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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the sickest and most depraved horror films of its time,
and I love every minute of it. Where other films had only touched on
the barest suggestion of the link between sex and death, Hellraiser
shoves that fact right in your face.
Frank Cotton (who starts out the film as the main character) is a soulless man who lives only for life's pleasures. He will go to great lengths to satisfy his lusts, and thinks nothing of who he may be stepping on to get there. He is offered a small, strange puzzle box called The Lament Configuration by a strange man in what looks and sounds to be a Mid Eastern market. The box, he is promised, will open the gates to a world of pleasures that no mortal can possibly imagine. Frank takes the box, but he doesn't understand that the pleasures the box offers are to the demons who live within it. The Cenobites, sadomasochistic creatures who live eternally beyond the gates that the box can open and close, take great pleasure in ensnaring new human victims to toy with, imprisoning them forever in a labyrinth of pain and suffering. Frank disappears, and many months later, his brother and sister-in-law come to live in the abandoned home.
The film then switches gears and gives us a new main character: Julia. Julia, the wife of Frank Cottons brother Larry, is a cold woman. Beautiful and immaculate, she is icy and distant and seems to derive no pleasure from anything, least of all her husband and his daughter from a previous marriage, Kirsty. Julia's only private joy are the memories she has of Frank, with whom she once had an affair. Frank seems to be the only man who was never intimidated by Julia, treating her roughly and breaking down her defenses. Little does Julia know that Frank never left the house; he is upstairs, in the attic, having escaped from the Cenobites and now biding his time until he can return to a world of flesh and blood. When Larry accidentally injures himself and bleeds on the floor of the attic, Frank is brought back, feeding on the fluid and slowly regenerating, growing back bones, muscle and skin. Julia soon discovers the terrible secret in the attic. After her initial shock and disgust, she agrees to help Frank, for whom she still lusts, and begins bringing him men she picks up in bars. She bludgeons them to death and Frank feeds on them, each one helping him in his regeneration.
The film then switches points of view once more and Kirsty becomes the main character. Kirsty, who has never liked the pretentious, frigid Julia, becomes suspicious. Her suspicions are soon confirmed when she comes face to face with "Uncle Frank" and barely escapes his bloody clutches, the Lament Configuration in her hand. She accidentally opens it, and when the demons within, led by the now-famous Pinhead, threaten to take her back with them to their dimension, she makes a deal: she will lead them to Frank, and they can have him instead of her. From there on out, it is a countdown; will Kirsty find Frank in time? Can her father be saved from the adulterous couple plotting against him in his own house? Or will it be too late for all of them?
This is another sex-equals-death film, but with a slightly updated feel. Julia is Bad; she cheats on her husband and likes her sex rough. Kirsty is Good, but she is no virgin, living with her boyfriend and eagerly engaging in premarital sex. Larry, a dull-as-paste husband who seems to genuinely love his wife but doesn't quite understand how to treat a woman, falls victim to his own blandness. He never sees what's coming because he possesses no imagination, no foresight; he is just the everyday, mundane man mowed under by his own unspectacular existence. Frank is the ultimate Bad; he is a user. He likes sadism, but not when it is turned on him. The Cenobites are the real reason this film was so successful; expressionless zombies in black leather and fetish wear. Led by the majestic Pinhead, they come into our world equipped with chains and hooks and all manner of painful devices, literally ripping their victims apart without batting an eye. They are what Frank wants to be, but Frank is not strong enough. He collapses beneath the weight of his own ego; he wants to think he is a god, but he is only an insect after all.
This film received an X rating when it was first released, but seems pretty tame now. The gore effects are only a tad dated, but they're still quite shocking. I think the X rating might have been due more to the films unrelenting sadism than anything else. It's sick and remorseless, but that's not to say it's bad. It's innovative. Nothing like it had been seen up to that time, and it still remains an original. It never imitates; it's all fresh and frighteningly new and should be appreciated for that if nothing else. Followed by one pretty good sequel and a handful of really bad ones, this first installment remains the best. Should be seen at least once.
In a decade of cheap, exploitive slashers, we finally get this one.
Instead of some maniac ripped from Halloween, we get a simple wooden box. Simple, or so Frank thought.
What results is a cinematic masterpiece, a great mix of gore and violence, as well as a great musical score and some nice drama. The acting is fine, but there are imperfections. One common complaint: The characters are not pleasant enough we can latch onto them. Maybe that's because these seem more realistic than the characters we CAN latch onto. Just a thought, don't jump on this.
