Hellraiser is a British horror flick written and directed by Clive Barker and based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. It stars Andrew Robinson as Larry Cotton, Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton, and Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton.
This film is not for the faint of heart because you literally see people get torn apart by hooks that appear out of a fourth dimension where pain, pleasure, knowledge all go together in a deranged soup of terror. This is a gore-filled, pain-based horror film in its purest form. I use the term pain-based because that is what the film is attempting to do; put you in a painful world. This is a world filled with people who have nails driven into their flesh, hooks into their skin, eyeballs torn out, and bugs eating their skin.
The story is about a man, Frank Cotton, who has become bored with the typical pleasures of Earth and decides to find a new world with even crazier sexual and physical experiences. It appears that he has the answer within a puzzle box, upon solving it he is torn apart by hooks. Later on, his , niece, Kristy, and the niece’s stepmother, Julia, who had been having an affair with Frank, move into the house. Julia finds Frank as a living corpse and agrees to bring him victims to return him to life. Things get even more horrifying as the cenobites, beings obsessed with sadomasochism and have no true differentiation between pleasure and pain, enter the world to find the man who escaped them.
What makes Hellraiser such a great film is that it brings the characters to the very extremes of pain and attempts to market that off as pleasure. It brings up the question of indulgence to the point of sickening yourself. You get the chance to reflect about your own habits, and how far you might go for them. Would I kill my sibling for something I love? Would I convince my lover to commit crimes for my indulgence? How far am I willing to go to get what I want?
All of the existential questions aside, the makeup and special effects are clearly from a couple years ago, yet, they are all done very well, while watching it, the desire to cringe and groan with every scene grows. You are very aware that all of it is fake, but the use of lighting, the proper amount of time spent lingering on each scene, and the sounds played over it make it all the more amazing.
This movie came out in 1987, which was a great year for horror movies, from The Lost Boys to Monster Squad, we received a great variety of unique characters, original plots, and terrifying scenes of gore and deviantation that rival some modern films. Unfortunately, the actors and the characters in this one are not super interesting, at times they all seem a little ham fisted in some of their scenes. Also, none of the human characters exactly stand out as interesting; you can understand what they are doing and what emotions they are portraying but they still feel unoriginal.
Luckily enough, the actors for the cenobites stole every last scene that they appeared in, thanks in part to the makeup that they wore. It is hard to do a regal dominatrix queen incorrectly, and every time that they appear on screen, everyone watching the film just grows quiet in awe at the majesty and dedication that went into every piece of painstakingly applied piercing and metallic implement, especially with the cenobite dubbed Pinhead. Without giving too much away, just watch this movie for Pinhead alone, the actor has a commanding presence and somehow has a very strange and breath of fresh air. He demands your attention every time that he is within sight.
The movie is powerful and definitely pushed the envelope for what is appropriate and inappropriate for a horror movie to show. With just the right amount of 80’s cheesy acting and plots and mind numbingly astounding gore, you will feel satisfied yet simultaneously uncomfortable by the end of this film’s run time.
4.5 out of 5 stars