Tuesday, October 27, 2015

the remnants of a most unsatisfying victim

What follows may end up as just a play-by-play, so allow an introduction of sorts:

Kevin Yagher was a first-time director when he worked on Hellraiser: Bloodline. The final film is credited to Alan Smithee. If you do not know who Alan Smithee is, that is the name a director puts on a film when he wants his own name taken off. Usually that means studio meddling or something similar has altered the movie so much that the director--Yagher in this case--no longer wants the film to be considered his (or hers). The interesting thing to me, in regards to Hellraiser: Bloodline, is that the director that the studio brought in to finish Yagher's unfinished film was Joe Chapelle, director of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, the original ending (the so-called Producer's Cut) of which had to be reshot because of bad test screenings. Anyway, Yagher had disagreements with the studio and producers over how Hellraiser: Bloodline should go, he left (READ: was forced off) the production with an unfinished film. The film was supposed to be longer, was supposed to be structured quite distinctly as three separate stories that tied together instead of the flashback setup here. Producers wanted Pinhead to arrive earlier, wanted more gore, and didn't want a film that required an actual attention span. They got Joe Chapelle involved and they got their way.

What I am about to watch, though, is what's known as the "Workprint Reconstruction" version of the film, put together using an unfinished, well, workprint cut together with reworked footage from the final film to adhere closer to Yagher's shooting script. I have never seen this version before, and I've read that one sequence involves some very bad animation to stage a scene that was never filmed. But, I am hoping it makes sense, and I actually expect it to represent a better film...

Though, for the record, I rather like the released version of Hellraiser: Bloodline and think it works far better than Hell on Earth does.

Anyway, Hellraiser: Bloodline, the Workprint version (which you can currently find on YouTube in nine parts):

We don't start in space, of course. There's no framing story. We jump right into the soon-to-be-Angelique being brought to De L'Isle by Jacques. I like the way this opening plays, without explanation, without the box having already been shown in the future sequence. We've got chains and hooks, and a skinless corpse (and corpseless skin), but they were clearly put there by De L'Isle. His chant that opens the doorway to Hell is something new and unexpected in this sequence. We don't know that this is an origin story for the box.

Structurally, I am wary, though, because this puts more emphasis on Angelique and in the theatrical version, the third act barely involves her. I've read there is more of her in the present day sequence in this version, but have heard nothing of more of her in the future sequence. If we take each third as its own thing, its own entity, I suppose this is not a problem. But, taking the film as a whole, that fact that we're a good nine minutes in before we're introduced to Lemarchand... is odd, but not necessarily bad.

Without Paul Merchant's voiceover, the toymaker bit seems... off. But, the reveal of he box--and his wife's unenthusiastic response--is funnier this way. I imagine someone who has seen none of the Hellraiser films and knows nothing about the box watching this bit and thinking Phillip is insane when he calls this thing his "masterpiece."

The first workprint footage (coming from a VHS tape, it's of noticeably lesser quality) arrives after the box is at De L'Isle's house. A bunch of gamblers take turns with the box--which Angelique refers to as a Lament Configuration (cannot remember the previous films actually using that name (much like Return of the Jedi never names the Ewoks as Ewoks; we just know that name from the toys)--as Angelique strips. Something is inside her, spirits that erupt and skin the men alive (part of this is text description because the FX were never completed).

After Phillip imagines the Elysian Configuration comes the animation bit, which looks a lot like something from a Sims game. (The sequence looks odd, of course, but also the linereading is not too great. Angelique calls the Duc "De-Lies-El" instead of "De-Lil"--you'd think they would have gotten a fan to do this part, and a fan would know how to pronounce his name, but no.) Angelique comes to Phillip's house. She tempts him with a greater role in a world where he can have anything he wants. The animation makes it seem like he might go for it.

Continuing with the animation, the guy... I have no idea what the character's name is; in the theatrical version, he's basically in one scene, prompting Lemarchand to come up with the Elysian Configuration idea. Anyway, he goes into the woods and finds a troupe of "comedians" which seem to have something like a demon orgy going on. It makes little sense as is.

(Found his name: Auguste.)

The next bit makes a litlte more sense considering Angelique has already met Lemarchand, as she just walks out and calls him Toymaker a bit casually.

Insert the last sequence from Hell on Earth--starting a bit early, actually, with the arrival of JP and Terri. Not sure if this flashback was part of the shooting script, but I figure they could have simply gone with the bit where Joey puts the box into the cement, cut to the building lobby with Lemarchand motifs all over.

Present sequence gets going basically as in the theatrical bit, without any architecture (from the Hell on Earth ending or from this film). John wakes up from a nightmare--apparently that Hell on Earth ending, though that did not end on a wake-up-screaming note--and then there's a brief scene added with his kid also waking up, something about how dreams cannot hurt you. Apparently, John did not actually see Hell on Earth.

Right before Angelique kills Jacque, the footages switches... He ages (and did they use footage from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade turned sideways for that?) rather than her stabbing him. Poison, I guess. Or he drank from the wrong Grail.

Cut to theatrical version--John's award reception. Angelique appears and we're in workprint footage as John uses a computer to demonstrate some of the lightshow (the Elysian Configuration that doesn't work later) in that room rather than just cut his speech short. So, he doesn't just come across as rushed but actually fails in his demonstration. He leaves more out of embarrassment than just being flustered by Angelique.

