When it comes to the Hellraiser franchise, I’m a bit of a purist. I’ve always felt it’s best to stick with the first 2 films, as well as the original source material, The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. As is the case with most successful movies however, sequels are always warranted, there’s always a guaranteed crowd, and a buck to be made. The fourth installment in the franchise is Hellraiser IV:Bloodline, released in 1996. Although better received than its predecessor, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth , it still falls short and leaves a great deal to be desired. It also was the last film to be made with the collaboration of Clive Barker, and the last of the series to see a theatrical release.
The film begins in the future, and is told in a series of two flashbacks. It centers around the origins of the Lemarchand box, aka the Lament configuration. The story begins in the future, upon a space station. Where a man named merchant, is using a robot to solve the puzzle box. He is captured before he can complete his task by some hired space goons, and proceeds to tell the story of the box’s origins.
This segment of the plot had a great deal of potential, and it was greatly squandered. We’re taken to victorian era France, where Merchant’s ancestor Philip Lemarchand has just completed the box. IN the riginal book, it talks about how the box had several owners, including the Marquis De Sade, during his imprisonment in the Bastille. They could have focused instead on the many owners over the years, instead of Merchant’s relatives through the years, and their struggle with the Cenobites.
Speaking of Cenobites, it wouldn’t be a Hellraiser film without Pinhead, played once again by Doug Bradley. The formula that worked so well in the first two installments does’t work here. Because Bradley and Barker worked for years together on stage in the theatre, their cooperation on film flows really well. He still has some great one-liners everyone’s come to love, such as “Do I look like someone who cares what god thinks?” and “Pain has a face, I am pain.” , but he also has some lines that make absolutely no sense, such as “This is a holocaust, that is waiting to wake itself.” Still I have to give credit where credit is due, I’ve never seen Bradley give a bad performance, no matter how bad the writing is, he does actually try.
The biggest downgrade for me is this, the setting. The first 2 installments took a gothic story, combined it with a heavy theme of sadomasochism, and weaved it all into something that was original, and terrifying. What do we have here? Cenobites in space, and even a somewhat laughable home invasion sequence.
It’s a film that had a great deal of potential, and could have been a decent story. Much life the film that proceeded it, to much was squandered to complete a decent effort.