Film Corner: Hellraiser 4

Hellraiser 4: Bloodline (Amazon Cut)

Kissmate continues his Hellraiser watch-a-thon:

Before we even start, Ana goes apeshit over the director credit: "Alan Smithee". I'm forced to dig deeper.

The actual director is a make-up and special effects artist named Kevin Yagher. The only other directing he's done is 2 episodes in "Tales from the Crypt". Yagher was making a version of this Hellraiser film that he ended up not satisfied with. Miramax / Dimension Studios begged him to finish it so they had something to put on the shelves and theaters, but he refused. Yagher walked out and washed his hands of it. The movie was then handed to Joe Chappelle. Chappelle did his best and shot whole new scenes to cut in with Yagher's, but his actions weren't enough to earn him even a co-director's credit. With no one else worthy of the title, the studio had no choice but to label it under "Alan Smithee", a name reserved for directors who wanted nothing to do with the final result (think of it as a "John Doe").

In short: It's a badge of shame, and it's one we now must witness.

SPACE. We start in SPACE. WHAT? Space Station Minos, 2127. A bald man looks over a "prison cell". Inside a maximum security cell is a lean robot sitting cross-legged while holding the Puzzle Box. The bald man, Dr. Merchant, puts on gloves to operate the robot and open the Puzzle Box. A safe way to trap Pinhead, perhaps? Just as he opens the Box, the robot EXPLODES and security personnel stop Merchant at gunpoint. All we see is Pinhead free inside the secure cell.

Through the security team we learn that Merchant helped build the space ship and then hijacked it for his own personal gain. He sent the rest of the crew home so he was the only one on-board and tries to trick the security team off the ship as well. A female security officer (slash psychiatrist?) says she won't go without understanding *why* he wants her to go, to which he reluctantly agrees. Via flashbacks!

One of Merchant's ancestors, a French toymaker, made the Puzzle Box we know and love so well. It was made it to the specifications of a very rich magician and occultist, De L'Isle. After the toymaker drops off the Puzzle Box at his patron's house, he sticks around to sate his curiosity. We watch as De L'Isle kills a woman, skins her near perfectly, and summons a demon to fill the skin. As one does! And the scene is genuinely freaky! De L'Isle even has a sense of humor as he names the demon Angelique, because what else does one name a demon summoned from Hell?

The toymaker flees the scene and confides in a doctor-friend about his findings. The logic salad that follows is honestly bonkers.

1. Demons don't exist because 18th-Century France has reasoned away God and other such nonsense.

2. However, if you can make a device to *summon* demons, then you can make one that kills or at least banishes them.

The toymaker decides to do none of the above and instead steal the box back. (Ana's note: Why? There's no indication yet that the box is anything but a one-way portal! I guess it makes sense to keep the guy from summoning MORE demons, but this feels a bit like closing the barn door once the horse has gotten out.) Whoops, the toymaker walks in on Angelique killing De L'Ilse and stealing both the box and De L'Ilse's servant (Jacques) for herself. Because De L'Ilse tried to stand in the way of Hell, he must die. So die he shall.

BACK IN SPACE, Dr. Merchant says that Angelique tried to get more Puzzle Boxes made, but most of his bloodline treated the whole story like a fairy tale and...I guess didn't take her commission requests? So since we milked the toymaker for all of his flashbacks, let's go to another ancestor!

Modern-Day, 1996: A man named John Merchant has dreams of Angelique calling to him, saying how much he wants her. He's troubled by these dreams to the point his wife is demanding he see someone about them. As for Angelique, she finds out the Merchant bloodline is still intact by seeing John's face of the cover of a magazine. In order to make her way to America to find them, she chooses to kill Jacques: the man she's been keeping alive and otherwise "serving" for 200 years; he broke their agreement by choosing to "stand in the way of Hell".

I want to ask about this odd little rule. Does "stand in the way of Hell" mean "stop a demon from furthering Hell's betterment", or more like "stop a demon from doing whatever it wants"? There's a difference between the two! Considering how Jacques treated her request, I want to assume the first, because it doesn't seem like this is the first time he's told her 'no' in the last 200 years.

John goes to a fancy dinner to accept an architectural award, but it's clear he's not feeling well. Especially when he catches glimpses of Angelique in the audience! As John rushes home with his wife, Angelique decides to get to business. She strings along a nearby man and takes him down to the basement where she bare-handedly yoinks the Puzzle Box from a concrete pillar and hands it to the business man. "Do you like games?" Angelique gets the man to summon Pinhead, who tells her how orderly Hell is now. We see the building from the end of the third movie is the building they're in right now. Pinhead calls the architectural design a "holocaust", but of what I'm not sure. (Ana's note: I *think* he means that the design of the building is sacrilegious because it uses the sacred design of the puzzle box in service of a secular building for business, but I do not believe he used the correct word there.)

