Hellraiser: Bloodline (Blu-ray)
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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