Directed by: Clive Barker
Verdict: 85/100… Great horror movie; a modern classic (fans, a Hellraiser remake is on the way! More info below…)
Hellraiser (1987) is a classic horror movie indeed, and I can easily recommend it to horror fans everywhere. It has been years since I’ve seen Hellraiser, and it was fun to watch again!
Hellraiser: The basics
Hellraiser, the first film in the Hellraiser series, is a 1987 British horror film exploring the themes of sadomasochism, pain as a source of pleasure, infidelity, and morality under duress and fear. Hellraiser and Pinhead, its main antagonist, are based on Clive Barker’s critically acclaimed novella entitled The Hellbound Heart; he also wrote the screenplay for Hellraiser and directed the film. In the U.K., the film was entitled Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Eight Hellraiser sequels have so far followed, and a remake of the original Hellraiser was announced in 2006. Hellraiser was number 19 on Bravo’s (a cable channel) list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments. (Source: Wikipedia)
DVD cover text
In a place between pleasure and pain, there is a sensual experience beyond limits. And in a world between paradise and purgatory, there is a horror that feeds the souls of evil. Welcome to the singular vision of Clive Barker and his landmark horror opus, Hellraiser.
Now for the first time ever, experience this horror classic in an all-new version, fully re-mastered in state-of-the-art Dolby Digital 5.1 supervised by THX and packed with extras personally compiled by writer/director Clive Barker, this is Hellraiser as you’ve never seen or heard it before. Now there truly are no limits.
Basic plot of Hellraiser
Clive Barker’s feature directing debut graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature – the man’s half-brother, who is also the woman’s former lover – hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of sadomasochistic demons called the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor. He soon forces his former mistress to bring him human sacrifices to complete his body… but the Cenobites won’t be happy about this.
One of the best horror films of the 1980s, Hellraiser is based on Barker’s novel, The Hellbound Heart, and has been followed by multiple sequels so far; Hellraiser is definitely among the top horror franchises of all time. Horror remakes, as of late 2011: Friday the 13th (12), Halloween (10), Puppetmaster (10), Nightmare on Elm Street (9), Hellraiser (9), Saw (7), Leprechaun (6), Child’s Play (5), Pumpkinhead (5)
Watching Hellraiser (Possible spoilers)
The movie at its simplest level is a retelling of a story that goes back to Goethe’s Doctor Faustus and beyond: those who sell their soul to evil forces will probably come to regret it. This time, the story is based primarily around the plight of four main characters: Frank Cotton, the last puzzle owner; his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins), and their lovely daughter Kirsty, played by Ashley Laurence in her motion picture debut.
Frank Cotton is a despicable, uncaring, jaded man who has grown bored with life – even its most extreme erotic pleasures. When he hears about a mysterious puzzle box which can open the door to a new world of perverse pleasures, he seeks it out. [Buy a real puzzle box!]
Frank locates the puzzle box in Morocco and pays a street vendor thousands of dollars for the strange but alluring item. When Frank finally activates the puzzle box by solving it at his London home, the door to hell is opened; the fury and torturous wrath of the sadomasochistic Cenobites is released. Frank learns that one man’s pleasure is another man’s pain: hooks shoot from the puzzle box and literally pull Frank’s flesh apart. Enter Pinhead (Doug Bradley), apparently a Cenobite laeder, who sorts out some of the mess; Pinhead arranges the four or five pieces of flesh which only moments before had comprised Frank’s face – then closes the puzzle box.
Later, while moving into the house, Larry accidentally cuts his hand, unintentionally spilling a little blood about the house. When his brother’s blood makes contact with the wooden floor in the special room, Frank’s body begins a process of regeneration; however, with so little blood to act as fuel, his body can only regenerate so far – and this leaves Frank as a horrid, skinless, zombie-like version of himself. Frank will evidently require a larger amount of blood in order to resume his transformation and fully build back up to his normal body. Frank convinces Julia to procure the needed blood for him. Julia supplies the blood Frank requires by seducing various strangers at local bars and other hangouts, then bringing them home and leading them upstairs.
Why on earth would the prim and proper Julia be willing to not only lead men to their deaths, but to attack them with a hammer? Well, some years ago, shortly before her wedding to current husband Larry, Julia had had a forceful sexual encounter with Frank, Larry’s brother. The truth was that Julia enjoyed the erotic, exciting experience so much that she still fantasizes about it often. Julia is apparently willing to do damn near anything to get Frank fully restored again. It’s all a sex thing.
Julia’s relationship with Larry deteriorates; all she does is dwell upon Frank. She covers for Frank when Larry hears noises coming from the attic, all of which add to the darkness of the story. The house is dark shelter during a loud thunderstorm as Larry decides to explore the attic after hearing a noise. After a short but tense exploiration of the attic, he proclaims, “It’s a rat, nothing to be afraid of.” We see Frank slinking in he background.
Whenever Kirsty, Larry’s beautiful daughter, comes to the house to visit and spends the night, she has strange nightmares.