Angelique tries to get more information, but Pinhead grows bored. He says something about fear being better than temptation and orders a hell hound to kill some guards. So far, this Pinhead feels very non-canon. (1) He's shown impatience, though patience is something he usually has in spades. (2) He disses Angelique's methods of temptation, despite temptation being a tool he used often in previous movies. (3) He has a new hell hound dog that we've never seen before. (4) This movie treats him as if he's lived a lot longer than his canonical age, which we know was bounded by one of the World Wars. (Ana's note: Maaaaaaybe there's a handwave here that the High Priest of Hell inherits the memories of his predecessors or something, but yeah, he should not know and remember Angelique, who was summoned from Hell hundreds of years before and has never yet had a chance to check back in and see how things are at home.)

There's a weird aside with two doomed guards, apparently twins, talking about whether or not they'd have sex with a trans woman. This "Would You Fuck A Trans Woman" scene isn't good. We've seen worse, of course, but it's still objectifying and not good. When watching, beware of this throwaway conversation. The twin guards find a new door that wasn't there before and go check it out. They lose a lot by meeting Pins. Now it looks like they'll be together forever. Maybe in a new Cenobite form. One can hope!

The guards had been interrupting Pins and Angelique talking about how best to continue. Pins goes on about how temptation is illusion and worthless, and how pain is a much easier and quicker way to loosen the tongue. He plans to threaten John's son's life! Which should be impossible for Pins to do, because John's underage son is an innocent and we have clearly-established rules about how Cenobites deal with innocents! Or is this covered under the "stand in Hell's way" clause? When you need a lawyer to figure out which rule overrides the others and why, your rulebook needs polishing! Pins ends up capturing both son and wife as bait. John rushes in to rescue them, but is instead forced to work on a special light-show that would theoretically open a larger gate to Hell. It fails, like he told them it would, and Pins kills him out of spite. I don't know why Pins would kill him if they still needed him, but I guess this goes back to his newly-found impatience. The wife grabs the Puzzle Box and sends all the Cenobites back, including Angelique. The son lives to further his lineage.

BACK IN SPACE, we learn about current Doctor Merchant's doings! He warns the security team that he summoned a few demons. "Maybe more." In the cell, Pins, his dog, the twins, and Princess Angelique stand waiting while Merchant tells his stories. All he wants to do is kill the demons and end Hell's campaign of terror once and for all. The security team burst in and threw a wrench in his plans. The only Black team member gets fooled by the classic "little child trapped inside a high-tech prison" trick. Instead of looking at the cameras aimed inside the cell, he shoots open the door with his laser gun and walks inside while talking off his helmet. In the history of bad ideas, this guy takes the cake. He dies, and the Cenobites walk free.

The rest of the team start dying one by one until only two are left: the female team member slash psychiatrist named Rimmer and Doctor Merchant. Rimmer takes out the dog Cenobite (still don't know where that came from), while Merchant faces off with Pinhead with two minutes left to complete the mission. As they talk of the past and faith, Merchant disappears! Pinhead had been talking to a hologram! As Merchant escapes on a shuttle, the station's satellites send out beams of light and the station closes in to reveal it was always meant to be a box. A new box to trap the demons that haunted Merchant and his family for centuries. On the close, Merchant says one final line.

Merchant: "Welcome to Oblivion."

Pinhead: "Amen."

Pinhead, in searing pain, can do nothing but watch and scream as the station explodes. All that remains is one small shuttle heading to Earth. The Toymaker has outdone the Demons once and for all. The End. What a fucking end that was! WHOO! Not gonna lie, folks, that was super fun! Three stories with the one IN SPACE as the frame narrative, which tickles a soft spot of mine! Pinhead wasn't at his best in the middle, but that finale! Made up for it, lemme tell ya!

This movie is what I expected from this series: a thoughtful tale (or two or three) with some gore and special effects being shown off from time to time, but not to the point of taking over the characters and story. I can see those who came for the gore being disappointed, but those who came for a good story came for a decent ride! So you win some, you lose some. Overall, I'm happy with this film and... am a little scared to see where the next one will go. This was intended as a series ender! It had a bow tied on the top and everything!

Until then, my rating: 7/10, it put my faith back into the light.


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