What really gets me, though, is the people calling it down, saying it's not quality entertainment. Come on guys, if it was SUPPOSED to be Shakespeare, it would not advertise as being able to "tear your soul apart."
The presence of the cenobites was originally intended not to carry the story but to emphasize it. As usual, the sequaes ignored it. Hey, merchandizing.
This is the only one of the series that depends on the story more than the demons. We hardly ever see the infamous Pinhead at all.
all in all, this was a fun movie. No Shakespeare, but it's not supposed to be. Just dramatic, gory, groundbreaking horror, delivered to us excellently by Mr. Barker.
Hellraiser was a bloody good film but part of me wishes I hadn't seen it
because it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I remember
renting it out on video along with A Nightmare On Elm Street back in the
late 1980's. I thought Freddy Krueggar was bad but those cenobites scared
the you know what out of me.
The acting is good throughout the film and praise must go to everyone. The characters were very interesting characters from the humans right up to the cenobites.
There was a lot of gore in this movie and it was quite sick at times-not a film to watch if you're eating.
The storyline of the film is a very intriguing one and very original indeed.
But those cenobites didn't half scare me particularly when that pinhead said, "We will tear your soul apart!" Then again, that is what a good horror is all about-scaring the you know what out of it's audience.
If you're looking for a quality horror movie of the 80's then check this one out. Just don't be surprised if it sends you hair grey.
I first saw this brilliant shocker when I was only ten years old and it scared the hell out of me!I still think that this is a really effective horror filled with gruesome imagery(for example rats nailed to the wall)."Hellraiser" reminds me a bit such Italian horror movies like "The Beyond"(1981)and "The House by the Cemetery"(1981),mainly due to its surreal atmosphere of total dread.Add also plenty of gore and some really gruesome special effects made by Bob Keen("Proteus")and you have a winner!I like "Hellraiser" series in general(especially "Hellbound:Hellraiser 2" which is,in the unrated/uncut version a nasty gorefest!),even Part 5("Hellraiser:Inferno")that almost only get bad reviews.It surely is the lowest budget film of the series so far,but it tells a gripping story of one's personal hell with Pinhead involved."Hellraiser:Bloodline" is the only one I really don't like,although it's quite interesting too,because you can see that post production was a mess(making it a Alan Smithee film in the end).
I have seen Hellraiser many, many times; but my most recent viewing of
the film was different to the rest. It was different because this was
the first time that I've seen the film since reading Clive Barker's
novel "The Hellbound Heart". The novel both enhanced my enjoyment for
the film, and exposed some of its flaws. With the book, Barker really
allows the reader to get inside the character's head, which ensures
that the horror is more shocking. His descriptions are also a lot more
macabre than what is shown in the film, and the way that certain things
in the book are missed out/abridged shows some of the wasted
opportunities of the story. This isn't really a criticism of the film,
but rather of books being turned into movies on the whole. People often
say that the book is better than the movie; and in this case it's true!
Even so, Hellraiser is an absolute classic horror film, and easily one
of the best of the eighties; not to mention all time. The plot simply
follows Frank Cotton. Frank is a man in search of unknown pleasures,
and in order to achieve that he buys a mysterious music box. This box
does give out pleasure; but it's inflicted by a band of demons, known
as 'Cenobytes' - and their idea of pleasure differs from Frank's! The
story picks up when Frank's brother and his girlfriend, Julia, move
into the house where Frank was taken...
The main reason Hellraiser stands out among horror films is because of its themes. Barker weaves shades of love, eroticism and, of course, pain and pleasure into his tale of demons and scarred flesh - and this really makes the film. We can care for the characters and what happens to them because of what Barker puts between them, and it's always evident that this film is head and shoulders above the rest of the schlock-horror sub-genre. The special effects, particularly on the screen time surrounding Frank, are simply stunning and show how real effects beat all this CGI rubbish hands down, while also showing that a low budget can be overcome. The film is never gratuitous with its gore or effects either, and everything in this film is there because it has to be. This is what annoys me about non-horror fans - films like this are dismissed by them because they're "too gory" or "stupid" - but Hellraiser breaks the mould because it's a truly original story and the way that Barker implements a macabre love story amidst a plethora of shocking horror is extremely skilfully handled, and more than challenges many of the so-called 'A-class' films.
