Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MR Hellraiser 1



Movie: Hellraiser also known as The Hellbound Heart and originally titled Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave
Directed by Clive Barker 
Release date 1987
Genre Horror/Psychological thriller film
Country United Kingdom

Easily one of the most iconic figures in horror films right up next to Freddy Kruegger and Jason Voorhees, Pinhead is probably one of the most intriguing and divisive "monsters" in the genre.

Probably because despite how many of his films they've made, he's not quite your typical slasher villain. A more eloquent representative of a more mature story.

That didn't stop them from coming up with more and more increasingly silly sequels though..

Based on the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, who would go on to write and direct the film adaptation of his own story. Clive Barker also wrote himself the screenplay of the film all by himself with the single purpose to get to direct the adaptation himself.  He wanted to protect his own creations and adaptations.

Hellraiser originally began under the same title as the novella, but the crew thought that title alluded to some kind of romantic thriller. So they settled for the title of Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave until finally coming up with Hellraiser amongst several other alternate titles.

The film was actually produced and filmed in 1986 for a release that year, but it would only come out in September 1987 after having some issues with the group Coil which was to perform the music for the film. They had to later completely re-score the film with Christopher Young instead.


Hellraiser tells the story of a man named Frank Cotton, our main antagonist. How he opened the gates to some alternate dimension (it's not clear if it's hell... or a weird twisted form of heaven!) via a strange puzzle box...

It all begins in Morocco. Frank was able to get his hands on this strange cube, a "Lemarchand's box". Back in the states he tried to summon a power he couldn't control in some abandoned home... and got torn to pieces by these creatures known as the Cenobites.

Some time has passed. We find out this house belonged to Frank's brother Larry. Larry and his distant wife Julia finally come by to move into the old homestead. We see how disapproving and estranged Julia is, dreaming of cheating on Larry with ol' Frank (they don't know he's dead yet). But one day after a little accident a drop of Larry's blood where Frank died brings him back to life!

Frank begins regeneration his lost body from scratch. He makes himself aware to Julia who starts bringing him men at home, victims to drain them off their blood. Lost in her passion and lust for Frank, the couple prepare to sacrifice Larry for the final kill.

Meanwhile Larry's daughter Kirsty solves the puzzle box and we find out it's a gateway of some sorts to this other reality. By opening this doorway, it allows the Cenobites to come back to our world. Kirsty promises them Frank in return for her own life. This strange creature (or guardian?) chases Kirsty away from the Cenobites' dimension.

Kirsty face her dangerous step-mother Julia and Frank. She guides the Cenobites back to Frank and they finally rip his body to bits for good. Suddenly they try to take Kirsty as well. But solving the puzzle sends the Cenobites back to the hell they came from, one by one...


Hellraiser is definitively an impressive feature.

Even more so considering it was made for under $1 million (a tenth of what was the budget for a film like the original Chucky, for comparison).

And it's one of the most memorable and unique horror films in the genre.

Clive Barker wanted to tell a story where the monsters could talk about what being a monster is like, about their condition. And both Frank and the Cenobites actually stand around and talk about their ambitious and wishes unlike your typical mute horror film villains.

The film has a pretty decent cast if relatively obscure, starring Ashley Laurence, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman, Andrew Robinson, and our inimitable Doug Bradley as the lead Cenobite Pinhead (unnamed in this film).

Doug Bradley did such an amazing job, despite not being able to actually see properly through these black contact lenses, even tripping on set! Think about that for a second! Doug Bradley wasn't even the lead in the running for the role, yet how could you even imagine anyone else in the role? (And you know how disastrous the recasting results were..)

The rest of the cast is also great. A lot of the famous lines from the films were even ad-libbed! Speaking of the cast, did you know we almost got Jennifer Tilly as Kirsty? Nothing against Ashley Laurence's great performance, but that would have been great casting!


The puzzle box is such an intriguing movie prop. Just as iconic as our Pinhead, it seems to open a gateway to a sort of Hell realm. The Cenobites remain fascinating mysterious creatures (which the sequels would reveal as former humans), harvesting souls through sadomasochistic torture...

