Eye For Film >> Movies >> Leviathan: The Story Of Hellraiser And Hellbound: Hellraiser II (2015) Film Review
Leviathan: The Story Of Hellraiser And Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Over the past 15 years, since Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine made documentary cool again, we've seen non-fiction films growing more and more popular. More recently, they've begun to vary in form to an extent not seen since the Sixties. Leviathan: The Story Of Hellraiser And Hellbound: Hellraiser II is part of a new generation of works of which the most famous is 2017 Oscar winner OJ: Made In America - films which have less in common with the traditional documentary-as-entertainment than with exhaustive attempts at collecting testimony or archiving evidence in an attempt to provide a lasting resource for scholars - and geeks - with a particular interest in their subjects.
There's something undeniably fascinating about such works, and the effort that goes into making them can be awe-inspiring, but their appeal to the casual viewer is likely to be more limited. To date, they are also problematic in that few have been assembled with the skill of a true archivist, and Leviathan is a case in point. Whilst there are the makings of a good two hour documentary here, at almost eight hours, the film is stretched far too thin. The impression it is gives is that absolutely everything recorded has been included, with nothing left on the cutting room floor. Contributors frequently repeat what others have already said, and whilst devoted fans might be keen to know the opinions of all involved, this adds nothing of value for the general viewer.
The list of contributors is impressive, including numerous cast members from the films (lynchpins Claire Higgins and Doug Bradley among the more perceptive) and assorted members of the crew. It notably doesn't include Clive Barker, who might have felt awkward taking part given the superlative way in which he is described by others. The word 'genius' is used so often that it's impossible to take seriously, with descriptions like "Clive Barker, a genius in his own right, expertly skilled in all mediums" reaching heights of silliness unfortunate in a film which is trying very hard to cement the importance of its subject and win respect for a genre too often denied its due.
The film is at its best when fully focused on that genre. Sections looking at the development of the special effects are fascinating on both a technical and a historical level, and are placed in context in a way that will be illuminating for viewers unaware of the extent of Hellraiser's influence. Younger viewers will learn a lot about the challenges of the pre-CGI world and the problem solving that used to be a key part of an effects creator's job. There's interesting material on costume design, a part of the production process that's too often overlooked, and a look at the gorgeous design of the puzzle box which, alas, was never trademarked by its creator.
The importance of the Hellraiser films' challenges to sexual taboos is discussed at length and not always very insightfully, but there are some intriguing anecdotes in this section. Again, it will be of particular interest to younger viewers approaching the films from a very different social perspective.
Low budget film sets always produce good stories and there are quite a few here, especially from beleaguered crew members, some of whom recall having to sleep on the decaying mattress used at the start of the second film. The hectic nature of the shoot and the huge role that luck plays in the creation of cinematic art is vividly captured.
Overall, the best approach to Leviathan may be to treat it like the O.J. film (as presented on US TV) and watch it in sections, an hour or two at a time. Fans will find a lot to interest them but there is also a good deal here that could have been edited out and the talking head format doesn't have a lot of staying power. That said, even if taking at one sitting, it is considderably more watchable than some of the Hellraiser sequels.Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2017