Retro Review: Hellraiser: Bloodline Workprint Review

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“Welcome to oblivion.” – Paul Merchant

For this Retro Review I’ll be talking about the leaked workprint of Hellraiser: Bloodline, which in many ways is much better than the released version, but is still miles away from what filmmakers originally had in mind. Before I begin my review though, I’d like to talk a little bit about what happened behind the scenes and why this movie turned into such a bitter experience for a lot of people involved.

To be perfectly blunt, this movie was a bitch to make from the moment the first time the word ‘action’ was called on set. From people being fired, personnel strikes, to cast members getting sick, and electrical problems causing sprinklers to go off which ruined sets, a movie shoot couldn’t ask for more turmoil. But the fun didn’t stop there.

After watching a version of Kevin Yagher’s rough director’s cut, the producers were unhappy that it took so long for Pinhead to enter the movie. So they demanded he appear in the film earlier. Keep in mind these are the same people that read the script (or did they?) and knew that Pinhead wasn’t going to be the main star of the movie this time around.

Yagher presented four different cuts ranging from 110 to 82 minutes to try and please the studio. After a lot of debating on what the vision for the film should be Yagher realized he was fighting a losing battle and decided to step away from the project altogether. Eventually, Yagher would disown the movie and take his name off the film with the dreaded Alan Smithee credit. A new director and writer were brought in for two weeks of re-shoots and to create a new cut of the film that was more inline with the vision the producers saw for the film.

This workprint is one of the attempts by new director Joe Chappelle (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers) to try and get Pinhead into the movie earlier. This version opens with the summoning of Angelique and totally removes any traces of the creation of the box and Philip Lemarchand from the beginning of the story. Also, the original structure that made the sequel so interesting in the first place is thrown out entirely and is now told through a series of dreams that the Lemarchand bloodline is having from present to future segments of the story line with brief moments of the past segments sprinkled throughout this version. Though it’s still no where near as interesting as the original concept at least you’re not being force fed a story like the released cut. This version runs just under eighty-minutes and in a lot of ways it fleshes out a lot of material that the released version could’ve benefited from. Some of the plot holes are filled in and you understand the character’s motivations and connect with them on an emotional level a little bit more.

For starters, unlike the released version we get a much better performance from Bruce Ramsay here. The original intention was to make Lemarchand more like Dr. Frankenstein, and Ramsay does a great job of conveying a man that’s both confused and tortured in this cut of the film. I really felt something for him in this version that’s severely lacking in the released cut. But the performance still feels incomplete because most of the Toymaker material is all but gone.

Another highlight in this workprint is that we get to see the infamous Gambler’s scene where Angelique tricks a group of men into solving the Lament Configuration. It’s a great scene even in its unfinished form, but the way it’s cut into this version really doesn’t make any sense.

Speaking of Angelique we get to hear Valentina Vargas’s actual European accent in this cut. I personally preferred her voice over the dubbed version that the released cut had. Like a lot of the decisions made by the producers for this movie, it makes no sense why they removed it with someone else’s voice. The dubbed voice comes off really goofy now after hearing the real thing.

We also get to see more of the Chatterer Beast. I don’t know why they cut out so much of this creature because I thought it looked pretty good. I can only assume they didn’t like the effects, but I had no problems with them. So seeing more of it was a bonus for me.

We also get to see the animosity between Angelique and Pinhead in this version a lot more. This is a subplot that was completely cut out of the released version which I believe was a mistake. It really shows the power struggle between both characters and how much they despise one another. There’s an extended moment after Pinhead slices into Angelique’s chest and licks the blood off of the hook and he realizes that she’s keeping a secret from him which explains the distrust he has for her later on in the movie.

Their final confrontation is better explained here too when we realize that Angelique is setting a trap for Pinhead when John Merchant is trying to activate the Elysium Configuration at the end of the present day segment. He realizes he’s being set up by Angelique and shoots a hook from his mouth and flies to the ceiling turning the tables on her by entrapping her in the bondage of chains like in the released version. Finally seeing the scene play out the way it was originally written and shot shows you just how bad the released version is edited.

The best part of this workprint though is being able to see the original ending which is so much better than the released version even though it’s not finished. For the first time we get to see what happened to Angelique and the Twin Cenobites! They completely disappear in the final version. I also like the fact that it shows how Paul sacrifices himself to end the bloodline once and for all instead of getting away with Rimmer like he did in the released cut. I never bought that ending because it felt so tacked on. But this ending feels more definite and true to the original concept.

The workprint version still has it’s share of problems though. The dream/flashback structure really doesn’t work that well and becomes tedious at times. While it’s cool to see some of the original 18th segment cut into the movie at random parts, I’d much rather have seen it in its entirety than just bits and pieces scattered all over the story.

There’s also a new scene (done during the re-shoots) with Paul Merchant talking to a holographic priest before he starts the summoning. It makes no sense and I don’t think the character wanted religion on his side anyway because he knew his destiny was to die and sever the bloodline forever. It’s interesting to see on its own, but I’m glad it was ultimately cut.

And another thing that bugged me was that there are times when you don’t know who the main character is? There are moments in this cut that make it seem like it’s Angelique’s story as well. This is probably why the dream angle was dropped and it was decided to reshape the film into one long story for the final release.

But all in all it’s a much better and more coherent cut than the released version. And in some ways you get a small (and I do mean small) taste of what original director Kevin Yagher’s might have had in mind for the film. If you can track of copy of it down, I highly recommend watching it. There’s so much that’s different it’s like watching a new movie.