Go

Hellraiser

Year: 1987
Production Co: Cinemarque Entertainment
Director: Clive Barker
Writer: Clive Barker
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Claire Higgins, Sean Chapman, Ashley Laurence

Most of us have one – that film you've been hearing about for decades in hushed, reverent tones that, when you finally see it, makes you wonder what all the fuss was about. I can see myself thinking that about The Thing or Blade Runner if I only saw them now, almost four decades later – fine enough, but hardly enough to have earned classic status.

Now I look back I don't know if Hellraiser has the same sort of fervent love as many other horror flicks from the era, but I know it has plenty of diehard fans and an enduring appeal.

And it wasn't just the late 80s-era horror effects (but in fact they had a quite hand-made charm), but it made me feel like to be a fan of it today you have to have seen it back then, really loved it and watched a grainy VHS copy a hundred times.

Seen through the completely fresh eyes of a filmgoer today it's dreadfully hammy, novellist turned writer/director Barker wrangling the very stylised kind of dialogue and performance that was still popular and we wouldn't realise for a few decades would date so badly.

We meet Frank (Sean Champan) in what appears to be a sweaty marketplace in the Middle East. He buys a small trinket, takes it home and opens it in a dark room dressed for an apparently Satanic ceremony, candles all around the floor, etc. As light starts pouring out of the joins when the box opens up, chains with hooks fly out of the walls, sinking ito Frank's skin and apparently tearing him to pieces.

Later on, Frank's more straight-laced brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his icy British wife Julia (Claire Higgins) move into a grand old mansion full of scary dark rooms and try to settle in.

One night, Frank is reanimated from a pile of goop on the floor, bones and flesh first (in one of the film's standout make-up effects sequences) but without any skin.

As he makes himself known to a horrified Julia, we also see through flashbacks that Julia and Frank had an affair and that she was completely smitten by him, so when Frank asks her to help make him whole again, she can't help but agree.

First she brings anonymous victims home from bars, luring them into the revolting room Frank's hiding out in and letting him kill them to rebuild his flesh and skin.

Things go awry when Larry's cute college-age daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) sees Julia bring another victim home, and she busts in on Frank feeding on the poor guy.

Kirsty takes the box and flees, waking up later in hospital where she makes the mistake of opening it. The infamous Cenobites descend, the misshapen humanoid demon things that have come from another dimension that's not explicitly described as hell, but where they had Frank's soul captive for continual BDSM-style torture before he escaped back to Earth.

They agree to let Kirsty go if she shows them where Frank is so they can get him back, but her rejuvenated Uncle has no plans to return with them, and the make-up artistry takes full flight as Kirsty battles Frank and a host of creatures to save her soul.

It apparently fooled plenty of people into thinking it was a much better movie than it was, but I'm sure if you still love it you've just never removed the rose coloured glasses about it.

It's also interesting because the Cenobites, led by one of the most iconic horror character designs in Pinhead, are hardly in it. If I was more cynical about Barker's and the production company's intentions I would have suggested they were only front and centre in the marketing to bring in teenage horror fans.

© 2011-2018 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au