Assessors of motion pictures who are adversely prejudiced against a genre ought to oblige their audiences by excusing themselves from appraisal of movies in said genre. Notwithstanding his jejune dudgeon against horror flicks because they’re mean and all the blood therein perturbs him, petulant, celebrated, overfed hack Roger Ebert ineptly professed to viewing Hellbound: Hellraiser II, for yet another review garners more cash, more cash purchases provender, and fat boy must glut.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of nightmares: the kind that you actually have, and the kind they make into movies. Real nightmares usually involve frustration or public embarrassment. In the frustrating ones, a loved one is trying to tell you something and you can’t understand them, or they’re in danger and you can’t help them. In the embarrassing ones, it’s the day of the final exam and you forgot to attend the classes, or you’re in front of a crowd and can’t think of anything to say, or you wandered into the hotel lobby without any clothes on and nobody has noticed you yet – but they’re about to.
As I’m a cult hero and nonesuch of my trades, most of my oneiric experiences involve erotic, gastronomic, and auctorial indulgences of Caligulan proportions, but Ebert’s dreams are to be expected for a petty, corpulent changeling.
Those are scary nightmares, all right, and sometimes they turn up in the movies. But “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” contains the kinds of nightmares that occur only in movies, because our real dreams have low budgets and we can’t afford expensive special effects.
Ebert’s abject absence of imagination is no revelation.
The movie begins a few hours after the original “Hellbound” ended.
This isn’t a puzzler: Hellbound is the sequel to Hellraiser. Even New World Pictures issued press kits to professional reviewers; those with IQs exceeding room temperature could infer this titular detail.
A young girl named Kirsty has been placed in a hospital after a night in which she was tortured by the flayed corpses of her parents, who were under the supervision of the demons of hell.
In a sane world, any reviewer paid for his output who can’t or won’t synopsize a film accurately would be called to the carpet by his readership and employers alike.
What this girl needs is a lot of rest and a set of those positive-thinking cassettes they advertise late at night on cable TV.
Has she also need of a regale?
But no such luck. The hospital is simply another manifestation of the underworld, hell is all around us, we are powerless in its grip, and before long Kristy and a newfound friend named Tiffany are hurtling down the corridors of the damned. Give or take a detail or two, that’s the story.
It isn’t at all, but this is what proceeds in a review indited from hearsay, because Roger Ebert didn’t watch Hellbound ere he reviewed it, as he’ll promptly evidence.
“Hellbound: Hellraiser II” is like some kind of avant-garde film strip in which there is no beginning, no middle, no end, but simply a series of gruesome images that can be watched in any order.
One can envision Ebert stamping his pudgy foot whilst typing this surmisal. Hellbound‘s plot is quite commonplace.
The images have been constructed with a certain amount of care and craftsmanship; the technical credits on this movie run to four single-spaced pages.
I’m almost surprised that Ebert deferred from his engorgement for perchance a minute to riffle through his press kit.
We see lots of bodies that have been skinned alive, so that the blood still glistens on the exposed muscles. We see creatures who have been burned and mutilated and twisted into grotesque shapes and condemned for eternity to unspeakable and hopeless tortures.
So, the reviewer images what he’s heard of the production for the benefit of teenagers and concerned parents whose regard for it’s expected to be antipodal.
We hear deep, rasping laughter as the denizens of hell chortle over the plight of the terrified girls. And we hear their desperate voices calling to each other.
“Kirsty!” we hear. And “Tiffany!” And “Kirsty!!!” and “Tiffany!!!” And “Kirstiyyyyyyy!!!!!” And “Tiffanyyyyyyy!!!!!” I’m afraid this is another one of those movies that violates the First Rule of Repetition of Names, which states that when the same names are repeated in a movie more than four times a minute for more than three minutes in a row, the audience breaks out into sarcastic laughter, and some of the ruder members are likely to start shouting “Kirsty!” and “Tiffany!” at the screen.
This never transpires in the picture; Imogen Boorman’s character couldn’t call to Ashley Laurence’s repeatedly because she’s mute for the nigh-totality of the film. She literally utters not a dozen lines, all of which are vocalized in the movie’s last fifteen minutes, and not one of which is a vociferation bespeaking her co-star. Ebert substituted pettish conjecture for actual evaluation because he indiscriminately hates horror movies and didn’t even watch this one.
But this movie violates more rules than the First Rule of Repetition.
How did anyone countenance this little imbecile’s “rules?” Nothing’s as evidential of impotence than the compulsion to propound arbitrary rules pertaining to a medium rather than simply assessing a work’s quality and idiom its own terms.
It also violates a basic convention of story construction, which suggests that we should get at least a vague idea of where the story began and where it might be headed. This movie has no plot in a conventional sense.
As those of us who’ve actually watched this movie know, it was written in particular abidance by narrative convention.
It is simply a series of ugly and bloody episodes strung together one after another like a demo tape by a perverted special-effects man. There is nothing the heroines can do to understand or change their plight and no way we can get involved in their story.
During this movie’s second and third acts, its heroines are entirely preoccupied with opposition to preternatural antagonists and phenomena, upon which they prevail with the exercise of some ingenuity. An especially heinous critic wouldn’t know this and couldn’t be engaged by the movie if he hadn’t seen it.
That makes “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” an ideal movie for audiences with little taste
Ebert lauded The Women, Home Alone 3, Clash of the Titans, Cars 2, Escape From L.A. and Knowing, and famously panned A Clockwork Orange, Blue Velvet, The Flower of My Secret, The Tenant, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Taste of Cherry.
and atrophied attention spans who want to glance at the screen occasionally and ascertain that something is still happening up there.
That would connote more attention than that demonstrated in this review, which represents an egregious dereliction of occupational responsibility.
If you fit that description, you have probably not read this far, but what the heck, we believe in full-service reviews around here.
Which is most appalling: Ebert’s blatant contumely for his audience, fatuous self-satisfaction or fraud disclosed in penning a review of a picture he clearly hadn’t seen, for which he was paid?
Personally, I love Hellbound, but can’t deny that it’s a deeply flawed picture: its continuity is a shambles (especially in severalty from its predecessor); production design and effects alike are inspired but fashioned and executed with slipshod inconsistency; good performances are squandered on dialogue of equally varied quality, and the entire undertaking was obviously festinated to capitalize on Barker’s hit. Ebert didn’t advert to one of these glaring faults because he didn’t even watch the movie. How does a professional, syndicated reviewer get away with this sort of stupid dupery?