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Unique and twisted
Gafke14 March 2004
Warning: 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.
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"Come to daddy."
Backlash0072 October 2001
This truly is groundbreaking horror from the highly imaginative mind of one Clive Barker. Hellraiser is one the best horror films ever made, let alone to come out of the eighties. It proves that slasher flicks don't rule the horror screen. There are other, better movies in the genre. The Cenobites are outstanding. They completely steal the show. Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley, a name that would become synonymous with Hellraiser), Female, Chatterer, and Butterball are awesome in all their gory S&M glory. Someone once said that if you assembled all of the horror icons at a dinner table, Pinhead would be the only one using silverware. After watching this movie again, that seems to be a very true statement. Aside from the Cenobites, Frank is an extraordinary sight to behold. Bob Keen's effects team has outdone themselves. The entire world that Barker has created astounds me. He's really pushing the envelope here. The dark imagery and the concept of the Lament Configuration are incredible. Why aren't more original movies made? Today they all seem to rip off the same concepts. Hellraiser is a completely original eerie experience. It's one of the few films I can think of that was unique and has stayed unique after all these years. There are a lot of opinions about the sequels. Mine is stop after Hellraiser II as II is the end of the truly dark nature that these films have (although III is certainly a guilty pleasure). If you haven't yet, see this highly exceptional horror classic immediately. It is undoubtedly one of my all time favorites.
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Trash to some, a horror masterpiece to all those who know what they're talking about!
The_Void27 October 2005
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!
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A Most Misunderstood Horror Film
rockproductions18 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I love to read what others say about "Hellraiser," but it never fails to amaze me, even in regards to people who love this film, how much many misunderstand it. People write on & on what great horror icons the "Cenobites" are, & yes this is true, they have made a huge impact to cinema horror, but the "Cenobites" are not what this truly intelligent horror film is about...no, not at all!

This is a film about Frank & Julia. Frank will stop at nothing to find the next thrill, even if it means his physical & metaphysical destruction. Julia is the cool aloof wife of Larry, Frank's brother. Julia is seduced by Frank's dark & sadistic sexual aura, though that same aura lay dormant in Julia until Frank awakened it by seducing Julia before her wedding to Larry. "I'll do anything," Julia desperately confesses to Frank to keep his affection. Little does Julia dream that in the future that will be exactly what she has to do to keep Frank, after he unleashes "the Box," & its horror, the Cenobites. In what is truly an Oscar worthy performance, Julia (Claire Higgins) the aloof, but so far non-threatening wife transforms into the murderous, cold, calculating queen bitch, to resurrect & have Frank. To bad we've not seen more of her in other films.

Yes, "Hellraiser" is about treachery in the family, the worse sort, deception & murder. "Hellraiser" is about blind love.(Spoilers) Larry's unswerving devotion to Julia, which makes him the last to know, & seals his doom. "Hellraiser" is about the tragic plight of Kristy trying to save her father. What could be worse than knowing a loved one is going to be murdered & you could not stop it? "Hellraiser" is about real life plausible situations that are better off left alone, the darkest part of the human psyche, to want something so bad you're will to sacrifice anything & anyone to achieve it, maybe even your self. "Hellraiser" aptly uses the theme of don't tempt fate ("the Box"), unless your prepared to be taken by it, as the "Cenobites" so profoundly demonstrates.

So yes, the true monster of this story is ambition & want. The "Cenobites" are just a cataclysmic vehicle (a very disturbing one) to carry Julia & Frank to their just deserts in the end. "Hellraiser" made the "Cenobites" seem like ultimate bogeymen by giving them little screen time & keeping them mysteriously cryptic to the audience, something later films could've benefited from. Thus "Pinhead" & crew were much more menacing & potent in this first, & by far the best, most intelligent film of the series, & in horror cinema.... But again, it was Julia & Frank, & their ambition & want that were the true terrors here. Nothing is more disturbing & horrific than discovering someone(s) you love & trust will eventually murder you.

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Evil in its purest form
Coventry20 June 2003
Warning: 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 Frank...

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.
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Gothic, Gory, Romantic, Beautiful, Colorful, and Tasteful horror film. A Gem!
TruPretender28 October 2007
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.
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It ain't SUPPOSED to be Macbeth, here folks....
Skippy-1928 December 1998
In a decade of cheap, exploitive slashers, we finally get this one. Relief.

