Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
  • Time: 85 min
  • Genre: Horror | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Kevin Yagher, Alan Smithee
  • Cast: Bruce Ramsay, Doug Bradley, Valentina Vargas


It’s the year 2127. Pinhead, the evil cenobite of the series, has found himself on board a space station in outer space, run by scientist Dr.Merchant. Dr. Merchant’s mission is to close the gates to hell forever. Because his ancestor, a toymaker in the 18th century, built the evil puzzlebox that opens the gates to hell. And through the generations, the family of the bloodline has tried to stop it. But now, Dr.Merchant has built the reverse box. The box that will close the gates to hell instead of opening it.


  • When movie franchises begin to get “long on the tooth”, everyone from the director and the film crew to the studio producing the film, are required to come up with new ways to make the viewing experience fresh for the audience that follows it. These are the guidelines that should be followed when occurrences like this happen. Of course we all know that’s rarely the case except for the few. Most money hungry studios end up taking the full reign of the production and end up demanding the final result being fairly an exact copy of previous entries made or drastically changed the concept itself. Thus leading to the trend of diminishing returns. For Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) franchise, the trend is mostly the same, except the issues are in other places this time.

    Compared to Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), this entry doesn’t really surpass it, but it does at least feel more on track than the prior one does. Originally Kevin Yagher (a make-up and special effects artist who had experience in other horror films) was set to direct as his debut film. Unfortunately, Miramax Studios, which then owned the rights fought with Yagher, causing him to quit. However, one man who hasn’t left since Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988) was writer Peter Atkins, who once again penned the script. In this chapter, the year is 2127 and audiences are introduced to Dr. Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) an inventor who has discovered a way to destroy Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his followers forever. Regrettably, he is stopped before he is able to finish by a group of soldiers who came to take him away. To stall time, Merchant convinces Rimmer (Christine Harnos) to listen to why he needs to finish what he was doing. The story Merchant tells is how the Cenobites were first released and how they connect to his family ties.

    The fact that Atkins went in even further than before to explain the back story to Pinhead and his origins is again commendable, but sadly this new information totally contradicts the three films before it. None of the main characters in the prior entries were related to Merchant, so why did their fate have them come in contact with Pinhead? Also what about the multiple boxes that Dr. Channard had in his office from the second film? If these boxes act as portals, what makes you think destroying one box will keep Pinhead out forever? It just doesn’t add up. Along with that is a new pseudo-villain named Angelique (Valentina Vargas) who also has a past with Merchant, but only him. Of the characters in the story, the only people that matter and viewers will enjoy is Dr. Merchant, Angelique and Pinhead. Bruce Ramsay (who ends up playing different versions of himself) manages to at least be competent in his role and certainly more convincing than Terry Farrell from the previous movie. As for Vargas and Bradley, they both looked like they enjoyed their roles. Doing all kinds of evil acts and such.

    On the flip side, the rest of the cast is completely forgettable. There is no character development, not even for Rimmer who listens to Dr. Merchant. There’s also a young Adam Scott and an older Kim Myers (from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)) and they too have no real significant importance. But aside from characters, Atkins did change a number of things for the better. One being the tone; the third movie had a completely different tone to that of the first two. Many fans took it as too goofy and cheesy where Pinhead was portrayed more as a generic slasher villain. Here, Pinhead still kills just cause, but he’s not as blood hungry either. Another plus is the creativeness of the cenobite designs, which unlike the third film looked quite gimmicky. Here, they look more like what Pinhead’s followers would look like. Then again, fans may also complain because there really isn’t a lot of new additions. Throughout the whole film, only three new cenobites appear of which one wasn’t even human and they also don’t receive a lot of screen time. Along with that is a possible dislike for the smaller amount of gore too. With that it may not be as scary either.

    Yet, the kill scenes are still quite gruesome. Another interesting edition to the mix of the franchise is the use of CGI, which doesn’t look that bad. It’s used minimally which is how it should be used. The cinematography shot by Gerry Lively is a slight improvement over his work in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992). This time instead of showing Pinhead in the sunlight all the time, he is kept in the shadows and this helps him feel more mysterious and dangerous. Finally for the musical score, Daniel Licht who would later be known for his music in the Dexter (2006) TV show composed the tracks. Thankfully, Licht exceeds Randy Miller’s score from the prior film by adding new themes for the cenobites and making a variation of Christopher Young’s original theme that was created from the first film. Much of these tracks use the same string build up, choral echoes and percussion but its the deviations that make it more appealing to listen to than recycled tracks.

    It still doesn’t anywhere match the first two original movies and most will probably find it equal to that of the Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) quality, but even for the production troubles that it had and nonsensical story telling, it can be a more entertaining watch. Although the likable cast is few, it is made up with more back-story, a better-written tone, appropriate costume design, acceptable special effects that don’t look dated and a better film score.

    Points Earned –> 5:10

  • The fourth instalment of the already-tired Hellraiser franchise signalled the last time that original creator Clive Barker would be involved, and also the final film of the series to be shown on the big screen, with the subsequent sequels heading straight to VHS or DVD. Doug Bradley, who at this point was the only surviving cast member from Barker’s terrific 1987 original, described Hellraiser IV: Bloodline as the “shoot from Hell”, and its troubled production saw director Kevin Yagher demand his name be removed from the credits, instead opting for the go-to pseudonym Alan Smithee. While things never looked good for the film, Part IV of Miramax’s cult franchise isn’t actually quite as bad as you would expect.

    In 2127, engineer Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) uses a robot to solve the Lament Configuration puzzle box on board space station The Minos. The opening of the box destroys the robot, and Merchant is taken in for questioning by a group of armed guards suspicious of his intentions. Whilst being interrogated by the groups leader, Rimmer (Christine Harnos), Merchant reveals that he is part of a cursed bloodline that stretches back to 18th-century France, where his ancestor, toy-maker Phillip L’Merchant (also Ramsay), builds the box for a rich aristocrat who desires to summon a slave-girl from Hell. While L’Merchant fails to prevent the demon Angelique (Valentina Vargas) arriving in our world, generations later New York architect John Merchant (Ramsay again) is haunted by visions of the box, building a skyscraper resembling the Lament Configuration.

    After two sequels with little to recommend other than Kenneth Cranham’s wonderfully over-the-top thesping, Bloodline at least attempts to inject a fresh take on the Hellraiser universe. The decision to portray the arrival of Hell on Earth over three vastly different time periods is an interesting one, even if it is somewhat clumsily handled and often poorly acted. Yet for the bulk of the film we are stuck in the less-interesting modern day, or 1996, and it is here that Bloodline suffers from formulaic storytelling. The introduction of the demon Angelique offers the chance for some twisted sexual tension between her and Pinhead (Bradley), yet this isn’t explored enough, and ultimately fizzles out in favour of more time with the over-exposed, iconic Cenobite, whose role was significantly beefed up by the studio following Yagher’s departure. It’s certainly one of the best of the series’ sequels, yet given how bad the movies that followed are, that’s hardly saying much.

    Rating: 2/5

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