LEVIATHAN: The Story of Hellraiser & Hellbound Part 2 - "It Could Have Gone Much Deeper"

Two years ago I reviewed the first part of "Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellraiser Part II". In the review I mentioned that it seemed unfair to criticize a documentary that only covers half the story. Well, now Shudder has finally released the second part and I can now say with all certainty ... that I have a lot of the same problems that I had with the first part.

Like before, this film covers the various stories and anecdotes that went into the making of "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" featuring interviews with several actors and technicians who worked on the film. Plenty of the individual stories can be interesting but the way the documentary is shot leaves much to be desired. Hearing talking heads telling their stories one after another interspersed with random scenes from the film or production footage wears out its welcome fast. And once again, the exclusions of both Clive Barker and Ashley Lawrence from these films are very jarring omissions. The insights that they could provide into the making of these films can only be guessed at because we don't get to hear their stories.

That's not to say that this film isn't without its moments. For example, they spend a lot of time talking about how the film's budget was cut in half as they were filming it leading to many scenes being cut entirely. We get some excerpts from the original script detailing some fairly important sequences like the fate of Larry Cotton (he was originally supposed to be attached to his brother in hell although this is an omission I prefer as it doesn't make much sense for Larry to be there) as well as explaining why the Chatterer suddenly has eyes in the final scene with the Cenobites. There's also an interesting discussion of how Dr. Chanard got his name. One writer named him Malehyde (literally a neologism of two Latin words that combined mean "Bad Skin") whereas the other named him Chanard combining the first and last names of Christian Bernard, the doctor who became a superstar after performing the first heart transplant.

Most interestingly, in my opinion, it finally explains why there was a picture of the Cenobites dressed as surgeons on the back of the original VHS cover. Apparently there was a whole sequence of the Cenobites in some kind of nightmarish hospital that got cut as the scene was about to be filmed. A production photo survived however and made it onto the VHS. That image of Pinhead as a doctor always made my mind race as a kid with images of some grisly operation scene. Turns out my imagination was far more disturbing than the actual story.

There are a few individual moments like those to enjoy in "Leviathan" but it still feels lacking. For example, while it spends plenty of time talking about the film's amazing make-up effects, I wish just as much time had been spent discussing the film's incredible score. Christopher Young's music elevates what could be a laughable concept to the level of some sort of perverse blood opera and I would have loved to hear his inspiration behind that beautiful score. And like before, it is so hung-up on the nuts and bolts of the film that it never even bothers to have a discussion about the themes and subtext behind the "Hellraiser" series. Like the first film, "Hellbound" has a whole litany of Queer readings behind it that are just waiting to be brought to the surface but this documentary has no interest in them at all.

Now that I've seen the entire "Leviathan" documentary I can honestly say that not much has changed. The film is sporadically interesting but much like the explorers into the further reaches of experience that are in the film, it could have gone so much deeper.


★ ★ ½

"A documentary uncovering the history and the making of Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987) and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) films. "