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.
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Pure horror!
HumanoidOfFlesh29 January 2002
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).
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It Took Ten Years Off My Life Watching This
Big Movie Fan20 August 2002
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.
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More Urbane and Interesting Than Other 1980s Horror Movies
jzappa28 October 2007
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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The Greatest Horror Film Ever Made
Theo Robertson21 May 2004
Warning: 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
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A nasty lil' auld box that'll give you pain or pleasure.
Captain_Couth6 March 2004
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 it up.

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.

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Classic Horror Movie, Pinhead Point
johnnystubble18 February 2005
This is obviously the best Hellraiser. Nothing can beat the 1st scene when Pinhead and the Cenobites come in to view. It is simply some of the most powerful present day horror. The creativity of the hellbound world gives this movie a 9. With the low budget, it still maintains the vision of Clive Barker, the author who penned this original story. I believe that this movie and subject is at the apex of creativity instead of the boring slashers that have dominated horror movies in the 80's and 90's. Now, it seems we are getting the "I know what you did two summer's ago" and "weird horror flicks like "Grudge" and the films that it cloned.Pinhead point--He should actually be called 9-inch nail-head because that is what is pounded into his head not little pins.
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One of the more original horror movies around.
Boba_Fett11389 January 2010
This surely is a very refreshing and original horror movie to watch. It doesn't has the usual formulaic ingredients in it, such as monsters or a murderous psychopathic serial killer on the loose. No screaming teenagers and no dark haunted places. All we have this time is a cube, that opens doors to hell and unleashes the bringers of pain; Pinhead and friends, who want to play with you forever.

But even that story is being somewhat pushed to the background and it focuses more on a family, of which the wife falls madly for the the no good brother of her soon to be husband. The brother however messed with the cube and got stuck in Pinhead's hell of pain. He however managed to escape it but only in a skeleton form. He needs blood to slowly regain his body and asks the wife to kill for him. This is were most of the movie its 'horror' comes from.

The movie doesn't get its horror aspects from its normal usual scare- or gross out moments. It's more a movie that works on its atmosphere and story development. Perhaps it's also due to the restrained budget, that simply forced the film-makers to be creative with the things they had at hand. The movie is no big Hollywood production and as a matter of fact it actually is an UK movie, that still got obviously aimed toward the American market as well though, in terms of its overall style.

And even though the movie was low-budget, the movie certainly did not look that way. Also its effects such as its make-up and the effects used for the more gory parts of the movie are really great looking. The make-up of course helped to make Pinhead an horror icon-figure, though in this movie he isn't even called by the name Pinhead, which was only a name that got developed later for marketing purposes.

The movie also features a great musical score by Christopher Young, that fits the movie really well. It's one of his more memorable works.

A real original horror movie, that has grown into being a classic already.


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What more can be said?
innocuous22 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There has been much debate over this movie. As I've said elsewhere, the movies I find to be worthwhile viewing experiences are those that receive reviews at both extreme ends of the spectrum. Movies like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" receive nearly 100% positive reviews and I find them to be sorely lacking in imagination and execution. Movies with uniformly poor reviews are generally very genuinely bad. "Hellraiser", on the other hand, is a phenomenal accomplishment for a low-budget B-movie.

Personally, I do not find this movie to be particularly gory. There are a few strong scenes, but the more unsettling parts of the movie involve no bloodshed at all. This includes Julia's betrayal of her soon-to-be husband.

The trend in horror movies at the time that this was released was towards more "realistic" villains, usually the guy next door who was a little whacked. "Hellraiser" was prepared to introduce evil in a completely different form.

Several reviewers have commented on how they have been confused about what exactly is happening in this movie. I find that puzzling, since the circumstances (and most of the "Hellraiser" mythos) is spelled out quite plainly in this first movie of the series.

In general, the special effects are pretty cheesy, but the Cenobites are depicted very well. The images really stick in your mind. I have a replica of the LeMarchand puzzle box on my desk and I don't believe anyone has ever picked it up and asked me what it is. Everyone recognizes "the box that calls Pinhead."

The Anchor Bay release of this movie belongs in your collection.

