Deep Dive: Hellraiser #4 Bloodline
Hellraiser Bloodline (1996): Hellraiser in Space…and France.
Matt: Ed and I did a whole podcast talking about this one and if you want to hear us arguing polar opposite views it’s not hard to search out. Ed, as a fan of the series, lays into this film and it still stacks as the lowest ratings he’s ever given (1.5/10). Personally I don’t think it is the worst film he’s reviewed with me or Nick, but they say you can’t really hate something you didn’t care about in the first place and it’s fair to say that Ed loves Hellraiser.
Does it warrant that kind of hatred? Not in my eyes.
Is it flawed? Yes, mortally wounded one might say.
Does it have some of the most exciting and original ideas in the whole franchise? You bet your sweet flesh it does.
The lament configuration (The Box) looking building at the end of Hell on Earth was what was meant to link Hell on Earth and Bloodline and it’s clear reading Paul Kane’s book that the original premise for Bloodline was a story of scope and scale that would link all of the previous films and expand the mythology over the past, present and future whilst telling the interesting and unique story of the box creators, the L’Merchant family.
If, like me, you’ve decided it’s time for a Hellraiser deep dive and you’re reading Paul Kane’s book, might I suggest you watch Bloodline before you read the chapter in the book which describes the original screenplay. I was already aware of the critical reception to Bloodline before watching it and as such my expectations were low and the ideas that the film managed to retain from the original concept shone through like big neon signs proclaiming Excellence went into the creation of this.
Don’t get me wrong, as a film it’s flawed with unexplained plot points, character inconsistencies and an inexcusable use of the name Rimmer.
It’s the second most flawed in the whole series and, whilst I enjoyed watching it, I can’t pretend that the studio/director disagreement and subsequent replacement didn’t take what could have been a great film and made it a collection of disjointed great ideas.
That said, whilst Pinhead is introduced far to early and is incorrectly placed as the story’s focal point, Doug Bradley is yet again superb delivering some of the best scenes and lines of the series.
Whilst Bloodline was a most unsatisfying victim of studio interference I honestly believe if it had been done right, with a strong budget and the original screenplay this could have been the strongest film of the whole series and it’s worth watching for that alone.
A most unsatisfying victim indeed…..Nick?
Nick: Fucking amazing. It was also in Spanish.
Ed: I’m aware that this isn’t an audio medium, so you’re going to have to imagine the weary sigh I’ve just emitted. I recommend that you take a listen to the episode Matt and I recorded about this film for a more detailed assassination—sorry, critical analysis of Bloodline.
Essentially, I’m in agreement with Matt; the ideas behind Bloodline are good. Again, you can see Hellraiser not being content with churning out the same films. The concept stretching over multiple periods of time is ambitious and, had it been properly realized, we could have been talking about this as a masterpiece that holds the entire franchise together.
As it is, we are not…well, maybe Nick is, but he’s a contrarian.
I’m not going to lay into Bloodline here—I did enough of that on the podcast. Ultimately, Bloodline is a missed opportunity. It could have been brilliant, it could have elevated the franchise (I feel dirty using the word elevated around horror) into something truly special. The raw ingredients are there on a conceptual level, but it wasn’t to be.
I feel a little about Bloodline as I do about Tom Savini’s Night of the Living Dead—a little sad that the brilliant ideas weren’t allowed to see the light of day.
So after three strong films, we have Bloodline (another sigh) and we take our first steps into the Straight-to-DVD years of the Hellraiser series…