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.


Red – Seeing Red week

I am not now nor have I ever been a communist but this is Seeing Red week. Red is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Red (2007) – Rated R for violence and language.

“When it becomes apparent that the three teenage miscreants who murdered his dearly loved dog, Red, wont be held accountable for their senseless deed, the normally reclusive and affable Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox) resolves to take matters into his own hands. Trygve Diesen and Lucky McKee direct this disquieting thriller that also stars Tom Sizemore, Robert Englund, Richard Riehle, Noel Fisher and Amanda Plummer.”

“I learned one thing during the war: that you fight with whatever you have got, whatever you can lay your hands on… and you never stop. The minute you do, that is the minute the world rolls right over you.”

First let me say that I have not read any of the Jack Ketchum novels. From what I have seen of the movie versions of The Lost and The Girl Next Door, Ketchum seems to specialize in all the ugliness of the world. Cannibalism, child abuse, rape – everything that makes me feel uncomfortable.

I can certainly see the market in this. These are topics that are way scarier than the Stephen King stories I love because they can really happen. On the other hand a huge part of why I love horror, fantasy, and science fiction so much is because it is not possible (or not possible yet for science fiction). This is much the same as how you can enjoy a rollercoaster (the illusion of danger without actual danger) but not a runaway car with no brakes.

The advantage of the Ketchum tales is that they seem firmly rooted in realism. Suspension of disbelief is not hard because the background to the stories is true. The Girl Next Door is a good film but it is not a pleasant one.

Lucky McKee was originally hired to film this adaptation but was fired after a few weeks (reason not given) and replaced with Trygve Allister Diesen. At the same time Angela Bettis was replaced as Carrie with Kim Dickens. Both Lucky McKee and Trygve Allister Diesen are given credit as director. Trygve is also a producer on Red.

Red works so well because of Brian Cox. He is a great character actor but almost always only has small parts (X-Men 2, The Ring, The Bourne movies). Here he has to carry the whole film on his shoulders. He does a marvelous job. He has to convey determination, fear, anguish, bravery, and bewilderment and manages all of them.

Robert Englund and Amanda Plummer are excellent in very straight roles. They do a very admirable job of avoiding the camp that is usually present in their roles. It is actually a shame that their roles are so brief.

Tom Sizemore does a fine job as Mr. McCormack but it is his normal role. He can sleepwalk through a sleazy role so well that that seems like all he is given any more. His real life antics often amusingly reflect those of some of his characters.

I recommend this grim little revenge thriller for both the realism and the leading performance by Brian Cox. The climax is a little anti-climactic and rushed but overall the film is well done and the portion of the denouement that is not telegraphed is very well-handled.

People Watch: Mrs. McCormack is played by Ashley Laurence. Ashley was Kirsty in Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and the more recent straight-to-video Hellraiser: Hellseeker.

People Watch 2: Did you know that Brian Cox played Dr. Hannibal Lecter/Lecktor long before Anthony Hopkins? Cox has a supporting role as Lecter in Manhunter.