**** out of *****
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A great original horror film.
poolandrews27 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The gruesome directorial debut from author Clive Barker. Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) in some unspecified location buys a Chinese puzzle box from a mysterious man, who is always shown in shadow. The film then jumps to the attic in Franks house, somewhere in London. Sitting on the bare wooden floorboards surrounded by candles, he solves the puzzle of the box. Demons from hell known as Cenobites appear Pinhead (Doug Bradley), Chatterer (Nicholas Vince), Butterball (Simon Bamford), and a female Cenobite (Grace Kirby). Using hooks on chains they tear Frank to pieces, in pretty graphic detail. Franks brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) decide to move into the house. While moving in Larry slices his hand on an old nail sticking out of the stair case. He set off to find Julia who is in the attic reminiscing about the affair she had with Frank. Larry stumbles into the attic and drips blood all over the floor. This blood rejuvenates Frank, another impressively gruesome scene showing his body recreating itself, fingers forming, ribs attaching themselves, his brain being made and attached, you get the idea. He however is not fully formed and needs fresh human blood to make himself whole again. Julia discovers him in the attic and after some persuasion by Frank she agrees to help him, to bring him victims. things get even more complicated when Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) Larrys daughter gets involved, and the Cenobites return to take Frank back to hell.

Written, based on his novel The Hellbound Heart, and directed by Clive Barker I think this is a very gruesome, gory, blood splattered film, but the characters and story are not sacrificed and together combine to create a truly original, startling and extremely effective low budget horror film that spawned various sequels. The effects handled by Bob Keen and his crew are extremely impressive for such a low budget film, sections of someones face laid out on the floor like a jig-saw puzzle, hooks ripping skin to shreds, skinless corpses, Franks various states of decay and re-animation, and the Cenobites themselves are well conceived and realized. One effect I found poor however was the monster who chases Kirsty when she opens a door to hell in her hospital room. Still, a very good job all round. The acting was fine. The script, written by Barker based upon one of his novels was good, it kept things moving along nicely and it stays away from any wise cracking one liner bad guys, popular in horror films at the time. He obviously wanted to make a very serious horror film, and succeeds admirably. Technically everything else is fine, photography, music, production design and editing. On the down side I thought the ending looked a bit rushed, 90% of the film is set in the same house which gets a bit dull after a while, a few things aren't really explained satisfactorily, like the creepy tramp who follows Kirsty around, but these are minor quibbles. A very impressive film, for those with the stomach, I really liked it and recommend it.
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Hellraising Horror
uds321 March 2002
Adapted by Clive Barker from his own story "The Hellbound Heart" this has long been a favorite among horror-film devotees. Clive Barker is an outstanding writer. In terms of literary style light years ahead of Stephen King. His awesomely unhinged imagination is given free rein in this tale of the darker side of the human psyche.

Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) is as immoral and perverted a scumbag as you could hope to find in the English speaking world. Ever alert to the potential for some new thrill (sexual or otherwise) Frank comes by a small carved wooden cube that just happens to be (in the right hands) a gateway to Hell. Not your normal run of the mill pit of hot sulphur fumes presided over by a horned Lucifer wielding his time-honored pitchfork, but a most unpleasant parallel dimension, home of the wickedly inventive Pinhead and his cenobite cohorts. As the series worked its way onwards, Pinhead (Bradley) became a retro cult hero much like Freddy Kreuger and was given increased screen-time!

Frank ends up paying the ultimate price in his search for new pleasures and to his everlasting discomfort, inevitably discovers the real meaning of the film's tag-line "He'll tear your soul apart." This leaves Frank's ex well and truly home-alone and she takes up with his wimpy brother Larry, crawlingly played by Andrew Robinson.

Things might have worked out for Julia (Higgins) and daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) had not Larry cut his hand badly and the blood run beneath the floorboards where Frank's decimated but undead corpse responds dramatically well to the corpuscled cocktail! Frank's gory resurrection is actually one of the film's highlights, aided and abetted as it is by a superb musical score from Christopher Young!

Frank of course is a little miffed over Julia's dalliance with his brother and persuades her to bring him an assembly line of fresh meat to ensure his complexion is brought up to scratch. The demise of the first victim especially is quite shocking horror and on its own would have earned the film its "R" certificate.

Without giving anything else away, it is left to daughter Kirsty to combat both Frank, her socially distasteful step-mother and Pinhead. It is the ultimate learning curve you might say. One hell of a lot goes wrong before it starts getting any better. Frank's second whirl on the block is distinctly gruesome. Kirsty who under normal circumstances would be left a gibbering idiot, survives to take on the sequel and a further appearance by her awesomely repulsive stepmother!

You want horror? you want originality? you like blood on tap? you need HELLRAISER!

