Originally released in 1996, Hellraiser IV: Bloodline was the fourth installment in the Hellraiser franchise. As originally conceived by master of dark fantasy Clive Barker, Hellraiser consisted of creatures known as cenobites who brought about pain and pleasure. Subsequent sequels expanded and simplified Barker’s concepts, and Bloodline brings about a mix of the good and the bad that would haunt this and other sequels that would follow.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline was a troubled production, with original director (makeup guru) Kevin Yagher eventually abandoning the project as a result of conflicts with the movie’s producer. Director Joe Chappelle was hired to finish the film, and thus the final cut was credited to Hollywood “icon” Alan Smithee. The movie was written by Barker thrall Peter Atkins, who turned in a credible script, but one that (perhaps purposely) failed to understand the key ideas behind Clive Barker’s original movie.
The story’s “frame” is Space Station Minos. The year is 2127, and Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) has taken over the station, using it to summon Pinhead to destroy him once and for all. However, before Merchant can carry out his plan, a group of space marines invade the station and take Merchant as prisoner. It is then the task of a woman by the name of Rimmer—an unfortunate name (Christine Harnos)—to interrogate Merchant and ascertain his reasons for taking over the station.
The remainder of the plot works through a series of flashbacks detailing the “birth” of the Lament Configuration (the puzzle box of the movie franchise) and the bloodline of toymakers whose origin is Lemarchand. The new character on Angelique (Valentina Vargas) is introduced. Whereas Pinhead (Doug Bradley) represents pain, Angelique represents temptation. Angelique is summoned by one Auguste de L’Moure (Louis Turenne, in a too-short but juicy performance) and his assistant. The assistant betrays L’Moure, securing the services of Angelique. However, this is one rule that the poor assistant forgets—200 years later: Never stand in the way of hell. Once he has done so, Angelique is free to kill him and pursue her own will—and her will is to seduce a descendent of Lemarchant, John Merchant, an American architect.
But Angelique is not the only “demon” after Merchant. None other than Pinhead wants to play the game, and he is not so “soft.” As the two demons bicker about which way is best (pain or pleasure, as it were), Merchant unwittingly finishes his building, which is in fact a variation of the Lament Configuration. Having lost all patience, Pinhead begins to create a new cache of cenobites, including a dog “chatterer” and a cenobite made from twin security guards. Pinhead then abducts Merchant’s young son and wife, and from there the fight is on. Pinhead seems to lose this round, banished back into hell, and thus the audience is returned to the space station framework, where Dr. Merchant has prepared a final showdown with both Angelique and Pinhead.
Although not a terrible film, Hellraiser IV: Bloodline was and remains a slight disappointment, given the direction taken by writer Atkins and to a lesser degree both directors. Calling the cenobites “demons” and creating a war between the light and the darkness are simplified themes that were much richer and vibrant in Clive Barker’s original vision. Also, making Pinhead “evil” is a critical mistake. Pinhead no longer needs to be summoned and he kills with no real sense of reason or pleasure.
Despite such lackluster concepts, Atkins and the directors do manage to create some solid sequences. The origin sequence of the Lament Configuration is really good, with Auguste de L’Moure representing the Marquis de Sade on steroids. The character of Angelique is interesting, but very little is done with her once Pinhead enters the scene.
Overall, Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is an okay film, neither terrible nor good. I really missed the other cenobites but did enjoy the origin sequence quite a bit. My problems with the film are more in keeping with the imaginative nature of the original film and the simplified, more basic horror elements of this one. Thus, some horrorhounds who are not so picky may really enjoy Hellraiser IV: Bloodline.