Hellraiser Review

Movie: Hellraiser
By: Maniac E
Date: October 11, 2012

We have such sights to show you

Many years have passed us by since the first Hellraiser movie and still it is one of the few movies I can watch over and over again. 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 his fellow cenobites, who want to play with you forever.

Frank, a man with a rather dubious past, solves a mysterious puzzle box and is rewarded with a trip to hell where he's mutilated for entertainment purposes by three demonic beings called 'Cenobites'. However, after being resuscitated by his brother's blood, he uses his love starved sister-in-law Julia who he had a past affair with as bait so that she can lure horny men back to their house so that he can feed on their blood and become a human again. The only problem is the hellish Cenobites come looking for him and all hell ensues. Clad in leather the Cenobites themselves resemble mutated entities from The Matrix (and remember this was twelve years before that movie was even made) and just like that movie, this one also has a similar fetishist quality about it.


Based on the Clive Barker novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser eschews the old stalk and slash routine in favor of something more cerebral. Even if it's just as gory and violent as the aforementioned films, Hellraiser has that very rare thing unseen in movies of this type: intelligence. This is as far from a Friday the 13th re-run as you can get. The movie is extremely well crafted with intricate characters that have complex arcs all set against an interesting story. Clive Barker directs with a lot of panache and evident technique, and the film has an almost surreal art house quality about it. Barker clearly knows what he's doing. Compare how this was shot with other horror movies made at the same time and you will see noticeable differences. The movie has a lot of style and substance thrown in with some genuinely distressing visuals.


Clive Barker comes up with some of the most original and fascinating (as well as probably the most recognizable) characters in horror history with the Cenobites, particularly Pinhead. Everything about this character (as well as the other cenobites, but to a lesser extent) just radiates pure evil. The grey/white skin color, the hellish leather costume, the voice, the nails driven into his head, his EYES, all of these characteristics combine perfectly to make-up the most original and sinister horror characters in decades. Not only all that, but there is not a single other character out there who even vaguely resembles him, and this is extremely rare. This is one of the things that makes him so overpowering, no one has ever seen anyone like this before, nor has anyone come up with anything like him since.


The film has jaw-dropping effects: it's full of astonishing scenes that still hold up today. Most appealing of all is as this was made before the CGI era, all the effects are done with animatronics, optical effects and reverse footage. The disturbing metamorphosis scene where Frank comes back to life is similar to the one seen in An American Werewolf in London in that we get a no holds barred, shot by shot transmutation of a creature in all its gory (and gooey) glory. Unlike that scene, however, which was over lit, this one is photographed with more a more effective and moodier lighting scheme. Gut wrenching though it is, the scene also has a strange kind of beauty to it. It's quite nice (if icky) to look at. Beauty in blood and guts there are not many horror movies that can boast a contradiction like that.


Hellraiser was clearly ahead of its time. Its influence on moviesa that came later cannot be underestimated. After all, this is the film that gave us the whole 'Torture Porn' genre at least two decades before the term had even coined by the media. Movies like Saw and Hostel owe a lot to it and could not have existed without Hellraiser paving the way first. Even though these movies are a dime a dozen now, this was something new in its day, giving us an unflinching view of bodies being mutilated and torn apart in gratuitous fashion. But even at that, there was always something more going on than just simple gore: Hellraiser is about the desperate steps a woman will take to rekindle an unforgettable past affair.


Hellraiser is one of those movies you have to see as a horror fanatic, you get one of the best characters ever created, the visuals to go with it and the debut for Clive Barker as film maker. It is a weird and wonderful thriller that is perhaps one of the most original horror movies of the decade. Not only did it bring a breath of fresh air in the genre, but it spawned one of the most infamous horror villains of all time. Clive Barker is really an imaginary genius, seeing his works can easily verify that. Remember: "Jesus Wept".

Don't forget to check out our new Hellraiser 25th anniversary edition box







Clive Barker






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