Hellraiser: Bloodline

on March 08, 1996 by Sean O'Neill
   "Whither Pinhead?" might have been the question that the, oh, seven or eight fans out there in movieland were clamoring to have answered in a third sequel to Clive Barker's 1986 horror masterwork, "Hellraiser." "Wither, Pinhead!" might be what each of them says after paying good money to see this lame effort. Truth be told, it's not really old Pinhead's fault. Actor Doug Bradley does his usual fine job of imbuing this horrific visual icon with palpable undercurrents of pathos and tragedy, but the movie lets him down, and badly.
   Whenever Alan Smithee is credited as the director, informed audiences know they're in trouble, for that's the moniker used when a director (or two) chooses to take his name off a project. Whoever Smithee was in this case, he or she might have been saddled with an impossible task anyway: making sense of Peter Atkins' nearly incoherent script. Such a chore might make even Brian De Palma tear out what's left of his hair in despair. The story starts in 2127, with Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) commandeering a space station so that he can destroy that little black Rubik's cube-like box that in this series always opens the gates of hell. From there the action shifts, almost incomprehensibly, to the 1700s, when Merchant's ancestor Philippe Lemar-chand (also played by Ramsay) constructs the box for the wizard Duc de L'Isle (Mickey Cottrell), then shifts again to the present day, as New Yorker John Merchant (Ramsay again, of course) faces Pinhead and his squad of unsavory demons.
   "Hellraiser: Bloodline" gets one more star than the zero it actually deserves, thanks only to its sumptuous production design, Bradley's performance, and a few eye-catching if not exactly special effects. Clive Barker could surely have improved the project with just a little bit of input, but maybe at the time he was too busy endorsing checks. Starring Bruce Ramsay, Doug Bradley, Mickey Cottrell and Valentina Vargas. Directed by Alan Smithee. Written by Peter Atkins. Produced by Nancy Rae Stone. A Miramax release. Horror/SF. Rated R for strong horror violence and gore, and for some sexuality and language. Running time: 101 min
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