Hellraiser series 3

The College Bum, Sean Teeter, takes time out to hit us up with a review of the complete third series of Hellraiser, including the boxed set!  What's the scoop, Sean?

I’ve been a horror fan all my life. I started reading Stephen King in the fifth grade and graduated to the stories of Anne Rice and Clive Barker somewhere in Junior High. Over the years King’s stories have become thematically repetitive or downright muddled at times. His latest stuff just doesn’t display the craft of works like Misery, The Stand, or Eyes of the Dragon (not really a horror story, but still excellent. Give it to any Tolkien fan and I’m sure they’ll dig it.) Rice’s Vampire Chronicles have become more overtly homoerotic with each new tome, that some of the latest ones are just a shade below gay porn as opposed to gothic. If that’s your kind of thing, go for it, but I want some horror baby. (By the way, Anne? When are you going to do a sequel to Ramses the Damned?)

Barker still never fails to disappoint me however. The movies produced from his macabre works are just a shadow of his original vision. Lord of Illusions, Rawhead Rex, Candyman, and Nightbreed all have their own unique look and feel, but don’t come close to the stories that inspired them.

Hellraiser was different. Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart was a short, twisted tale about the depths one was willing to sink to in pursuit of pleasure. The Cenobites are only in a few scenes of the book, but the descriptions of each figure give the reader a physical impression of where pleasure and pain meet.

Hellraiser strayed from the story a little bit and believe it or not, excluded one or two of the more disturbing sequences (read the book folks). Despite all that, Clive Barker was able to bring the look and feeling he envisioned among the Cenobites, and in doing so he created the beginning of a mythology that has been expanded to the tune of eight movies, for better or worse. (Deader and Hellworld supposedly hit video later this year.)

Needless to say, despite where the series has gone I was always a big fan of the first two Hellraisers. I was overjoyed by NECA’s treatment in the first series and snapped them all up one by one. The second series blew the first batch out of the water. Now we have a third. Series 3 consists of the Female, Pinhead (Hell on Earth), the Bloodline Twins, Skinless Frank, and Dr. Channard.

There’s a few differences from series 1 and 2 as NECA keeps trying to top each previous release. Dr. Channard from Hellbound gets his own boxed display base for instance. The incentive for collecting the whole carded set this time around is to recreate the Leviathan, also from Helbound. And the $1000 question: Did NECA manage to pull it off again?

Packaging - Channard: *** ½; the rest: ***
Clamshells have really spoiled me when it comes to carded figures, however these are some of the nicer cards out there. The graphics are attractive and simple. Best of all, each figure has their own personal bio on the back –something that’s hard to find with a lot of movie figures these days.

Dr. Channard comes in a huge windowed box. The figure displays well and the graphics on the sides are very nice. The back has the character’s bio and some inset shots of various features found in the set. The insert isn’t collector friendly however, and you’ll probably tear the inside completely apart trying to get Channard and the base out in one piece.

Sculpting - Channard: ****; Female, Frank: *** ½; Twins: ***; Pinhead: ** ½
These figures truly run the gamut on looks.
Channard is the easy winner among this batch. Every little buckle, strap, pattern, and wrinkle is there for the eye to see. The head sculpts are both dead on when compared to the movie. You get two heads: one neutral one, and one bearing his teeth. Both heads have a hole in the top to accommodate the Leviathan tentacle. The hands are opened to make room for the snakes –the palms have permanent hollows for them. I think a peg hole would have been less intrusive to the hand design, but it looks fine.

So the big question has finally been answered: which version of the female would we be getting from NECA? Separate actresses in Hellraiser and Hellbound played the character, and their faces are definitely different, even with all the makeup. Well the second movie gave all of the Cenobites much more screen time, so I think we all remember the Hellbound version better, which is what we’ve got here. Just like all the Pinheads, Barbie, and Butterball, the Female has the solid sculpt skirt. She also has a similar back design to Dr. Channard: open spinal column, with a steel ring, leading up to a high collar. Her hands are specifically sculpted to hold her knives. You can argue about the wire detail on such head sculpts as Angelique and the Wire Twin, but I think the Female might have been the hardest challenge with her trademark front throat/cheek piercing. Instead of metal, the arc is made of soft plastic to allow for a little play in the neck articulation –very little, since the back of her head is attached to her collar by a hook.