The effects are all really creepy and impressive from Frank's zombie-like state at the beginning of his regeneration state to the Cenobites' creepy S&M-inspired costumes. They each had to endure hours of make up but the result speak for itself - they're all memorable and unique in their own unique way. Although Frank's probably scarier than the actual cenobites, he has a great creepy presence whenever he's on screen through the film.

There's also this impressive scary weird Cronenberg-ian creature, "the engineer", which came out great on film despite how difficult it apparently was to control on set.

Hellraiser is a legitimately scary film. With some genuinely creepy settings and a great atmosphere hinting at something bigger the audience couldn't grasp. The film avoids the traps of the usual slasher films (which the later sequels without Clive Barker's involvement would completely fall for...). Instead of a generic monster killing teenagers, we have here a much older cast in a more mature movie. In fact the true killer is a middle-aged woman!


It's not about the kills or the gore but setting the world. Pinehead oozes such a great presence on screen.

For the budget they had the practical effects simply look fantastic! Pinehead came out great, a master work on his own, and the freakish "engineer" creature is not that from what you would expect from John Carpenter’s The Thing. They even ran out of money!

Due to the censorship due Clive Barker was forced to cut a lot from the film to avoid an X-Rating for the more profitable R-Rating. The film used to show a lot of graphic content and longer gruesome scenes but he was really sad to be forced to cut some of the longer eroticism from the film too.

All in all Hellraiser is a masterful horror piece.

The true monsters are not who you might think of...

Acting as a replacement for Coil, Christopher Young composed a phenomenal if discreete score. You might know him for several other horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Tobe Hooper's 1985 film Invaders from Mars. He brought a stylish sensibility to the film, with a mix of gothic touches with modern synthesizers.


Overall, Hellraiser is a phenomenal gothic horror film, both beautiful and unique.

Where the film specially shines is through its writing. The film had great characters, all human with their own motivation, desires and pains. The production is pretty good for one of Clive Barker's first few films, he's both a great writer and filmmaker.

It's very atmospheric. The film is a pretty serious horror film. Using this disturbing imagery to take us to unconformable places. It's an intelligent horror film. The film is not without its flaws, there's some amateurish executions, this was only his third film directed, I'm mostly referring to the vague use of time and a couple of awkward edits and transitions. Otherwise it's a relatively well directed film. It's not just gore for the sake of gore, it's not a lazy splatter flick. I would call it great cinema. It just feels ambitious. Of course this is a Must Watch for any horror fan worth is sake out there!

Hellraiser was a memorable film that inspired generations to come. It was one of the main inspirations behind the Silent Hill video game. The Cenobites' universe would also be the major influence behind the entire brutal mature Berserk manga series.

Hellraiser would spawn a huge long-running franchise which covers nine films and all sorts merchandise and media. There's been various comic books  over the years. Clive Barker himself would only write and direct the first film (and its source novella), he remained involved on the first four films which he did not write. The controversial 9th film would not see Doug Bradley reprise his role due to the apparent lack of interest the filmmakers had even making the film... which explains why Bradley decided to drop out the role for the first time in the series (and that was after some wonky really weak sequels). But the producers have never really been bothered making any good movies with these sequels, just trying to cashing in the success of the first film. That's why very few of the sequels actually used original scripts, most of those follow ups were based on reworked unrelated screenplays.

This first Hellraiser would be followed by a direct sequel in 1988, Hellbound: Hellraiser II which continues from where the previous film left with both Kirsty and Julia back.

Following the disastrous last takes on the franchise, there's been talks recently to go back to basics and make a proper remake by Clive Barker himself again. Yes, Barker wants to remake his own film personally. He's already written the the story to be as true from his original vision as possible and is set to stick as much as possible with practical effects instead of lazy CGi. And he wants the original Cenobite actor Doug Bradley to return as Pinhead! I have no idea how any of this will turn out, but I'm enthusiastic.

I give it:
3 / 3 Necronomicons!

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