Spanning four centuries, this petrifying Gothic thriller recounts the anguished past of the L’Merchant clan, who unwittingly fashioned the puzzle box that unlocked Hades’ gates — and unleashed the monstrous Pinhead (Doug Bradley). As he and his band of diabolical demons propagate evil on Earth, three generations of L’Merchants (all portrayed by Bruce Ramsey) battle the legions of darkness to annihilate Pinhead ā¦ permanently.
First and foremost, Iām a fan of Clive Barkerās work, both in the literary world and in the realms of art and film. Well, allow me to correct myself, Iām a fan of films of his work that heās directly involved with. And before you email me asking me does that mean I donāt like āMidnight Meat Trainā I havenāt seen it, and I reserve my judgment until I can get my grubby little mitts on it, and donāt bother asking me if I enjoyed āLord of Illusionsā or āNightbreedā because I can say without a shred of regret or shame that I love both of those movies.
But you didnāt click on the link marked āHellraiser IVā to hear me ramble on about how much I love those other films, you dear reader, came to hear me talk about āHellraiser IVā also known as āHellraiser Bloodlineā or as I like to call it āHellraiser In Space!ā
And no, thatās not a typo you saw, I did say āHellraiser in Spaceā. Well before Jason made the trek to the final frontier, everyoneās favorite demon from hell went to space.
Funny bit of trivia, āHellraiser Bloodlineā came out the same year as āLeprechaun 4: In Spaceā which makes me wonder, were the people at Dimension films and Trimark smoking from the same bong or something at a party? Because I can imagine the two companies horror department heads sitting around in a dimly lit room with some Pink Floyd on the stereo passing a bong around and saying āJeez, we want to make a fourth Hellraiser movie, but we canāt quite figure out where to take it.ā
āNo kidding, were gonna make another Leprechaun movie, but we donāt know where to go with it eitherā
At some point, someone makes a joke about setting the movies in space and the rest is history.
So we start the film on a space station in the future with a bald man using virtual reality gloves to control a robot in a locked room opening the lament configuration. The box opens, the droid goes boom and Pinhead makes his entrance. Then the space marines show up and interrogate the man, who as we learn is the descendant of Philip Lemerchand, and through his interrogation he explains the cursed history of the Lemerchand clan.
We are then introduced to Philip Lemerchand (played by Bruce Ramsay pulling triple duty as Philip, John Merchant and Dr. Paul Merchant) who has been commissioned to create the āLament configurationā for a wealthy French noble/black magician. Of course Philip thinks this is going to be the big cash cow heās been dreaming of, and instead the dastardly noble uses the box to summon a demon named Angelique into his command.
Further proof you shouldnāt trust the French. Of course, Lemerchand knows he must stop the dastardly noble, and attempts to steal the box. No great spoiler here, but he fails.
From here, we are subjected to the bulk of the film that takes place in 1996, with John Merchant, a successful architect who is being given an award for his design of a building that is hinted at in āHellraiser 3: Hell on Earthā and is in actuality a nifty thing called the āElysium Configurationā, a design that Philip came up with to close the gateway to hell that the āLament Configurationā opened. Itās during this chunk of dull story that Pinhead makes his returns, makes snarky comments to Angelique (who he refers to as āPrincessā throughout the film, which leads to the question: How the hell is she a princess of hell? Does that make her the daughter of The Leviathan from āHellraiser 2: Hellboundā and if so, how in the f*ck did that giant spinning obelisk reproduce?),about her ineffective methods of seducing John Merchant instead of just torturing him. Gotta love old Pinhead, no need for all that fancy seduction and temptation, go right for the torture.
Itās during this time that we are introduced to two of the stupidest things about this movie (aside from the whole space story), the āChatterer Beastā and a pair of twin security guards whoās total IQ might equal that of your average horror movie security guard.
Let me get it out now, I hate the Chatterer Beast. I do. Yes, itās a cool idea, and sure it looks kinda bad ass, because lets be honest, a pit bull is scary enough on its own, but you turn the bastard into a Cenobite and it just got that much scarier. However, why would you turn a dog into a Cenobite in the first place? Does that make any sense within the established mythology of the films? My understanding of the Cenobites was that they were once human and that they were masters in the art of torture.
Maybe Pinhead has a fetish for torturing dogs? I donāt know, and the movie never explains the stupid beast so Iām going to try and forget the bastard exists and move onto my next target.
The Twins serve one purpose in the entire film, and that is to become one of the cooler Cenobites in the series, the āSiamese Twin Cenobiteā. But until they get turned into said bad ass Cenobite, they are a pair of bumbling filler characters that make Deputy Doofy from āScary Movieā look brilliant. They show up on screen for all of about ten minutes before they become Cenobites, and from there they actually are pretty cool, as they have not only one of the best death scenes in the movie (when they become Cenobites), but they also deal out the other best death scene when they separate and then squish a dude into goo between them.
Again, the second Lemerchand fails to destroy the gateway to hell, but he gets kinda close and were back to the future with Paul and the space marines who only have names so that the poor actors could feel more accomplished with their roles, although honestly they could have all been called āGeneric dead guy 1, 2 and 3ā and it wouldnāt really matter as we the audience know that they are all walking corpses from the moment they hit the screen.
Does Paul Merchant destroy the Cenobites? Does he escape with his soul? Does anyone care at this point?
Without spoiling the ending, I can say that despite the horrible story and ok CGI, the ending is at least a spectacle worth seeing, but itās more one of those things that would make a good Youtube clip then something you would really want to sit through 80 minutes to get to.
Doug Bradley seems like he was phoning in his performance in this film, because Pinhead doesnāt come across as menacing or even vaguely scary. He just stands around and looks bored. Angelique (played by Valentina Vargas) is an ok character, but I found myself thinking that she was more attractive as a Cenobite than she was in her āHumanā skin. And thatās with a nude scene!
Bruce Ramsay does an alright job with the material heās given but there really isnāt much difference between his performance as Philip and John. The only thing that sets Paul apart from his ancestors is that heās supposed to be looking intense in his quest to destroy the box. He also looks bored. Honestly, Iām not sure if everyone who was in this movie actually read the script or if maybe the original script they read was way better, and then half way through the movie they totally changed everything and by that point everyone was locked into doing the movie and just stopped caring.
Because Iām starting to think that could be the only explanation for the poor acting in this film. And for some reason, this film carries on the tradition started in āHell on Earthā of not adding effects to Doug Bradleyās voice. Sure, his voice is still spooky on its own when heās doing the āPinhead Voiceā but without the added effects that the first two films used to add that extra deepness, his lines just donāt inspire fear the way they should.
I wanted to like this movie. I really did, but donāt be deceived like I was by the synopsis that the box gives you (or the netflix sleeve as it were). Instead, I was left wondering why I had even bothered sitting through the entire movie, and wondering if Clive Barker (whoās name is listed in the credits as a producer) actually read the script or if he just said āSure, hereās some money, put my name down as a producer. Now leave me alone Iāve got things to do.ā This film proved to me that everyone Iād heard ranting about how bad the later āHellraiserā films were, werenāt lying. Truth be told, Iām a little afraid to sit down and watch parts five through eight.
Though some how I doubt they could be as bad as āPinhead in Space.ā
Hellraiser 4: Bloodline (1996)