Starring Doug Bradley, Bruce Ramsay, Valentina Vargas, Kim Meyers, Adam Scott
Directed by Alan Smithee
Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment
Hellraiser: Bloodline is among the most frustrating experiences in many a horror fan’s eyes. The fourth installment in what might’ve been a truly innovative horror franchise (before the brothers Weinstein got involved) quickly became a brisk and gory botch job without an iota of substance – quite a difference from what the filmmakers were promising in the months leading to its release. Instead of the sprawling epic creation of the Lament Configuration, we have a loose narrative as an excuse for some grisly setpieces. It might be watchable, even today, but it remains a far cry from what it might’ve been.
Part of the problem here is the Weinsteins’ continued contempt for their audience. Any character depth or development was savaged on the cutting room floor, leaving instead three incarnations of our protagonist (Bruce Ramsay) in the past, present and future. ‘Merchant’ isn’t terribly likable or sympathetic in any generation, so it’s hard for us to care whether or not he ever succeeds in putting Pinhead to rest. It’s harder still when Pinhead is, of course, played again by Doug Bradley. Even with subpar material, Bradley succeeds in giving the Pope of Hell a screen presence that’s hard to beat. As diabolical as he is, there’s a charisma in Bradley’s performance that makes even the worst Hellraiser film kind of fun. This Cenobite relishes his tasks and loves what he does. Truly.
One character completely wasted is Valentina Vargas’ Angelique. As the Lament Configuration’s first victim, Angelique goes from French peasant girl to an insidious demon. When the character resurfaces again in the modern story segment, her motivations are to track down the descendant of Merchant bloodline and take vengeance on him. This leads to the resurrection of Pinhead (picking up where Hellraiser III ended) and an uneasy sort of chemistry between our two villains. There’s some fun tension here, bordering on pseudo-flirtatious, and it works remarkably well. Had Bloodline focused more on the competitive spirit of these monsters, it would’ve been much more successful. Angelique is a formidable villainess whose potential is all but entirely squandered.
The supporting cast isn’t bad, with Nightmare on Elm Street 2’s Kim Myers stuck in the thankless role of modern-day Merchant’s wife. And, yes, that’s Piranha 3D’s Adam Scott – looking like he hasn’t aged a day despite the fifteen-year gap between films – as an ill-fated companion of Angelique’s. There just isn’t much for these actors to do with the material, compounded by the needlessly short 80-minute run time.
Bloodline’s ultimate failure comes with the futuristic setting of the climax. It’s where the film essentially disintegrates into a slasher movie, Hellraiser-style, with a security team wandering the desolate corridors of a space station only to be picked off by Cenobites one-by-one. None of this is terribly interesting, and while Cenobite carnage isn’t something new to this installment, it’s the most leaden we’ve ever seen it. Even the often derided climax of Hell on Earth, which featured silly additions to the Cenobite family such as ‘C.D.’ and ‘Camera-head’, was directed with much more energy and flair than what we get there.
Bloodline doesn’t fail simply because it goes to outer space, however. The concept of a space station being constructed as a mirror Lament Configuration is a compelling one – it’s just that the powers-that-be had no faith or respect for the material they were producing. Instead of giving us the Hellraiser epic this should’ve been, we’re left with a half-baked compromise between Kevin Yagher (original director) and Joe Chapelle (reshoot guy) that results in a movie with some good ideas that can’t be bothered to leave a lasting impression. Fifteen years later this is a film remembered for being the last Hellraiser film to hit theaters and nothing else. And that’s a shame.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably at least partially aware of the controversy surrounding Echo Bridge Entertainment and its acquisition/treatment of the Miramax/Dimension library. I’m not going to focus on what the release of Hellraiser: Bloodline should’ve been, however, and instead I’ll evaluate what it is. Echo Bridge brings Bloodline to Blu-ray in a decent, if unspectacular, high definition transfer. The 1.78:1 ratio appears to have been slightly cropped from 1.85:1 (according to the IMDb), but the image quality offers quite a bit of detail in skin tones and backgrounds. It’s also responsible for revealing some severe limitations in the make-up FX, but this is a pretty solid way to view the film. Grain structure remains intact although it occasionally mixes with digital noise to create a bit of a mess. Black levels are better than expected, too, with only minimal crushing here and there – nothing that detracts from watching the film. Echo Bridge may not have rolled out the red carpet for Hellraiser: Bloodline, but fans should be satisfied with this if they’re looking to retire that non-anamorphic mess of a DVD.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is something of a missed opportunity. From a technical standpoint, it’s pretty good, although this is one that would’ve been a lot of fun in full surround sound. Dialogue is really clear, but when it’s coupled with music AND FX, it becomes obvious that 2.0 simply isn’t enough separation.
Even without extra material (you won’t find a single, solitary supplement here), Bloodline’s Blu-ray bow is worth a purchase for those of you with high definition TV sets. The image quality isn’t amazing, but it’s a decent little transfer that offers far more detail than the outdated Dimension DVD. Audio isn’t incredible but offers a perfectly adequate way to hear the film. As this one can probably be picked up for under $10 at most retailers, I’m saying it’s worth a look if you’re desperate for more Hellraiser on Blu-ray.
2 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5
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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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