Hellraiser (1987)

I came to the worlds created by Clive Barker in late 89, early 90, when I was in University out east in Nova Scotia. Until that time, I’d spent a lot of time with Stephen King books, which I read voraciously, and there were creepy things in them, but never really freaked me out.

Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, however, really got under my skin, and I really enjoyed them. So, in the days when I was still working up to horror movies (that time really did exist believe me), I watched Barker’s first film, based on his short story The Hellbound Heart, and was suitably freaked, creeped out, and truly enjoying myself.

So it was with great joy that I discovered it on the 101 Horror Movies list for my viewing pleasure.

The film is a cross of the old haunted house and Faust.

Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Julia (Claire Higgins) move back to his mother’s house after she’s passed only to find that Larry’s brother Frank (Sean Chapman) had been squatting there, though now he’s long gone, dead in fact, as we, the viewers have already seen what happened to him. He bought himself a puzzle box, and unleashed the ultimate in pleasure in pain for himself by opening it, and releasing the monstrous Cenobites, who killed him, claiming his soul for hell.

We learn through flashbacks, that Julia had a lusty affair with Frank, and those lusty thoughts, combined with Larry’s spilled blood (caused by a moving accident) combine to help release Frank from his hellish prison.

But he doesn’t come back all the way, he’s only partly formed, and needs more blood and flesh to become whole again, something Julia is willing to do if it means she can be with him again.

Into this stumbles Kirsty (Ashley Laurence)Larry’s daughter, who begins to suspect that her step-mother is up to no good, but has no idea how bad! Until she promises the awakened Cenobites to return Frank to their grasp.

The film is bloody, sexual, scary, creepy, and a damned lot of fun. Doug Bradley plays the lead Cenobite, known to the world as Pinhead (a name Barker never approved of, and in fact refers to the character as Priest), and he’s intimidating, majestic and ominous.

Barker has never been afraid to take you to the dark side of things, and in this story he crosses and re-crosses that line where pleasure becomes pain, and vice versa. Lust, murder, angels, demons, pain, pleasure, sex, violence, all of it is rolled up into this film, and despite the rather hokey effects of the Cenobites being sent back to hell at the end of the movie, or the strange homeless man’s final moments, the overall creep factor, and scares continue to work for this story.

It really is a dark tale, and for me a welcome return to the supernatural side of horror, though the previous film Chinese Ghost Story was fun (if a little odd in places), this is the kind of horror I like, supernatural, a little disturbing (in some cases a lot – the whole chains and hooks thing can cause me some serious shivers ar times), dark, but under it all, there’s a sense of fun to it, a sense of fun in trying to scare you.

Barker has some great stories to tell, and I greatly enjoy the three feature films he’s directed, Hellraiser, Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions, as well as the countless tales he’s written.

The music for the film is by Christopher Young who’s a compose I always like to see being used, and his work here is much like the Cenobites themselves, dark and majestic, hinting at the allure of the darkness.

The gore in the film is fairly high, especially for Frank, who of course gets torn apart with hooks and chains, but also his return to the physical realm, sees a bloody mass of muscles over a skeleton, wearing a blood soaked shirt, gross, dark, and the image stays with you.

This is a fun, scary film that embraces its dark heart and dares you to as well.

What did you think of it?

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