Just like Julia from series 2, Frank also has a skin problem –in that he doesn’t have any. However, Frank doesn’t spend a significant amount of screen time in the buff, so we get him in his sports jacket ensemble. What little of Frank can be seen looks good, but he’s nowhere near as impressive as Julia. The pants and jacket are serviceable enough. The body of the jacket itself is a separate piece of soft plastic, allowing you to open the front for a better view of his bloody, wrinkled shirt. The back of the torso is hollowed out, and the jacket is glued into the space. While this is a little weird, it’s not noticeable unless you poke him in the spine. His head and hands are a little too small for his body. Admittedly, they should be slightly smaller to accommodate the lack of skin, but when compared to the bulk of the main body; they’re out of proportion. This can be seen clearly at the head, where the neck appears to be almost as thick as the skull. 

The Bloodline Twins are saved by their head sculpt. The body also has the same solid skirt build as the Female and others, but much wider. There’s not a ton of detail in the actual body design and the figure comes off as blocky –but that’s more a flaw of the original character design than anything else. The arms look nice, but the articulation at the shoulders makes them look a little off kilter. The duel head sculpt is excellent however and captures the smile and frown expressions perfectly. The center section is soft plastic to allow for some flexibility, but not much.

Out of the three Pinhead sculpts we’ve seen, this one’s the worst. The goofy expression on the face just kind of ruins it, plus the angle of the neck keeps him from attaining any sort of neutral pose. The nailed hands are okay, but look a little goofy with the soft, bendable pins. The body detailing is about the same as the other Pinheads.

Paint - Channard, Female, Frank: ****; Twins: ***; Pinhead: ** ½
Most of these figures are flawless. Channard is detailed down to the light gold highlights on his torso. The skin tone also mimics the blue hue he had going on in Hellbound. The dried blood around his facial wire also adds a nice look to the figure’s demeanor. 

The Female and Frank are also pretty much perfect. The skin tone and face of the Female mimic the movie character to a tee. Frank’s muscle and veins make him the most brightly colored figure in series three. The blood on his shirt is a nice touch, especially since most of it is under his jacket.

The Twins just don’t have much to paint. The facial tone look fine, but the skin on the torso and hands all look to be a little off in color.

Pinhead has some sloppy blood on his chest. His head is really uneven: the strip around the eyes is almost a rectangle of blue.

Articulation - Channard: *** ½; Female, Frank: ***; Pinhead, Twins: **
Once again Channard is in the lead with twenty points of articulation. He has a neck peg, cuts at the biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, thighs, ankles, ball-jointed shoulders, and pinned knees and ankles. While all of them function well, the shoulders and knees are somewhat limited by the figure design. Some of the cut joints in the arms feel a little loose.

Frank has eight: a ball-jointed head, cuts at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and waist. The neck joint is a little limited, but gives him some variations for posing. The arms are kind of set in pre-posed positions, so the elbow joints don’t add too much.

The Female has seven points: ball-jointed shoulders, and cuts at the neck, elbows and wrists. The neck joint is kind of nullified by her neck gear. Her collar limits the shoulders, but she has enough play for variation and can mimic her movie poses.

The Twins have eight spots: ball-jointed heads, cuts at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The arm articulation only allows for a little pose variation. The heads joints are basically null because of the double sculpt.

Pinhead comes with seven points: cuts at the neck, elbows, wrists, and ball-jointed shoulders. While the arm articulation allows for some posing, the head is sculpted at such an angle that a neutral look is impossible. 

Accessories - Channard: ****; Pinhead, Female: *** ½; Frank: ***; Twins: ** ½
When it comes to personal accessories, this category’s really all over the place.

First off, being a boxed set, Channard has the clear advantage over the other four, or five if you want the count the twins as two separate characters. He comes with three sets of hand snakes, an alternative head, and a display base with a two-part tentacle of Leviathan. Each set of snakes consists of three separate tentacles ending in their own unique torturous device. If you go back and watch these stop-motion monsters in Hellbound, you’ll see that the head designs were all taken directly from the source material. The snakes fit into the slotted palms on Channard pretty well, but I would have liked a more defined peg as opposed to a rectangular chunk shoved into the hand.

The base itself is designed to look like the top of the Cenobite making cabinet Channard goes into. The black and gold designs mimic the feel of everyone’s favorite puzzle box. Attached to the back is the stump of Leviathan’s tentacle. Not only is this thing extensively detailed, but it’s strong enough to suspend Channard in the air. The head has a black peg that can be inserted into either head sculpt (see sculpting). The ball joint above the peg allows for some display variations, as does the swivel at the base.

