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Hellraiser (1987)

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Plot Summary:
"When Frank Cotton solves the mystery of a Chinese puzzle box he enters the world of the Cenobites. A world where these cruel sadists thrive on pain. Later, restored to life by the blood of his brother Larry, Frank rises to feed on the life force of others. When Larry's wife agrees to provide the sacrifices he needs, the spills, chills and thrills are just beginning."

Reviewer: Andrew Rowat @horrorasylum
Location:Surrey, UK
Review Date: 08 August 2004 My Rating: out of 5


Hellraiser is masterclass horror movie, completely original and revelling in its own gory uniqueness. It plays more as a dark piece of theatre than a slasher, and let's face it we can do without another one of them, Hollywood almost saturated the genre with the slasher flick... and then Clive Barker comes on to the scene.

Mostly reputed as a horror novelist, Barker has had dalliances in short-film making. His directorial touch is most assured, teasing a nauseating dread out of every set piece and coaxing great performances of sheer terror from his cast. Most recognisable is Andrew Higgins, who was wonderful as the psycho in that other classic Dirty Harry; here, he plays the father and husband moving into his brother's old home. Little does he know, his brother, Frank, was having sex with his wife in this same building... moreover, his brother also toyed with an ancient box conjuring the evils that lurk in Hell, hence killing him with lots of hooks. Frank was, essentially, a bad boy.

Most of the film portrays the wayward wife's collaboration with the (ought-to-be-dead) Frank in resurrecting him, via her dispatching of many victims and his eating them. The suspicious daughter is the film's beating heart of goodness, her young romance with some young chap simmers in the background while the evil, that is Frank, slowly emerging from his limbo is played out with relish.

The film's main piece de resistance is its expression of satanic horror. Unlike most films in this subgenre it refuses to give us a physical incarnation of the Devil, it doesn't even allude to him. Instead we get Satan's Nazi Generals, the Cenobites, led by the now iconic Pinhead - a bunch of shadowy demons repossessing people's souls. Their's is an indistinguishable realm of pain and pleasure, though gouging hooks and freakish monsters is probably not most people's idea of pleasure. Barker wisely saves these ghouls for key moments in the story, thus their presence is never familiar and always fearful. The real coup, however, is Pinhead's transition from scary demon to heroic saviour in the final segments. I won't give anything away but it is breathtaking.

This film is a classic of satanic horror. The Lament Configuration Box (a kind of ouija board cum Rubik's cube) that unleashes Hell is a satisfying take on the forbidden fruit that tempted Eve. Watch it and enjoy its blacker than black atmosphere, some have complained of its lack of humour - but surely that's the point.

A film of remarkable beauty, (especially in its Cenobites arriving from Hell sequences) this film is also very scary, forging an feeling of sheer dread. This is a horror that ignores the American way, delivering its tale in a gritty, English manner. Clive Barker creates one of the greatest British horror flicks of recent times, a worthy evolution from the Hammer films.

Reviewer: Ryan McDonald @horrorasylum
Location:Sydney, Australia
Review Date: 13 December 2003 My Rating: out of 5

Despite my grumblings that there's not enough gore and violence in horror films these days ('Freddy vs. Jason' and 'Final Destination 2' did a little to rectify that, much to my delight), I've never been a fan of the gory, fetishistic 'Hellraiser' series. You see, I prefer horror films with a bit of a sense of humour, or at least with one or two characters I liked. However, I recently decided to give this, the original Clive Barker film another go.

The plot is weird, but here goes...It's about a family (Andrew Robinson, Ashley Laurence, Claire Higgins), a creepy new house, an adulterous wife (Higgins- bonking her husband's brother), a fellow adulterer who is now in a semi-skeletal, semi-gelatinous state (he lives in the attic craving human flesh) etc. Oh, and a gate to hell being opened, unleashing nasty, S&M loving, rather wordy demons. And then there's Satan's Rubik's cube.

Oh happy day! Exceptionally unpleasant, with chilly characters to match the dreary atmosphere, this is a masterwork in many people's eyes, and it is indeed well-crafted. But...yuck...and brrrrr for that matter. The film is unpleasant and freaky for no real purpose. I admired it from a distance, and I've always felt that head Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley) could've been a horror legend were he not so horribly wasted in all of these films. Robinson is the best of the performers, with Higgins a poor man's Joan Collins, neither likeable nor interesting.

Well-done, if this is your thing, you've probably already made a shrine to it. Some arresting visuals, but with no one to care about, and not much fun at all, in my view. Decent rating reflects the declining quality of the sequels more than anything else.

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