Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: Hellraiser: Bloodline

Well, I said I wasn't gonna watch any more Hellraisers. So what are we doing here exactly? What strange appeal do these adequate-at-best movies have that keeps me (and presumably enough audiences to justify eight sequels) coming back? Is it the hint of a vaster and more mysterious mythology than what we see in the first three movies? Is it the hunch that these villains have not yet attained the heights of scariness that they're capable of?

If either of the above are the answer, then I'm definitely done after the abysmal Hellraiser: Bloodline, the fourth installment in the franchise. Really, in my case, I think what's kept me vaguely curious enough to make it this far is the non-Cenobite cast members. I watched Hell on Earth for Terry Farrell, and learned a short time ago that Bloodlines has Adam Scott (Ben on Parks and Recreation and the Defiant's helmsman in Star Trek: First Contact). As it turns out, he dies quickly, but not before getting a few slightly entertaining scenes.

Not much else here is entertaining, even a little. Much of the blame lies with our bland lead, Bruce Ramsay (playing three different characters of the same titular bloodline, originating from the puzzle-box's creator L'Merchant). The story doesn't help compensate for his performance—at no point was I invested in any way in the human characters, which is something even Hell on Earth managed, ever-so-slightly.

And that's far from the worst failing of the story. See, it starts on a space station in the future (ho boy) and proceeds through flashbacks (of course) that end up spending most of their time in the 1990s (because budget) before returning to the future. Context and meaning is in short supply throughout, which drains the final act of urgency when it needed it most, especially throughout the somnolent Alien-lite space station chase scenes. I think somebody must have seen Interview with the Vampire and figured "I can pull off a sprawling multi-century horror epic just as well as this." The degree to which they didn't is confirmed in the very opening credits of Bloodline by the two simple words "Alan Smithee."

One non-failure to note: the treatment of the Cenobites is definitely a step up from Hell on Earth. Though it's obvious from the first shot of the identical-twin cops that they exist solely to undergo horrific transformation into a thematically-appropriate Cenobite, what happens thereafter works fairly well. I also liked the dog, though its movements were just jerky enough to fail at being scary. Angelique, once she sheds her human disguise, looks much more classic-Cenobite than I feared she might (although what's up with her headpiece? Is it supposed to resemble a crown, since she gets called "Princess"?).

Pinhead…well, we love Pinhead, to paraphrase Marge Simpson. But he gets way too much dialogue, and too little good dialogue. Demystify a character like this with overexposure and you destroy everything that made him cool. We can only hope Disney keeps this in mind as they ponder a Boba Fett movie. It's almost merciful that Pinhead gets destroyed at the end of Bloodline. (Or DOES HE? Never mind, don't answer that; I don't care.)

The big reveal at the end was telegraphed in many ways, even from the first shot of the obviously unfolded space station, but at least that plot point came together. If the movie had failed at even doing this competently, I'd be giving it even less than one star. (Then again, following Pinhead's defeat, the movie does just sort of END. And yet I didn't mind; I'd had enough of Future L'Merchant.)

This is a much gorier film than Hell on Earth, recalling Hellbound but with more budget and more advanced techniques. But the disjointed storyline makes the gore seem to exist for its own sake. I almost felt like I was watching one of those torture porn flicks at times.

I suppose if you like that sort of thing, Bloodline has something to offer. But beyond that…the "Jason in Space" installment of Friday the 13th, sadly, was more competent. The experience of watching Bloodline confirmed my fear that giving in to my curiosity would result in two wasted hours of my life. For once, I'd welcome a franchise reboot.

Star Score: 1 out of 5

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