Movie Revisit | Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996)
Valentina Vargas as Angelique in Hellraiser 4: Bloodline

Movie Revisit | Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996)

By peerynt | Whizzing Tripod | 30 Oct 2021

These are my thoughts, opinions and musings (with spoilers) about the fourth installment in Hellraiser horror movie franchise; proceed at your own discretion.

It would be great if I could just write here, “look at this film; this is just one perfect example of how to murder a classic! This is why sequels shouldn’t be made!” And then just rant on about how bad it is, what’s wrong with it, how I don’t like space setting etc., because what can be better than taking pleasure in making something or someone look bad. Especially if you know you will meet little to no opposition, and will look great at their expense; an opportunity that shouldn’t be left not taken advantage of.

Unfortunately, Hellraiser Bloodline isn’t an easy prey. It probably would have been if it didn’t end up being Alan Smithee’s film with the original director doing everything the studio wanted just to get his name attached to a classic at least in some capacity, but the fact is; Kevin Yagher stopped working on it almost two years before its official release, and after his version of the film was nearly complete. The workprint of that director’s cut had been reconstructed by Hellraiser fans years ago, and if you look for it online, you may even find it. It had been my pleasure to find and watch it, and marvel at some of the beauty, if only in a form of raw, unfinished or imagined footage, that never reached the screens of movie theaters.

Theatrical Version Vs “Special Edition”

Sometimes you read, or watch something that’s, in one way or another, a commercial product and get that gut feeling that something is missing. Something that should’ve been there, but isn’t. You can’t exactly poin-point it, you can’t describe it, but you know there’s something that’s not being shown, and, as I found out when watching both, reconstructed workprint and “special edition”, that had been the case with Hellraiser Bloodline and Princess of Torment aka Angelique, played by Valentina Vargas.

Watching the theatrical version you see the princess being summoned as a demon to serve some old fart named Duc de L’Isle in 17th Century France, but not for long. You are left with unanswered questions about what exactly happened during unspecified, but seemingly short period of time after which the old man is already dead. “Toymaker”, as both, Angelique and de L’Isle call the protagonist Phillip Le'Merchant, returns to get the notorious Lament Configuration puzzle box (which is at the very center of this Hellraiser installment), and finds his latest customer tied up and almost dead in a chair looking like he’s an intended part of a scenery of what looks like a feast in celebration of bloodshed and debauchery. Next thing that happens is where, in my humble opinion, Bloodline gets some fundamental things wrong. First, Le'Merchant can’t be responsible for demons walking the Earth for a simple reason that he was doing work at the behest of de L’Isle, being unaware of the old man’s intentions. Secondly, the demon is here also on de L’Isle’s initiative. All of which is to say that everything that’s happened is on the old man and not Le'Merchant. So, was there another way to make the story unfold without a need to alter considerably that what happens later on in the film? My answer would be yes, but I’ll get to that a bit later.

In the aforementioned workprint as well as “special edition” Angelique gets significantly more screen time, which includes some dialogues with “Toymaker” outside de L'Isle’s mansion. Here it looks as if her role was intended to be one with an agenda that’s not dependent on her conjurer. Furthermore, the question about what happened at Duc de L'Isle’s mansion gets answered in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in theatrical version since it discarded events involving “gamblers” that were vital to such script’s integrity, never suggesting those events took place. So what we get here is a demon who basically was there at the beginning, even before Pinhead – the iconic teamleader of Cenobites. The demon who was the first to make use of chains and hooks; the famous tools of trade that, by the way and according to Kevin Yagher, didn’t meet approval by some of the top decision makers during the production. Besides, correct me if I’m wrong, but, if you recall the story about how Pinhead became Pinhead in Hellraiser II, you’d now realise that Angelique is older than Pinhead. All of this makes strong case for suggesting that Angelique overshadows Pinhead, which is generally thought to be the lead antagonist. Alas this version never made it to the general movie screen. What we got instead was just Angelique the minion who is dependent on her masters until they make some abstract (indeed, abstract) mistake so she can get rid of them. And even then she is still dependent on some abstract “Hell’s way”. I regard it as abstract because it is never entirely clear what it means. An obvious presumption would be that “Hell’s way” means opening permanent gateway from Hell to Earth. But then the fact that Duc de L’Isle as well as “Toymaker” – two characters that would know something about gateways like that, get offed doesn’t make sense. So, if gateway is not “Hell’s way”, what is? The answer we are left with after Angelique kills her last master is that she knows, and that it’s ultimately something that she goes after, like when she retrieves the good old puzzle box in the basement of building. She may not even know why or how she knows things, but they have to happen. Eventually it turns out “Toymaker’s” descendant is close to figuring out a working version of Elysium configuration – something that reverses puzzle box’s effect, but when Angelique wants to go to US, she doesn’t yet know that. The general assumption is that since “original” “Toymaker” didn’t succumb to temptations of the demon, his bloodline is seen as a threat to Hell. But we can’t know that for sure as the film doesn’t make it that clear. “Hell’s way”, for all we know, could be an agenda Angelique is aware of almost as if she was Hell’s prophet.

