No, I'm not talking about The Borg from Star Trek, I'm talking about the Cenobites from Hellraiser. Hey, I'm not the first to point out the similarities, and I'm not going to be the last either. Hell, we were joking about that during every one of the Borg episodes ("Dude, they even ride around in 'The Box'!")... and then Doug Bradley and company just decided to go ahead and ad-friggin'-mit it with the Science Fiction entry in the series known as Hellraiser: Bloodline! Should've just called it Borgline. Dudes and Chicks... this should have succeeded in only making the Borg seem a bit less original (cool as they are, it's not that hard to do). The First Hellraiser debuted in the United States Two Weeks and One Day before the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation aired for the first time (and about a Year and a Half before the first appearance of "The Borg").
But I'll be horn-swoggled if writer Peter Atkins didn't notice the similarities and boggart the hell out of Borg Canon. Hell, wouldn't you? Star Trek: First Contact was coming out in 8 short months. Gotta pack in those fans or all the future Hellraiser movies might go straight to video, right? Ca-ha-ha-han't have that, now can we?
And that's not the only liberty taken here, mostly by the suits who overproduced, over-cut and under-funded this fourth movie until it became a whole lot of Number Two. Number Two in Space, no less. How bad was the intervention in this here mushin' picture? Does the name Alan Smithee mean anything to you? You think I'm kidding? Watch the opening credits... "Directed by Alan Smithee"!
To be fair, this could have been a fantastic film, especially for the fans. Going back to the original novel The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (who also Executive Produced), Hellraiser: Bloodline introduces Phillip L'Merchant, the canonical creator of "The Box" (though in the original novel the name was spelled "Lemarchand"). Told from the future (on a space-station no less) by a descendant named Dr. Paul Merchant (both are played by Bruce Ramsay), we're given the semi (read: vaguely) textual history of the Box's inventor and his family who works toward closing the evil doorways his invention (and its descendants) has opened.
Unfortunately, a Cenobitanical Demon named Angelique (the nicely naked Valentina Vargas) and her evil, appetitive consort Jacques (Adam Scott from... Star Trek: First Contact) are there to stop the Merchant Family at every turn. This struggle leads the Bloodline of the title to the mid-1990's, where we pick up right where Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth left off. That's right at that creepy Box-Inspired building that houses Lemarchand's box in its concrete structure... designed, no less by the current heir to the Legacy, an architect named John Merchant (Ramsay again).
Lest we forget, the recovered box can summon the defaced visage of Captain Elliot Spencer... better known as "Pinhead" (played by Doug Bradley of course)! Like a scheming serial killer, Pinhead is up to his old, bald tricks again, making new Cenobites and incanting various chilling one-liners so blasphemous even Damien Thorn would say "Dude, don't go there!" But he's not stopping at a creepy broom-closet. His new plan includes permanently propping open the door to Hell so he can take over Earth and make it an even crappier place. To this end, he's also somehow discovered Bargaining. I guess he figured, hell, you mutilate my back, I'll mutilate yours. Unfortunately for his grid-carved ass, the Merchant gene has carried with it a plan for destroying the Cenobites and their doorway to hell once and for all.
Unfortunately for them... and for us... it's going to take another few hundred years and generations to perfect... and by that time, we might as well be assimilated by the Borg. Gotta keep it far in the future, or else those straight-to-video sequels can't be made, right? Right. You've got to see this ending if you don't believe me. Holy...
But, you see, that's the main problem (of very many) with Hellraiser 4. It takes way too damned long to get anything done, and once that "anything" happens, it's not that impressive. Oh, there's plenty of Blood and Gore all over the place, but no real tension developed, so that it feels supremely by-the-numbers. The holders of the final cut seemed much more interested in masturbatory scenes of the grotesque, which can take forever to unfold, than legitimate evolution of story. While all this may have been shocking in 1996 (it was to me, more or less), today you can see the same level of gore on an episode of CSI: Miami. But no nudity on television. Hell no... you can chop up all kinds of body parts, as long as they're clothed, but a real, live, healthy naked woman... oh, no! So wrong!
Speaking of which, after veteran Special Effects and horror Make-up man Kevin Yagher left the director's chair, and had his credit changed to "Alan Smithee", Dimension Films brought in director Joe Chappelle, who went on to direct several episodes of... CSI: Miami.
It's just a shame, damn it. This movie could've been something, man. It could've been a contender. All the elements were there! The undeniable Star Trek angle could've made this one a fully milk-able Cash Cow. Why not? Deep Space Nine's Garak was in the first Hellraiser and Jadzia Dax was in the third one. Just admit it, Dimension, just admit it. There's even a detailed Cenobite creation sequence (one of those that takes WAY too long) that even echoes the Borgification techniques of "The Best of Both Worlds", right on down to the liquid infusion of Cenobite serum.
That's it, I officially know WAY too much about Star Trek and Hellraiser... Thank you Mom and Dad. And Mr. John Dilworth (former Miami Dolphin, turned Vice Principal of my High School... look it up) said I'd never amount to anything! IN YOUR FACE, Mr. Dilworth! In your FACE! First I graduated from your school, then College, now this! Boom, Blam! Fear me!!! Two Stars out of Five for Hellraiser: Bloodline, a fun, if derivative and ultimately disjointed tale that should have soared a little higher. Let's just pray that Alan Smithee gets assimilated by the Borg one of these stupid days. See you in the next reel, and don't bite anybody!
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