A writer directing his own work tends to ensure that it will get proper treatment, and this is mostly true here. Some things have been changed from the book for no apparent reason (mostly with the characters of Larry and Kristy), but the only thing that really annoyed me was the ending. I suppose it's due to the time that it was made, but the ending feels tacked on to me. Barker's ending in the book was perfectly judged - just open enough to hint at more, while closing the story enough so that the reader is satisfied. Here, we have a schlock finale that is entertaining, but pulls away from the closed atmosphere that Barker has spent the film creating. This film differs from most other eighties horror films because of the fact that the actors are a talented bunch. You come to expect bad acting from this sort of film - but Hellraiser has none of it! The entire cast shine, with Clare Higgins making the biggest impression as the evil Julia. This was Clive Barker's directorial debut, and at times, it's clear that this is the case; but Barker makes the best of his locations, and while his camera sometimes feels enclosed; it fuses with the tragic music brilliantly, and all this helps the film to create that fabulous atmosphere so convincingly.
Overall, I have pointed out a couple of flaws here; but I really can't bring myself to give this masterpiece any less than full marks. The originality on display throughout Hellraiser is astounding, as is the atmosphere and the performances pulled out of the actors, along with the fact that this film has entertained me many times and is still as good today as the first time I saw it. All of this ensures that Hellraiser will be an endearing favourite of mine for the rest of my life. If you consider yourself a fan of horror and haven't seen this; shame on you. Make sure you read the book, too!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
HELLRAISER is the definition of horror ! I don't think there are much
films who represent the genre better than this one. The story is
original and horrifying, the make-up effects are flawless and very
brutal, the characters get under your skin and the villains ( if I may
call the Cenobites that ) will haunt your thoughts long after you
finished watching this movie. Clive Barker is one of the most talented
authors in the field of horror. He did a great job here in filming his
own writings. He knows exactly where to put the stress, how to create
the right atmosphere and when to attack the viewer with some great
twists. Larry Cotton and his 2nd wife Julia move in to his parental
house. It seems that Larry's brother, who was always a rather morbid
person, has been there too but there's no sign of him. When Larry
accidentally spills blood to the floor, something real strange happens.
Because of the blood Frank, who was caught in the wooden floor, comes
back to life. He escaped from hell and the torments of the Cenobites.
Julia discovers Frank, who is still very weak. Because she always loved
him and had an affair with him once, she promises to cure him
completely. She brings home men for him, but it has to happen fast,
cause it's only a matter of time before the Cenobites find him. It's
Kirsty, Larry's daughter, who discovers this horrible secret. She
steals the box and gets in contact with the Cenobites. As a sort of
deal to escape hell, she gives her word that she'll take them to
Like I said, this is pure horror. This is one of the rare films that makes you shiver and sweat. The character of PINHEAD, the lead Cenobite, grew out to one of the biggest icons in horror. In fact, he's the only who really deserves this status. He's pure evil, but ...fair. As strange as that may sound, he's bound to rules and he doesn't break them. You have to be in his world before he's a threat to you, but when you are there's no escape from his evil. When you may fire off quotes like:"no tears, please. That's a waste of good suffering" or "we'll tear your soul apart" you are EVIL, no discussion about that.
HELLRAISER is praised everywhere. Even other big names in the genre declared this a masterpiece. Stephen King himself was very impressed as well. Clive Barker has done some other great works like NIGHTBREED and LORD OF ILLUSIONS. The also famous tale of CANDYMAN is from his hand as well. All recommendations if you liked this film, and it's hard to imagine that you didn't. Hellraiser was followed by many sequels. Hellraiser 2 is great as well and a logical continue of the story. All the rest are inferior, but still very entertaining if you're a big fan of Pinhead...like I am.
Contrary to what one might conceive in their minds BEFORE watching this
classic horror movie, it should be said that Clive Barker has delivered
us a real gem of a horror story, packed with intensity, both
emotionally, as well as physically. "Hellraiser" is about love, lust,
pain, and pleasure. It's been called an "otherworldly tale of pain and
torture". It's been referred to as a grim, Gothic romance. Needless to
say, it's gore following is much more in numbers than that of the "Lord
Of The Rings" trilogy. Truly, this film is everything one see's it to
be, from a romance, to a gore show, to a good ol' fashioned scare show.