Angelique gets the box and gets that balding guy to open it. Sequence plays just as in the theatrical version. When Angelique shows the box motifs in the building to Pinhead, some workprint footage and sound is spliced in--she names the Lament Configuration again.

John dreams of the Cenobites' arrival in Hellbound, Kirsty running into Hell, Tiffany at the carnival, breaking glass and cut to... Angelique instead of John. Are we supposed to think she is causing his dream? Because, a) he said to his wife (as if she didn't already know) that he's been having these dreams all his life and b) there is no logical reason for Angelique to want him to see this sequence.

Angelique comes to John's office, he shows her the concept for the light. Theatrical version stuff.

Then workprint stuff--John as a little boy, some old lady (his grandmother) saying, "you're the one, John. The one they've been waiting for." then she floats away and John wakes up. It's a dream.

More workprint stuff: Angelique looks at the lights in the box motif room. She says the light will "open the gate forever." I don't think she understands what John has in mind, which is strange since she seemed so horrified when she saw the concept on his computer.

Theatrical stuff for a while, Pinhead and Angelique talking, the twins, Pinhead coming for Jack (maybe a little change in the editing). Then, a single cut in from the workprint footage as Pinhead talks to Bobbi. Theatrical version, he says, "Oh what appetites I could teach him." Workprint version, "What endless hungers he could learn." Good line.

Workprint stuff: Angelique hanging out with John again. He refuses her and she puts her hand to his throat. She still thinks the light will open a gate to hell, and she wants to use it to... take over? I don't think she likes Pinhead's "order." So, in the workprint version, we're being set up for some actual conflict between Pinhead and Angelique. Which is good because Angelique's presence becomes increasingly unimportant as the theatrical version goes on.

Workprint footage comes in again when John, Bobbi, and Jack separate. Didn't really catch anything particularly different from the theatrical version, though. Another shot a moment later of Jack in the elevator. And another, intercut with Pinhead talking to John about the bigger version of the box.

John finds an empty elevator shaft, then back to theatrical footage--Angelique has Jack. Some workprint footage intermixed as John sets up the lights. Some extra reaction shots. Pinhead flies up chain and is caught on one of the box panels. Then Angelique is chained and dragged, some theatrical footage and workprint footage mixed. It's confusing because it seems like the light worked then Pinhead wins anyway, and beheads John. Maybe some stuff is still missing. Angelique seems to think the lights are a good thing. Pinhead thinks the box motif room is a good thing. Yet, they are set up in conflict. The lights do and don't work.

Future footage begins with workprint stuff, Paul waking up screaming. He has long hair. He shaves his head. Paul talks to a priest. He wants to be forgiven, wants his family to be forgiven. He names the Elysian Configuration. Priest is either program or communication hologram; not sure which. This priest bit is a useful scene, but wouldn't fit with the framing story setup. Time-wise, there just wouldn't be a place for it.

Theatrical footage comes in with the robot chamber and the "summoning." Intercut with soldiers arriving. Pinhead right away (unlike the first time with this footage in the theatrical version; this is straight to the second time).

Angelique is just there with Pinhead. I was hoping for more with her.

Workprint footage. Soldier knocks Paul out. He wakes up screaming about the demons. Then back to theatrical footage as soldier explains what's going on.

Paul starts his story and the footage flashes back to stuff we already saw, and more of the gears and puzzle box closeup montage. Then, repeat Auguste and Phillip and the Elysian Configuration design. With the three-stories setup, Paul's story, with a couple flashbacks, plays strangely. It's information we already have until an awkward skip of the present-day sequence. Story finishes as before.

In response to Rimmer's "We go together or not at all" Paul doesn't say we go together. He makes no claim in this version to not being crazy enough to die.

Brief workprint shot--Angelique gets a line. But, it's just "Toymaker." Pinhead says no time for games then back to theatrical footage. Even in the workprint, Angelique is unimportant to act three. She's just another Cenobite. And, that's really too bad.

Workprint stuff: Paul says it is his destiny to save the world. Also, he is staying. His hologram trick in the theatrical version is rather amusing, but I like the idea of him planning to stay behind.

Sequence with the soldiers dying seems longer but there's no workprint footage cutting in, so I'm not sure.

The priest hologram actually sets up Paul's trickery. Paul picks up the remote control thingy he used to turn off the priest earlier. Then we get the bit where he tells Rimmer he's not crazy enough to die if he doesn't have to.

Workprint scene: Angelique talks to Paul. Nothing too interesting but at last she's around. Pinhead and the twins arrive as well. They don't think the bloodline ending will end the "game."

Also, Paul compares himself in his obsession to Pinhead.

Paul uses the hologram trick, but not to be gone. Instead, he's behind Pinhead and gets Pinhead by a chain.

Angelique feels the effect of the light first.

Station explodes. We return... again to the Toymaker montage from the beginning of the film. I read online about a supposed draft of the script that had the station turn into a large version of the box, then a giant hand grabs it, cut to something like that final scene of the first film, someone's buying the box and "What's your pleasure, sir?" That would have gotten across the return to the beginning aspect better than showing the Toymaker making the box again.

All in all, the theatrical version's structure actually works better. It makes Paul's story to Rimmer less awkward. But, Angelique's extra stuff in the present-day sequence adds an extra element to the story--something leaning toward an actual conflict with Pinhead. But then, in the future, there is still no conflict. She has simply replaced Female Cenobite.

The existence of this version is intriguing. But, ultimately, I'm not sure there is anything here that needs to exist. Behind-the-scenes drama or not, the changes here don't really change the point of the film significantly.

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