Hellraiser is currently available on instant Netflix.
Hellraiser (1987) – Rated R
“Clive Barker’s directing debut follows the tale of a couple (Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins) who move into an old house and discovers a hideous creature (Oliver Smith) — the man’s half-brother (and his wife’s former lover) — hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to three demons, the man’s been brought back to life by a drop of blood on the floor. Soon, he’s forcing his former mistress to bring him human sacrifices to complete his body.”
“What’s your pleasure?” – “The Box” – “Take it. It’s yours. It always was.”
Clive Barker does a fabulous job of adapting his novel, The Hellbound Heart to the screen. This is also Clive Barker’s feature film debut as a director. As with many of Barker’s books, Hellraiser is a wonderful story of sexual discovery, power, and horror.
Ashley Laurence makes her feature film debut as well, playing our young heroine. She is charming as the vulnerable, inexperienced Kirsty. Clare Higgins is appropriately icy as Kirsty’s stepmother Julia, a woman regretting her choices. Sean Chapman is rascally as adventurous Uncle Frank. Doug Bradley is quite unnerving in his feature film debut as Lead Cenobite, though you probably know his character better as Pinhead.
Andrew Robinson does a great job of playing Kirsty’s father, Larry. Robinson has a good range and an uncanny ability to lose himself in his roles. Watching him here, you wouldn’t realize that he was the punk killer in Dirty Harry. Seeing Hellraiser and Dirty Harry, you wouldn’t recognize him as Garak in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Special effects run a gamut here from simple to complex as well as from well-done to quite dated. The imagery is fascinatingly horrific. Obviously the Cenobites are a highlight. Hellraiser is quite gory and filled with sexual situations.
The Cenobites and the box are fantastic and iconic. Unfortunately the sequels thought the Cenobites and box were the reason for the film. They didn’t understand that they needed to be in a supporting role – much like how Hannibal Lecter works perfectly in The Silence of the Lambs but less so when his role expands in Hannibal.
Hellraiser is the best sexual horror movie available – unfortunately, the sequels almost entirely jettison the sexual aspect. Barker once joked abut calling the film Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave. The Cenobites and the puzzle box are just icing on the cake.
People Watch: I have to assume that actor Simon Bamford is Clive Barker’s friend. He plays the Butterball Cenobite in Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. The only two other films he has been in are Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (1990, Bamford plays Ohnaka) and Clive Barker’s Book of Blood (2009, Bamford plays Derek)
Sequel-itis: Wowzers! Hellraiser spawned Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005), Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), and Hellraiser: Revelations (2011). They just kept getting better and better. I kid of course. The second movie was tolerable – after that the only thing to recommend them was Doug Bradley as Pinhead and they even replaced him in the last one. Hellraiser is currently awaiting the reboot treatment.