This is where we get to that part about having another way of unfolding the story without getting fundamental things wrong. If the screenwriter wanted Le'Merchant’s bloodline cursed, that could have been done by demon itself during the scene where the “Toymaker” is already on the floor moments before his death. Now, one way that could happen was it could have been done in a similar manner to how the curse is being crafted in recent Brand New Cherry Flavor mini series, namely, by forming symbiotic link. That way demon’s attraction to “Toymaker’s” descendants would be explained. This wouldn’t necessarily mean that “Toymaker’s” descendants would always strive to open gateways for Hell’s breed; rather that the demon figures it can be useful to have such a link because, if the “pliant fingers” did a great job once, you never know when they could be useful again, even if the demon's master orders to cancel a person of that bloodline. Besides, “Hell’s way” is something we don’t know, but demon does, so when it lays a curse, there must be a reason as to why it does that...

“What can I do with Hellraiser that’s not been done before?”

This question, asked by Kevin Yagher at one point, is perhaps the core reason why Bloodline seems like one of the finest installments in the franchise. Especially if you watch the fan made “special edition” with workprint, all of which in itself is already a thing that hasn’t happened to any other Hellraiser film before, where the sequence of a good number of scenes differs from the theatrical version. According to original director, only one third of theatrical version represents that what he envisioned the film to be like. One thing that can be noticed in the unreleased version is that the link between demon and “Toymaker” gets more focus throughout the film. This is different from previous installment, Hell on Earth in that, as suggested before, a good deal of Pinhead’s thunder gets stolen, mainly by Angelique, who during the film becomes Cenobite. Despite the fact that original director’s version didn’t end up on cinema screens, and despite the elegant new Cenobites: Chatterer Beast and The Siamese Twins, Pinhead looks as if he was a lonely, lost, upset extradimensional poet, who’s trapped in unsuitable environment, be it a high-rise or space station.

Why space?

And, for heaven’s sake, why space? I’m still wondering why it all couldn’t just end in that same basement where Angelique found the puzzle box. I’m thinking of possible answers to this question: 1) bloodline can’t consist of just two “Toymakers”, there had to be third one in space, 2) iconic box has to be destroyed with a pomp that matches the box’s significance; it has to be a mega big event, and when you think ‘mega’ and ‘big’, it means space, right? 3) space is used as a way to reference the ceremonial magick that involves planetary magick for the purposes of summoning demons, 4) “What can I do with Hellraiser that’s not been done before?”

That’s may list of possible answers.

What I think of them: I think a less ridiculous solution could have been found to No. 1, like a brief overview of genealogy; No. 2 wouldn’t impress movie going audience because it’s not Star Wars or Alien, but Hellraiser; I believe it is possible to go about No. 3 without going into space – I’m thinking of the Act 3 in Thir13en Ghosts as a fine example; a lot of possibilities with No. 4, but when you turn Dante’s Inferno into a self-destructive space station, it won’t give a satisfying closure because it’s supposed to be timeless, eternal. Pinhead is right when he says he is forever. There are things that are not supposed to be gotten rid of, they need to live on. So what happens when you try to destroy timeless things? People disapprove and get disappointed.

Favourite scene

When princess lures one of the guards into a mirror. Even though the edit of the scene could have been better, what I liked was not only the work of the actress, but also the mix of visual and sound effects in it.

On a Final Note

Hopefully Jamie Clayton as the lead antagonist in the new Hellraiser reboot will be as felicitous as Valentina Vargas was in Bloodline.

Peer Ynt

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Translator, interpreter turned small time investor and crypto enthusiast during the Covid pandemic. My hobbies include writing, graphic design and music journalism. Yet most of the time I'm a film/movie addict.

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