Either way, it's a fine film regardless. I might add, however, that it
may come as a surprise upon first viewing. What is surprising, is the
way it plays out very dramatic. Our characters are very down to earth,
each with their own personal idiosyncrasies and inner demons, not to
mention personal strengths. Each of them stands like a look at the
different human desires, fears, joys, and sorrows. It plays out like a
grim, Shakespeare play. A man and woman, Larry and Julia Cotton, moving
into a home where memories dwell upon like haunting spirits. Larry is a
charismatic optimistic gentleman, full of love and compassion for his
wife, and his daughter, Kirsty. Julia is a human relic of baggage and
fallen dreams, because she bears so many dark secrets, one of which is
an affair with Frank, her husband's younger brother. Frank is alive,
and replenishing himself after a rather nasty encounter with a
Pandora's Box. Larry's blood, spilled over a hardwood floor, brings
Frank back to life from an excruciating death, in one of the finest
special effects sequences in cinematic history. Once Julia and Frank
reunite, their love is more dangerous, and powerful than imagined.
Together they conspire in the grand tradition of "McBeth" and
"Othello", to reign in pleasure once again. Enter Kirsty, Larry's
daughter, and Frank's niece. A warm hearted, but determined soul who
crosses paths with Julia and Frank before they can finish their
diabolical plan. Kirsty eventually encounters the dark secret beheld
Frank upon his death, a puzzle box. It brings pain, pleasure, and
death. Creatures of darkness; the Cenobites, angels to some, demons to
others, come to Kirsty when she accidentally calls upon their ghoulish
powers. Once unleashed, they must take someone back, and Kirsty knows
now, how Frank is back, and she intends to return him to his deathly
justice, and save her family...
The writing is just remarkable. Clive Barker has given us people, humans, planted in their own desires, and determinations, and he tears them apart with fear, pain, death, destruction, and total degradation. The Cotton family are the perfect example of purity, torn to shreds by hate, lust, and anguish, and he takes great glee in showing us all the gory details.
The production is a real high! This is what the best type of films are made of. Real, gory, bloody human remains, connecting to each other in divine sequence, to create a 100% greedy man. The colors are plenty and gorgeous. The look of the blood, and the shine of the lights, and the way the actors are lit... It's just beautiful. The music of the film is brilliant. Composer Christopher Young chills the film, and drenches it with his dramatic variation of the main title, and the rest of the music contains harsh strings, brass horns, music box cues, and rhythmic cues that speed the pace up with action.
Clive Barker is such a great writer and director, and filmmaker altogether. He has given us a great thriller that crosses the line between reality and fiction, in great taste and color, literally. It's no wonder twenty years later, the film stands on it's own, aside from it's sequels, and remains an ultimate horror classic to end them all...well some of them anyway. It's not the only horror film to portray itself intellectually, and it certainly has it's gore effect to an all time high. Still, it's quite a dashing and artful film, and always a treat to watch every time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A lot of people on this site are moaning that HELLRAISER isn't all that
scary . Well define " Scary " ? opening an electricity bill and finding
that it exceeds your life savings causes my heart to miss a few beats
but will anyone be making a horror film about someone getting a massive
electricity bill ? I don't think so either and very few films have
terrified me and the notable few that have scared me witless like
THREADS , QUATERMASS AND THE PIT aren't strictly speaking horror movies
. In fact the one thing that used to terrify was DOCTOR WHO and what's
that ? A childrens TV show shown at tea time so let's not kid ourselves
horror movies are scary
!!!! SPOILERS !!!!
