s previous experiences, Doctor Channard resurrects Julia and then utilizes the puzzles solving skills of a young patient named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) to open the puzzle box and unlock the doorway to hell.

With the doorway to the nether realm opened by Channard, Kirsty is compelled to search through the labyrinth of hell for a tormented soul, who has contacted her from the other side. Unfortunately, before she can finish her business in hell, Kirsty must first deal Cenobites and her wicked stepmother Julia. HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II is visually more interesting film than the original HELLRAISER because it takes the viewer over to hell, which is quite impressive when compared to the attic setting of the first film. Additionally, character development is stronger and the performances are superior. Clare Higgins’ essay of the role of Julia is so much better in the sequel, than it was in the first film. This time around, Julia is the movie’s monster and Higgins really plays it for all it’s worth. The character Pinhead (Doug Bradley), who has become the franchise’s poster boy, also gets fleshed out a bit more in HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done quite well by both HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II offering each in a new THX certified wide screen version that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays (full frame presentations are also included for each). HELLRAISER has never looked better than it appears on this DVD. I remember seeing HELLRAISER on opening day and thinking to myself that the movie looked like crap. This DVD blows away that awful theatrical presentation, although the look of HELLRAISER will never exceed its low budget origins. Both HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II are framed at 1.85:1 and each has been given a great looking transfer. Both movies display noticeable film grain, although these new transfers are sharp and relatively well defined. HELLBOUND does have a slight edge over HELLRAISER in terms of image quality, but that is due to the fact that the second film is a bit newer and had a larger budget. Colors on both movies are a lot stronger than they have appeared in the past and the flesh tones seem a bit more natural. Neither film exhibits any signs of chromatic distortion. Blacks are deep and true, however neither film has the level of shadow detail that one finds in a brand new movie. Still, shadow detail is decent on each. There are no problems with digital compression artifacts on either disc.

Both movies are provided with new Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, which improve upon previous video incarnations. HELLRAISER has a more intimate mix because most of the film takes place inside of a house, so surround usage is a bit subdued. HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II goes all the way to hell and therefore has a larger, more forceful mix that makes better use of the surround channels. There are directional sound effects in each, which are cleanly positioned because of good channel separation. Additionally, both sound mixes are quite atmospheric, which draws the viewer into the dark dimension of these movies. Dialogue is always crisp and intelligible, plus both films’ musical scores are reproduced without any sign of distortion. Of course, neither mix is able to overcome some of the frequency limitations of the original recordings (including the bass), but the folks at Chase succeeded quite well in breathing new life into these soundtracks.

Both DVDs interactive menus have been enhanced with full motion video, animation and sound. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection features, as well as supplemental materials. HELLRAISER includes an audio commentary with director Clive Barker, star Ashley Laurence and writer Pete Atkin, while HELLBOUND substitutes director Tony Randel for Clive Barker in its audio commentary lineup. Both commentary tracks are filled with production detail and anecdotes, which makes them more than a worthwhile listen for fans. HELLRAISER includes the 15-minute featurette Resurrection and HELLBOUND includes its own 15-minute featurette entitled Lost In The Labyrinth. Clive Barker produced both featurettes and they include new interviews with the principals involved with the production of each film. Theatrical trailers and still galleries are included on each DVD. The limited edition tin also includes a 48-page booklet of behind-the-scenes photos.

Note: in addition to the limited edition tin, which is priced at $49.98. The THX certified version of HELLRAISER is also available by itself for $29.98. The THX certified version of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II will not be available on its own for purchase, until sometime in 2001.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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