For all the above though, Barker's CANDYMAN was still better!
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Hellraiser: The Movie Responsible For Ruining Me
stranglechrist2067 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Frank spent his entire life traveling in search of fulfilling every pleasure he can handle...he reaches a point where normal pleasure just isn't enough for him, and he is offered an Arabian puzzle box that will open the door to lasting fulfillment...however, to his surprise, this comes in the form of pain and torment at the hands of the Cenobites, a set of demonic creatures from another dimension whose job is to inflict punishment so their 'victims' may realize the pleasure found in suffering, presenting the audience with a question: if you desire eternal pleasure, would you accept it at the cost of eternal suffering?... the movie tells the story of a married couple who seem very happy, but the wife, Julia, holds in her heart the memory of her sexual encounter with her husband's brother, Frank... they have sex on Julia's wedding gown on the day of her marriage to Frank's brother, Larry, which was the first sex scene I ever saw when I was the tender age of twelve...this encounter festers a wound for excitement in her, until, when moving into a new house, Larry cuts his hand and bleeds all over the floor, supplying the source for Frank's resurrection...people ask, how did Frank get into the house?...since Julia has Frank already in the house of her heart, his corpse follows her wherever she travels, and it only takes a few drops of blood to bring this to life, as we see later on in the film...the angel of the film is Larry's daughter, Kirsty, who sincerely loves her father with a pure heart, a perfect antithesis to the false love Julia shows to Larry...Kirsty trusts her stepmother, but this trust is never reciprocated...another nice duality of character supplied between these two women...most people assume Frank, Larry and the Cenobites are the main characters, but the decisions and consequences of these two women form the crux of the story, and I applaud Clive Barker for giving these two strong female roles a nice script and solid direction to explore the deep issues their activities raise...eventually, Frank appears to Julia and asks her for more blood so he can escape the torment of the Cenobites and start to truly search for his perfect pleasure...he baits Julia with her memory of their sexual encounter, which hooks Julia into trolling for men in bars and bringing them home with her, where she brutally kills them, giving Frank all the blood he needs to become flesh...this presents a nice little lesson for all us men: beware the beautiful woman who wants to bring you home and bang you...she just might kill you so she can feed the skeleton in her closet...ha ha ha…the progression between the first murder and the subsequent ones are very realistic...the first person she kills, Julia is very apprehensive and fearful...you can feel the conflict within her, as if some good in her conscience tries to drown out the lust within her heart...however, Frank is very persuasive, and the hammer falls...literally...as the murders continue, Julia begins to 'get the hang of it' and soon loses all morals...Kirsty begins to suspect something, and stakes out Julia, until she catches her in the act...the night when she is ready to tell her father, all hell breaks loose...literally...Frank needs a fresh coat of skin to cover his fully-formed figure, and guess who Julia chooses? Why, his brother, of course! Kirsty confronts them, but to no avail...she is quickly shipped away, when she just happens to possess the puzzle box...she opens it up, and out pop the Cenobites...please forgive the director for plugging in the weird creature traveling down the corridor of the Cenobite dimension...I think he was trying to show how Kirsty's curiosity is best left in her imagination rather than in reality...if only Julia learned the same lesson...anyway, the Cenobites are ready to take this girl into their arms to show her their pleasure, which is interesting, because she herself is a virgin character whose life is not ruled at all by pleasure, but by compassion...yet another dichotomy to Julia...Kirsty offers a bargain to the Cenobites (the devil?); she will lead them to one of their escapees, Frank, as an exchange for her own soul, which they accept...any deal with creatures with pins in their face I would say is suspect, but it moves the story along...the final confrontation between Kirsty and Julia, good vs. evil, doesn't end in the way most movies portray this epic struggle, but it is very satisfying...Frank ends up betraying Julia and kills her...since she so easily betrayed her husband for pleasure, it seems fitting 'Frank' would just as easily kill her when she became useless...much like her attitude towards her formerly living husband...Frank, in Kirsty's Dad's skin, finds his perfect pleasure in perhaps the greatest sin in the book: raping his niece in the body of her father...a very disturbing thought, if you ask me, and a perfect end for Frank's character; for the Cenobites come, and take him away...and, just when you thought everything was okay, the Cenobites go back on their deal with Kirsty and try to take her soul...another betrayal, but what do you expect from a bunch of demons?...Kirsty plays with the box, cries "GO TO HELL," which they do, and the movie ends with the man in the desert asking another victim, "what is your pleasure?" ...this movie is profound, with a great story, believable characters, believable acting...there are truly no slow parts in this movie, as it moves along quite nicely…this movie deserves more credit than it receives for its ingenuity, creativity, themes, and perfect conglomeration of all things that make movies great...may you never seek after pleasure for pleasure sake, for, after all, a great big guy with pins sticking in his head just might stick you with a bunch of spears and shred your skin off...I'm not saying; I'm just saying...
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A glimpse into the soul of humanity
bmoviep24 April 2017
"Hellraiser" is a film that manages to disturb viewers in all the right ways. It blurs the already nebulous line between pleasure and pain, mixing love with cruelty in a way that provokes curiosity into the raw vulgarity hidden within our subconscious. It's a violent and visceral experience, but takes meticulous efforts not to waste a single drop of blood. Despite the plethora of carnage there is no excess. Every disgusting detail serves to further explore a reality in which sin and vice are unfiltered by societal norms and where people wander endlessly in the pursuit of materialistic satisfaction. Within the tumult of lust and greed exist an order of demons referred to as the Cenobites. The Cenobites act as the gatekeepers of chaos. They shield us from the harsh realities of human nature and maintain order between the savage beast and rational being that make up the contradiction that is mankind. Through the Cenobites, we are given a glimpse into the darkest corners of the human soul, where fear and desire intersect and become indistinguishable from each other. A place we try to deny and turn away from, but is permanently engraved into our very being.
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One of a kind horror film by Clive Barker
Horror novelist Clive Barker is known for making some outrageously gross stories. And after two unsuccessful short films, Barker decided to direct his first theatrical film. Little did he know that it would not only be his most memorable film to date, but it would also become very popular. However, what amazes me is just how effective each component of the whole movie is. It is truly one of the great masterpieces in the horror genre of its time.

