This movie hits very close to home for me. No, I’m not into pain, although a good spanking every so often isn’t bad (HA-HA). Actually, “Hellraiser” gives me a better understanding of where I will be spending my afterlife . . . in the depths of HELL. That’s alright because life was meant to be enjoyed.
But on a serious side (if there is such a thing here in the House of Horrors), “Hellraiser” is a film that tremendously changed the face of horror as we know it. In the years prior to its release, the “slasher” genre had been running out of control. Everyone and his mother was making a “slasher” film. We had Jason, Freddy, and even Michael Myers, who would return the year following “Hellraiser” after a short hiatus in a mental wardÊ (where he should have stayed). Horror was in dire need of a new direction (sure could use a little of this injected into horror today).
The original “Nightmare on Elm Street” looked like it could take on this challenge, but its sequels threw the series back into the “slasher” rut. I am not saying that this is a bad thing. In fact, looking at the films featured in The Vault, you can definitely see a very strong “slasher” presence. But with the stench of the never-ending body count and plethora of sequels, horror was heading in a downward spiral.
“Hellraiser” was one of the films that stopped the descent, at least for a while. Actually, 1987 was a very good year for horror. Classics such as “Evil Dead II,” “Bad Taste,” “Near Dark,” “Nekromantik,” and “Prince of Darkness” (just to name a few) were released. Too bad the rest of the decade kinda sucked for the genre, except for the 1988 release of “Hellraiser II,” which was as equally impressive as that of its predecessor.
“Hellraiser” elevated our fascination (well, at least mine) with the dark abyss of Hell to an entirely different level. Prior to its release, most films dealing with the netherworld focused on either demonic possession (“The Exorcist”) or demonic children (“The Omen” and “Rosemary’s Baby”. . . both coming soon to the HOH). “Hellraiser” introduced us to new cinematic monsters who rule throughout the depths of Hell, the “Cenobites.” Described as “demons to some and angels to others,” these purveyors of pain and pleasure will “rip your soul apart” and leave you begging for death!!!!!
Clive Barker truly succeeds in his directorial debut, not by making the Cenobites the focal point of the story, but through his eerie use of atmosphere shrouding the darkness of the Cenobites’ pending arrival. This atmospheric veil, intermingled with Frank’s monstrous race to cheat death, drives the film toward its exquisite climax. The special effects (Bob Keen) were extremely well done for a film with only a million-dollar budget. Christopher Young provided us with one of the better horror scores in the past 20 years. This film succeeds on so many levels for me and is definitely in my Top 10 Horror Films of All Time.
The following year saw the release of “Hellbound: Hellraiser II,” a tremendous sequel and IMHO almost matches the power of the original. The last two films in the series (“Hell on Earth” and “Bloodline”) strayed from the formula of success that Clive Barker and Tony Randel (no, not from “The Odd Couple,” but rather the director of “Hellbound: Hellraiser II”) had so firmly established. Pinhead had been transformed from the methodical “Lord of the Dark Realm” to a one-lining “Freddy-like” incarnation. If there is a Part V (and I’m sure there will be), let it be like the first two movies and not the last two.
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Larry Cotton and his lovely wife Julie have just moved into an old family home, preparing to start their lives anew. A strange feeling draws Julie to the attic and she is overcome with the memories of her true love, Larry’s brother, Frank. Suddenly Larry bursts into the attic, blood gushing from a large wound to his hand. Softly falling, drip . . . drip . . . drip, his blood seeps deeply into the cracks of the attic floor, feeding the unnamable which lurks in the darkness.
Later, as Julie is drawn back to this unholy place, she encounters a terror beyond her wildest dreams. But wait . . . it is her beloved ex-lover Frank (who isn’t quite himself), begging for her help. He explains that by solving the “Lament Configuration,” he had summoned spirits from the Outer Realms of Darkness. In his ardent desire for pleasure, he had also been met with pain as the Cenobites unleashed Hell’s fury upon him. Barely discernible as human, Frank now needs blood to regain his old form. He convinces Julie to seduce men and bring them home so he may feed upon them.
The real terror begins when Larry’s daughter Kirsty discovers what is hiding in the attic and steals away with the seemingly innocuous puzzle box capable of opening the portals of Hell. Ignorant of what awaits her, she inadvertently summons the Cenobites who then come for her soul. Desperate to save herself, she tells the Cenobites she knows of one who has escaped them and proceeds to bargain for her soul in exchange for Frank’s. But in Hell, as in life, things are never that easy and promises were meant to be broken. The ending sequence offers many twists and turns as it wends its way to its hellish conclusion.
Hellraiser Frightful Facts
- The budget for this film was $1 million dollars.
- Although this was Clive Barker’s directorial debut, he was previously involved in getting two of his short stories made into movies: Transformation and Rawhead Rex.
- The “Lament Configuration” was inspired by Chinese puzzle boxes Clive received as a child from his grandfather.
- The film is based on Clive Barker’s book “The Hellbound Heart.”
- Olive Smith played the part of “Frank the Monster.” He was cast because he only weighed 90 lbs. He would later return, sans makeup, as “Browning” (i.e. the guy on the mattress with maggots) in “Hellraiser II.”
- New World kicked in extra money at the end of the shoot, because they were so happy with what they saw. This was used to re-shoot the scene in which Frank first begins to reform.
- Many of the actors’ voices were re-dubbed by Americans because New World was uncomfortable with their British accent.
- New World didn’t want to call the movie “Hellraiser” so Clive was opened to suggestions. One woman suggested the title “What a woman will do for a good fuck”. Really, that title said it all.
- Clive Barker’s original title for “Hellraiser”, “Sadomasochist from Beyond the Grave”.
- The Cenobites are a mix between the Spanish Inquisitors and S & M leather freaks.
- The Female Cenobite is Clive Barker’s cousin Grace Kirby and Doug Bradley (Pinhead) was an old school friend.
- Andrew Robinson (Larry) came up with his last line: “Jesus wept”.
- Doug Bradley was not credited as “Pinhead,” but rather as “Lead Cenobite.” Pinhead was the name ascribed to the character in the films that followed.
- Clive only had to trim 20 seconds from the film to get an R–rating. These included a couple of hammer blows from Julie during her first killing, and some neck-blood sucking by Frank the Monster.
Extra (Also Read)
- Visit Clive Barker’s Official Webpage.
- Visit the best and most complete Hellraiser site on the net. The Hellbound Web.