Hellraiser (1987)


Day 10 of 31

Hellraiser title

Hellraiser  (Horror,  1987) (18) D: Clive Barker W: Clive Barker P:  C: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Oliver Parker, Doug Bradley. 1h 34m. UK.

Synopsis : An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; demons are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.

TAGLINE : It will tear your soul apart.

Hell and it’s luscious playground of pain was once thought to be ruled by the devil and probably is, but what Hellraiser does is takes a sidestep to another dimension what is Hell on Meth and gives us a new dark lord of painful pleasures.
Created by the king of horror (or the runner up… ) Clive barker during this wild youth, we’re given a brand new hero and horror icon and his fellow cenobites, there have been lots of speculations on where Clive came up with his bizarre sadistic creatures clad in leather and bloody and akin to his other 1980’s creation RawHead Rex everyone assumes it comes from the bad boy gay clubs who play on the fringes of society, but none of this has been confirmed. Encapsulating man’s need to open the pandora’s box and to discover the unknown, this film wraps up the worst case scenario and wades through flesh and hooks to detail what could happen if you dance with the devil.

Hellraiser Frank

While the movie starts out with a curious meeting in a eastern market, Frank eagerly purchasing the well known puzzle box, upon finding a secret place to open the box, he’s surprised by ghastly creatures who are here to “tear his soul apart” things settle down and we’re presented with the beautiful Julia and her timid husband, having to move from the states to the UK, there are some charming scenes of the family trying to stress together and it’s obvious there are many strains, Julia isn’t happy, she’s detached from her family and is love with another man… all this aside this family drama doesn’t last for long. Soon a creepy entity in the spare room trying to claw it’s way back into our reality is soon collecting the blood and life from victims lured into the home without the family’s knowledge and the mighty leader of hell, Pinhead wants his pain slave back..  it’s around this point after several hammered heads and the magical creepy reconstruction scene that things start to get dreamlike and erratic. The young daughter starts to piece together the puzzle and that’s why this films treasure is, all of it is a intricate puzzle and we’re treated to watch some other suckers risk their flesh to put it together in a way to keep the monsters out and try to gain the prize, what’s the prize, well for some it’s the unknown “pleasures” and for everyone else who’s sane it’s just a way to close the fucking door to hell.

With this low budget, sado flick, it manages to save itself but being primarily set in one single house, there are a few scenes outside but 90% of the movie set within the walls of 66 Lodovico Street. It doesn’t make the film dull in anyway, although at times you do wonder how so much carnage could occur in one building without the residents knowing.

The birth of Frank. Oh my goth.. when I was a young teen this scene kept me up at night. It is one of those crowning moments in horror creature creation. Usually the most impressive scenes are transformations, usually werewolves as in American Werewolf in London (1981) but this is a birth scene. a rebirth scene of a sadistic maniac who is escaping from the all controlling and slightly amicable ruler Pinhead. So it’s a desperate escape but what Frank has to do is form a body in this dimension and it’s a slimey and painful looking process. a skull starts to emerge from a pool of hot slime on the floor, and slowly a skeletal frame flourishes with a slow shuddering force and screams through the music box style song that orchestrates it’s new beginning in the spare room.

frank birth

Clive Barker had a lot of hands on in this movies production and was obviously the director so it really has a lot of his originality in it and he manages to feature his brother as a strange homeless character that appears eating all sorts of insects in the movie. It’s great to keep these projects in the family.

Funnily enough the screenplay is not too hot, and what’s doubly scary is that Pinhead in all of his majesty and violence is actually a quiet and well mannered prince of whatever hellish playground he runs. It’s mostly his dark promises and appearance that cause the most repulsion, otherwise he seems like a ok kinda guy. Julia is quite a provicative and deep character, who definitely tugs the plot in her direction throughout.

The scenes where the puzzle box is involved are freakishly charming, the music box style soundtrack that accompanies any attempt to open the box, and the circling camera and lighting pulls the viewer in as much as the character, the box really does enchant someone into running their fingers all over it and seduces you to try and open the contents.

Despite being in the film for a mere few minutes the most feared and revered character is certainly Pinhead and maybe his posse of Cenobites. His majestic and seemly amicable presence is enough to freak many people out, but his promises or threats are terrifying.  The costume and character designs are almost spot on to the book, I think it’s just a technical issue that prevented the gems to be attached to the nails.. that’s about the only major visual oddity I can remember from the book.


It has to mentioned that Clive Barker’s directorial debut is astounding. It’s interesting how frustrating it was to see “his” works ruined by other directors over the years as they didn’t have that dark spark and unique vision that Clive has. Hopefully as he’s been promising he’ll be having more hands on time as director of his very unusual works again and who knows he might achieve this level of amazeballs once again.

Obviously one for the gore fiends or  anyone into leather and pain! Freaky hell king with nails in his head works for me, lots of leather meh that’s okay, strange poop monster with teeth hanging from the ceiling doesn’t gel with me too much. It was an interesting creature that attacks

V:I do advise that you read the book first, probably too late, but as Clive has so much to do with both the book and movie, not a lot of the detail is lost. As a debut director it’s an amazing stretch that Clive took as a writer but he does have a healthy knowledge of art and I think that helped him paint his book on the screen. I adore hellraiser, not only does it take me back to my golden teen years where comics, horror books and sneaking into the cinema under aged but when I was first venturing out into vast world of horror and it was the scary first book I had seen from page to screen and as it was so tight and on point it blew me away.. it’s a shame it doesn’t happen more often. Despite the effects looking a bit dated the real horror of Hellraiser isn’t purely in the visuals, despite them actually holding up quite well, don’t dismiss them fully! But the words and promises that Pinhead offers and what your imagination comes up with does the work.



Rating –  9/10

R: Candyman (1992) , Constantine (2005) , Rawhead Rex (1986), Spawn (1997)

L: Hell Films, Best Villains, Directorial Debuts, Writers/Directors

5: Clive Barker Movies, Doug Bradley,

VS Clive Barker Vs Stephen King

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