What I absolutely love about HELLRAISER is that it's not really a horror film as such - It's a macabre love story with loads of subtext about how love and sex can destroy us and in many ways it can be viewed as an AIDS allegory ( 1 ) . Larry doesn't satisfy his wife in a sexual matter and it's this sexual inadequacy that leads to his death , Julia lusts after Frank which leads to her death , men who've just met Julia go back to her flat for some casual sex only to be murdered , while Frank lusts after Kirsty ( Who can blame him ? ) and it's this obsession that leads to his death at the hands of the Cenobites
ah yes the Cenobites . A lot of people seem upset that the Cenobites aren't to the fore in this movie but it should be pointed out that they're the catalyst of the story not the focus . The story revolves around Frank and Julia's relationship and Julia's dissatisfaction with her marriage . In fact you could easily rewrite the story with Frank being on the run from a criminal gang instead of demons from another dimension and you'd still have the same story
I will admit there are some flaws to the movie such as the bizarre dubbing but I should point out that this was done post production in order to make the characters more identifiable ( 2 ) to an American audience hence English characters speaking with Bronx accents which does make some of the performances laughable . Ironically the only performance which can be described as bad is genuine American Ashley Laurence as Kirsty , but hey she's gorgeous so let's not complain too much lads . Writer/director Clive Barker's strengths do outweigh any weakness , take for example the scene in the hospital where a nurse watches TV and it's not a TV show she's watching but a rose in bloom , and for me the greatest image isn't the murder and gore but the scene at the end where a photograph of Frank burns to a haunting soundtrack . Barker does get good performances out of most of the cast namely Andrew Robinson who isn't as good as he was in DIRTY HARRY but he'll never be able to top that and he is good as uber wimp Larry , Claire Higgins as femme fatale Julia and Sean Chapman as the human version of Frank. I thought Chapman might have gone on to become a big name after this movie but strangely not . Even stranger I thought Barker would have gone onto bigger and better things but for some reason I found myself disliking his other stuff and seems to have disappeared from film making all together and I can't say I'm all that upset
HELLRAISER is a classic story on the themes of love and death . Such a pity someone wanted to turn the movie into a franchise
( 1 ) The same week HELLRAISER was released FATAL ATTRACTION topped the US box office charts . One can't help thinking HELLRAISER would have been better regarded if it came out a few weeks earlier since the subtext is very similar to the Michael Douglas blockbuster
( 2 ) HELLRAISER spent several weeks in the US box office reaching a peak of number three on the charts and taking millions of dollars ( Not bad for a movie costing one million bucks ) so the dubbing is probably justified
Hellraiser (1987) is a dark masterpiece from the twisted world of Clive
Barker. Based upon his novel "The Hellbound Heart", Mr. Barker takes us
on a trip where people desperate for kicks search out for the ultimate
thrill. A sleaze ball named Frank manages to get his oily mitts upon a
gaudy looking Rubik's cube that he bought at a bizarre bazaar from a
greasy moth eating merchant. Frank (never the sharpest tool in the
drawer) gets more than he bargain for when he some how manages to open
A great horror flick that'll send legit chills up your spine. This film not only marks Clive Barker's feature length debut but it introduces the world (and pop culture) to Pinhead! If you don't know by now Pinhead is the coldest and coolest fiend to ever come across the screen in years. He only has an an extended cameo in this one but he'll be back in the latter films. I highly recommend this horror classic.
Not only does this film has some scary elements but it has some classic lines.
"What's your pleasure sir?"
"If you cross us your suffering will be legendary, even in hell!"
"Come to daddy" Frank's mac daddy line.
Hellraiser may not be an incredible work of horror genius, but it
certainly is one of the more inventive and engagingly dark and twisted
horror films of the 1980s, when horror films were almost all dull,
poorly made, recycled, and absurd. Hellraiser's themes include
sadomasochism, in an intriguing concept of the slasher figure in the
story, which is a Gothic- looking antique puzzle box that summons
ruthless demons to victimize the person in possession of it by
subjecting them to a world of debilitating eternal pain. It also
involves a femme fatale on the level of a chiller that does not involve
fantasy, played brilliantly in an extremely acute performance by
beautiful Clare Higgins. There is the layer of plot surrounding her
that inhabits late-thirties, early-forties married and adulterous life
with her almost frustratingly naive and unsuspecting husband, which is
invaded by the devilish embodied soul of her ex-lover, brutalized by
the demons of the puzzle box. Finally, at the core of the story is the
pivotal character, as her fill of screen time patiently awaits to the
point where she is revealed to be so, and she is the teenage
stepdaughter, played by Ashley Laurence, one of the sexiest actresses I
have ever seen. Everything from her voluptuous body to her
scream-bloody-murder portrayal of the stepdaughter makes me wonder why
her career never went any higher than this.
So yes, the movie is more urbane than the vast majority of other horror films in that decade. It's even set in England. It's interesting that no one has an English accent in England, according to this movie, but nevertheless the locale serves the film with a dark atmosphere of sophistication and antiquity, which suits a story that surrounds an age-old puzzle box. This feel of the movie that I speak of is interrupted, quite inexplicably by beer-drinking, dirty-T-shirt-wearing American furniture movers, which I didn't know they had in England.
Hellraiser is quite an enormous entertainment despite its 1980s-style inconsistencies that I suppose it just couldn't help but have. It's especially enjoyable during autumn, mainly during Halloween time.
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