Along the way, Julia demands that Frank let her in on the full story – all the details of how Frank came to be the way he is – and we get to see flashbacks of Pinhead, their conversations, and even the rending of Frank’s flesh as Frank relates these experiences to Julia. Frank and Julia even make plans to run away together soon.
Meanwhile, Larry becomes increasingly concerned about the mental health and well-being of Julia, so he encourages Kirsty, to drop by the house and do what she can to be friends with her stepmother. When Kirsty drops by unannounced, she is shocked to find Julia leading a strange man inside – apparently she is having affairs. Shortly thereafter, Kirsty hears something she’s not supposed to when the man starts screaming bloody murder, and the standard horror movie plot device kicks into high gear: Kirsty decides to go in and investigate.
In the course of exploring the source of the screams after seeing her stepmother lead a strange man into the house, Kirsty discovers what is going on and manages to get her hands on the puzzle box. The fun truly begins at the hospital when Kirsty is introduced to the Cenobites.
A Hellraiser remake coming in 2013 (Dimension Films)!
This information is dynamic and subject to change, as things can get crazy during a film’s pre-production… Dimension Films‘ remake of Hellraiser was announced in November 2006. On October 20, 2010, it was officially announced that Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer would be directing and writing, respectively, the reboot of the Hellraiser franchise. The film’s story will differ from the original film, as Lussier and Farmer did not want to retell the original story out of respect for Clive Barker’s work. The film will instead focus on the world and function of the puzzle box. Production will begin in either late 2011 or sometime in 2012 with a 2013 release date. Clive Barker will serve as producer on the project. Recently, Farmer confirmed that both he and Lussier are no longer attached to the project. (Source: Wikipedia)
Resources: Hellraiser, 1987
- The Definitive Version of Clive Barker’s Masterpiece – Amazon
- Hellraiser, 1987 British supernatural horror film – Hellraiser (Rating: 4.5), IMDb (Rating: 70), Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes (Rating: 63/76), Box Office Mojo
- Clive Barker, horror author and film director – Amazon, IMDb, Wikipedia
- The Hellbound Heart: The novella by Clive Barker on which Hellraiser is based, first published in November 1986… Amazon (Rating: 4.5/5), Wikipedia
- The Hellraiser franchise – Wikipedia
- Cenobites – Wikipedia
- Hellraiser puzzle box on Amazon
- Trivia about the movie Hellraiser
Movie reviews: Hellraiser (1987)
- Hellraiser movie reviews – Rotten Tomatoes (52 critic/79 user)
- Hellraiser movie review – Dread Central (5 of 5)
- Hellraiser movie review – Bloody Disgusting (4 of 5)
- Hellraiser movie review – Quipster (1.5 of 5) – This reviewer had one of the worst ratings of Hellraiser I’ve seen yet. While this writer has some points, I obviously disagree with the verdict. As was mentioned, the 80s was a period during which decent, imaginative, supernatural horror was rare in comparison to standard slasher films – and this made Hellraiser even more novel and deserving of credit, praise, and accolades.
- Hellraiser movie review – MovieCynics.com (4.5 of 5)
Written and directed by Clive Barker; Produced by Christopher Figg; Starring Doug Bradley, Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, Ashley Laurence; Music by Christopher Young; Cinematography Robin Vidgeon; Editing by Richard Marden, Tony Randel; Distributed by New World Pictures; Release date September 11, 1987; Running time 94 minutes; Country – United Kingdom; Language – English; Budget – $1,000,000 (estimated); Gross revenue £763,412 (UK), $14,564,027 (USA); Followed by Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Hellraiser: Movie stills, scenes
Title screen: Hellraiser
Puzzle box from Hellraiser
Frank Cotton performs Satanic ritual
Frank Cotton with lover Julia
Cenobite from hell – minion of Pinhead
Frank Cotton in the process of physical regeneration
Frank Cotton’s face in the process of physical regeneration
Julia leading strangers to the attic
Julia helps Frank and gets her hands dirty
Misc. scene from Hellraiser
Another misc. scene from Hellraiser
Path to hell
Pinhead with Kirsty Cotton
Pinhead, Cenobite leader
Scared of what’s going on, and rightly so
Chains of pleasure
On Oct 27 2011, this Hellraiser post ranked #18 on Google for search terms
Hellraiser, 1987 horror movie. Since installing the plugin WordPress Popular Posts, I’ve confirmed that this Hellraiser writeup is the most popular post on this Supernatural Horror blog.
This blog gets very little traffic, averaging only 50 pageviews per week for the last few months. However, traffic climbed to just over 100 weekly pageviews this month (October 2011) – mainly for these reasons, I suppose:
- Halloween coming up
- implementation of standard SEO procedures to attract more traffic (e.g., adding the SEO Ultimate plugin, improving content, adding many more external links, etc.)
Hellraiser puzzle box
Fans can actually purchase replicas of the Chinese puzzle box made famous by the Hellraiser film.
According to comments from Amazon customers, the version of the Hellraiser puzzle box sold on Amazon.com is made of plastic; one customer called it dollar store material.
Higher quality puzzle boxes are available – made of metal, even with moving parts…
This post originally written on Monday, April 20, 2009