Hellraiser (1987) is a film adaptation of Clive Barker's self-written novel, The Hellbound Heart. The story is about a remarried man, Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) being caught in a web of terror. Larry's new woman, Julia (Clare Higgins), happens to be a secret lover of her husband's brother, Frank (Sean Chapman). Frank is a sexually deprived man who bought a mystical puzzle box called the "Lament Configuration". When this puzzle is solved, it opens a dimensional portal to hell, where a group of terrifying individuals called the Cenobites, literally tear Frank's soul apart, limb from limb, layer by layer.

To start off, all the actors do a great job portraying their characters. Robinson makes himself seem like the most humble farther a child could ask for. Higgins and Chapman show good chemistry on screen as well. Slowly over the running time, viewers will see the transition that takes over Higgins' character, as she goes from lonely, to shocked, to lustful. On the other hand, Sean Chapman as Frank gives a very good performance as the battered soul that he is. He too carries great lust for Julia and shows how desperate he is to have her again. It is amazing that Julia would even want to join him again!

By far though, the character with the most guts in this whole film is Kirsty Cotton played by Ashley Laurence. For all the horror films that have been released, it is rare that audiences come across a strong female protagonist. For Laurence's first starring role, there's a lot of credit to be given to her for conveying her character so well. Not to mention the fact that Laurence is very attractive in this picture. And she's not a "scream queen" all the time either. Her brazenness by far surpasses many other female characters in other horror franchises. I did find her boyfriend to be rather unnecessary though. He didn't do anything the whole time during the film. He was always a step behind everyone else, so why bother even have him in the movie?

What was definitely effective here were the atmosphere; credited to the music and the special effects used throughout the film which created hair-raising, skin crawling imagery. The musical score provided by composer Christopher Young did an outstanding job. Not only was his score creepy and engrossing but it also created a sense of tragedy. The tragedy was cued by the constant waltz time each tune had. Adding to that is Young's constant theme that the audience is reminded of when the camera is focused on the Frank and Julia. A memorable tune indeed.

Lastly, the special effects is one the components prominently noted in Clive Barker's Hellraiser franchise. There is some stop motion animation but the real movie magic lies in the make-up department headed by Geoffrey Portass. Everything from the gore, to the Frank's resurrection, to the Cenobite make-up themselves is executed terrifically. The Lead Cenobite played by Doug Bradley is done so well, many people would say he was born for that role, which I agree. I also liked the look of the other cenobites; The Female, The Chatterer and Butterball. I would've preferred though if The Lead Cenobite introduced them in the film. Some newcomers may be confused to what their names are.

Along with these characters are some of the most disturbing imagery used throughout any film. Some of it really is just bloodcurdling. Tearing skin off a human body may not be some people's cup of tea. There was also another scene that I found quite eerie but it was never explained to what it meant. This scene involves Kirsty with a background noise of a baby crying. It definitely made me feel uncomfortable, which was good, but I wanted to understand the significance of it and it never was explained. Along with that flaw was Kirsty's useless boyfriend which leaves me liking the rest of this movie a lot.