Since each of the carded figures come with their own accessories as well as pieces of Leviathan, it’s a little hard to accurately judge each figure’s score. Pinhead comes with his standard set of three: straight knife, saw, and curved knife. These can all be removed from the string hanging from his waist, but he can’t hold any of them due to his hand sculpts. He also comes with two sections of Leviathan. The Female only comes with two knives, but they are specifically copied from the ones she displays in Hellbound. The designs are right on, and the butts are notched to hang on string, even though she doesn’t come with one. Like Pinhead, she also comes with two sections of the Leviathan. Frank comes with a rat and his switchblade. The rat is serviceable and fits perfectly in his left hand. The switchblade is friggn’ tiny, and will surely be lost among my carpet in the near future. While it is certainly to scale with the source material, I would have preferred a slightly bigger knife. I just know I’m going to lose this speck of plastic some day soon. Frank also come with two more sections of Leviathan, as well as the middle battery box and switch. The Bloodline Twins don’t come with squat, so NECA packed them with Leviathan’s base and stand to try and make up for it.

So, after putting all those triangles together, what do you get? One monster of a display item. While the Pillar of Souls was far more detailed and stunning to look at, NECA went above and beyond with what they had to do on Leviathan. I thought that they were planning on producing the inverted, diamond puzzle box from Hellbound. Instead, this thing is supposed to represent the full-scale sucker floating above the labyrinth. This thing is over eighteen inches tall from tip to tip! To top it off, NECA has designed it with a battery-powered box in the middle so it can light up as well and each side! While it isn’t exactly pouring out black light like in the movie, the dark violet lights look okay, and blend with the design pretty well. 

The base has photo art of the labyrinth below and a clear plastic stand. Unfortunately the stand design is somewhat weak and awkward for an object of this size. In the end it’s more of a balancing act to keep ol’ Levi upright. 

Durability/Quality - **
I’ve had problems with this series in the past. Stitch’s forearm (Series 1) twisted clean off right out of the package, and Butterball’s (Series 2) left arm has completely come out of the socket with little movement. The ball joints on Channard, the Female, and Pinhead all feel a little fragile, so I’m a tad skittish about messing with them too much. Channard’s arms cuts are also feel a little weak. 

The worst problem is with Pinheads cranial construction. On the top of his head in the back are huge gaps in between his grid lines.

Value - Channard: **; the rest: ***
Depending on where you pick these figures up, you can get them as low as $10.99. That’s a pretty good value on these guys, especially with the Leviathan and rising costs seen in other lines.

Channard is going for around $24 in some places; the lowest I’ve seen him at was $22. Great figure or not, I don’t think he should be going for anywhere over twenty. I’d say $17 or $18 at the most.

Southern Island has the set for $49.95.

Killer Toys has the set for just $38, or the individual figures for $10 - $11.  They also have Dr. Channard for $22.

CornerStoreComics has the individual figures for $11, or the good doctor for $23.

Overall - Dr. Channard: ****; The Female, Skinless Frank: *** ½; Bloodline Twins: ***; Hell on Earth Pinhead: ** ½
Yup, all over the place. 

Even with the high cost, Channard is by far the best Cenobite NECA’s produced to date. While he doesn’t have a more exotic look like Butterball, Angelique, or the Surgeon, the level of detail, articulation, and the tentacle display base really put this guy over the top. Plus he’s one heck of an eye-catcher when dangling above the rest of the Cenobites on display.

The Female is easily the most anticipated of the series, and will probably be the most popular since she’s the last of the four original Cenobites from Hellraiser to be produced. She does not disappoint in looks, accessories, or articulation either. Frank is slightly below her, but still retains a unique enough look among the other figures to stand out. The head may be a little small, but he still looks good.

The Bloodline Twins grew on me because of their wonderful double head sculpt. I thought that they would be the sure-fire peg warmers of this set, but I think that spot’s reserved for Pinhead. This version of Doug Bradley’s staple character just doesn’t look all that great when compared to the other two out there. Plus, did we really need another Pinhead? If NECA wanted another Cenobite from Hell on Earth, there were still a few to choose from such as Camera Head, Terri, and J.P. Of course this leads to another question: will there be a fourth series?

Looking over the possible creatures left for production we have the Engineer from Hellraiser; Terri, J.P., and Camera Head from Hell on Earth; and the Bound Cenobite from Hellseeker. That doesn’t leave much in the way of variety, but does allow for the existence of one more series should NECA go for it. Plus with two more movies on the way, there could be few more Cenobites in the making. I would argue that we should get a figure of Kirsty Cotton since she’s a central character in quite a few of these movies. Besides, who wouldn’t want their own miniature Ashley Laurence?

All we can do is wait and see. Stephen King once said “I have seen the future of horror, and it is Clive Barker.” Well, action figure-wise, McFarlane has been pushed aside in my opinion. With NECA producing figures of high quality from Freddy vs Jason, Halloween, and Hellraiser, they’ve got little competition these days. Plus they managed to snag the House of 1000 Corpses line along with the sequel, so the future of horror figure looks bright in general.

Figure from the collection of Sean Teeter.

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