Film Review - Hellraiser

Starring - Ashley Laurence, Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Doug Bradley, Sean Chapman, Nicholas Vince | Directed by Clive Barker | Anchor Bay DVD WS/FF R 93min 1987

Review By Xmortis

You wanted it, so we did it! Last Halloween we held a poll of what horror film series you would like for us to review this 2011 Halloween season, and Hellraiser won by a landslide. So sit back as Juliet, Joker, Baron and I open the puzzle box and step into the world of the cenobites. Let's all explore the sinister wonders that await us. And fair warning: all these reviews may contain spoilers.

Frank Cotton is a sleazy man who wants to experience all the pleasures of the world. This leads him to a puzzle box that unleashes the pain and suffering of Hell leaving him dead. Times passes as Frank's brother Larry and his wife Julia move into the old family home and the place of his unknown death to start over and rebuild their relationship. Meanwhile Larry's daughter Kirsty is having some issues with her stepmother (Julia) and trying to get adjusted to college life. But when Larry cuts his hand deep on a nail, his blood brings back a skinless Frank who has escaped the clutches of the Cenobites (the demon-like enforcers of the box) who are led by Pinhead. Frank cons Julia, with whom he has had an affair, to lure men home to kill them so he can drain them of their blood and regain his flesh. But when Kirsty finds out that Frank is still alive and her stepmother is aware of his murderous ways, she enters the house and escapes with the puzzle box. Kirsty makes the mistake of opening the box and comes face to face with the Cenobites (Female, Butterball and Chatter) led by Pinhead. Kirsty rats out her uncle in hopes to save her own butt and leads them to him, but Frank has now killed Larry and is wearing his skin. Kirsty fights with her stepmom once she figures out that her dad is dead, and Frank accidentally stabs and then drains Julia. In the end Frank meets up with Pinhead who once more makes him pay the price for pleasure. Then they begin to hunt Kirsty who uses the puzzle box to send the cenobites back to hell. Kirsty thinks she has won until a homeless man comes for the box and turns into a demon and flies away. The film ends leaving it wide open for a sequel.

This film is a cult classic that any real horror fan will tell you is an amazing ride into the heart of sinister twisted demon like guardians and lustful obsession making this one hell of a watch. The plot features a family that is not so perfect being torn apart by untrusting members that become the target of a race of demon-like monsters called cenobites because two of the members have opened a puzzle box that serves as the demons' gateway into our world. The film is shot very well and the angles, lighting and style used by Clive Barker and crew make this low budget shocker seem more like a art house film filled with blood and guts. Clive Barker, who not only directed but wrote this film, is the main reason this film works so well. When I was younger and first watched this film I became obsessed with it and that says something for a horror fan who was more into the classic stuff then the modern, showing that Barker's style and story had drawing power. Ashley Laurence plays Kirsty Cotton. The character is cute as a button but yet tough as she sets up her asshole uncle to save her own hide or does what she thinks will save her hide. Kirsty is one of those iconic lead female characters in 80's horror films that really does deserve being ranked up with some of horror's most elite scream queens. Andrew Robinson who plays Larry Cotton and Clare Higgins who plays Julia Cotton make the perfect team to portray a not so happy couple, and Higgins plays one cold-hearted bitch as she bashes skulls in with a hammer to please her undead lover. The movie's top star has to be Doug Bradley who makes a role that was clearly not intended to be the star into something grand and iconic. Pinhead seems like a character who, while evil, seems very bored with the job he is given and the thrill of torturing and killing seems to do nothing for him. The cenobites in this film besides Pinhead are Chatter, Female and Butterball who all look great and creepy and could give nightmares to anyone watching.

The film mostly takes place in the Cotton home that is a creepy looking two story home with old wood floors, making for one great backdrop. The gore effects are well done with the skinless Frank stealing the show as his bloody muscles and veins can be seen as he drains the life out of victims. The bodies of the victims also look great as they are just flesh shells that have been drained of all features making their faces twisted. The music score done by Christopher Young is amazing and complements and highlights the movie really well. It's also amazing how Pinhead and his minions were not intended to be the stars of the film but horror fans loved them so well that they became the focal point of the franchise even with very little screen time.

This release of the DVD is pretty barebones but has a better cover than the extra re-release. This version has commentary, a featurette, trailer and a photo gallery. The cover is Pinhead's classic poster pose making it very eye catching.

This film is iconic to fans of 80's horror films. Its legacy has spawned eight sequels (so far), a possible remake/reboot set for 2012, a comic book series, action figures, a cancelled NES game, Halloween costumes, fan films and so much more, proving that this film will remain a staple and a must-see for horror fans of the future. If you want to watch a well made, well acted, iconic 80's movie monster with good special effects and a wicked story line then you should watch and own Hellraiser!

We tempt fate and open the puzzle box again as we look at Hellbound: Hellraiser II next. This time the blood and gore is turned up 100% so prepare yourself for the journey.