Clive Barker's first film is a classic that should not be passed up. The actors, special effects and music work together to create a tragic cohesive story that is a fresh look at the horror genre.
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Beautiful fantasy/ horror is still affective today.
Banshee5725 April 2005
Certainly, one would figure pinhead the central character for the film "Hellraiser", but he who thinks this because of what he sees will be enchanted by what the film really is. Pinhead is merely a creature, only viewed in vital moments of a twisted love story involving otherworldly torture. He is not even called pinhead, he is the lead cenobite, and he will tear your soul apart!

The story has a strong narrative hold on a family, and the unresolved matters they have never approached. Such matters include drugs, theft, scandal, love, lust, and demonic dealings. Larry Cotton and his 2nd wife, Julia are happy, cozy, and ready to break new ground as they move into the new home. Unbeknownst to them, an unwelcomed family member is waiting, and so is the awesome force that sealed his fate in life, and in death. This film has more than demons and angels. This film has a plot. Julia helps frank after he narrowly escapes death. Slow, and sure, she feeds him blood, and the lust for life, love, and control takes over the both of them. Soon, Larry's daughter, Kirsty is involved, and the real nightmare begins. This film is more of a fantasy than anything else, as it plays on mystical elements like dreams, love, life, and death. Barker crafts his original novel, titles "The Hellbound Heart" into a fantastic mold of a supernatural plunge into a very messed up family. More so, this film is a tale of otherworldly pain and torture. Torture is not just the killing, it is the emotional state that Julia is trapped in, as she loves Larry...at first. Soon she is torn between real love, and the lust for pleasure, both physical and emotional. The cenobites take all the emotions, and play with them as though they were throwing a ball back and forth. Barker introduces hell as both emotional, and physical states of mind. No matter where the characters are, hell is what they get. Brilliant performances also highlight this one, with special effects that challenge even todays standards. Good Job Barker!
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A horror classic of the 80's.
justin-fencsak30 October 2010
The 1980's were a very interesting decade for horror fans. It was during this period that the slasher films were dominating the box office, and audiences were tired of seeing the same old thing. Enter Clive Barker's Hellraiser, a movie based on written material that involves a mysterious box and the people behind the magic and terror of that device to anyone who touches it. Pinhead is a great horror character and pretty scary. The heroine of this movie, played by Ashley Laurence, is a Reagan-era version of the girl next door. The effects are much better than the CGI gorefests of the 21st century, and the music is pretty haunting. It was so popular that it spawned numerous sequels, and a 3D remake is on its way.
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Dark and occult and just damn tasty.
lagriff0527 June 2009
Now this is the stuff. Dark, brooding, Gothic-tinged occult horror, that's what you'll find here. This is another one I hadn't seen in years, and what surprised me here was just how much of this I didn't grasp back in 2006 when I first saw it. Hellraiser's cryptic, frigid exterior might seem tough to crack at first, but by the half hour mark, it will have immersed you in a wave of grungy, dismal horror unlike most anything you've seen before. The plot is dark and eerie, and the way it unfolds is just masterfully done.

I don't think the ending was quite as good as it could have been, but Hellraiser is a very strong film that I'd recommend seeing if you haven't. You won't regret it.
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So human!
neospoon8927 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I don't care about trashy special effect or any of that crap. All I care about is the story. Everything is there. Life, death, love, hate, betrayal, forbidden knowledge, mistakes... With this film, Clive Barker touched the essence of what makes us human. Through divine and demonic symbolism, metaphoric storyline and Faustian references he dares to walk the path of purgatory only few of them dared before (Goethe:)...). He is one of my favorite writers, and although there are some deviations from the plot of the novel (some people might be annoyed because of that), it is still an excellent movie in its own format. I absolutely love and respect his work. I absolutely love and respect this movie.
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tearing souls apart forever
lee_eisenberg27 November 2009
I should say that Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" is a pretty gross movie: one torture scene after another. But it's still a horror classic! This is not your typical slasher flick. In fact, it's not a slasher at all: no, this is much darker, with some truly ugly stuff. Clearly, the Lead Cenobite (Doug Bradley) - commonly known as Pinhead - has become as much of a horror icon as Freddy Krueger. I suspect that they had fun making the movie. As I understand it, for the scene where the creature crawls out of the floor, the filmmakers made a wax model, melted it, and showed it melting in reverse.

So, I definitely recommend this movie. But not to the squeamish. Really fun.
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