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.
âWhat is your pleasure sir?â A simple question asked in a cafĂ© somewhere in the world where shady dealings are common place. But the question being asked isnât the lead in to a prostitution deal, but rather the sale of a simple golden puzzle box. A puzzle box that Frank Cotton has heard will give him pleasure beyond his imagination.
And so, sometime later, Frank sits surrounded by candles, attempting to solve the box. Finally, when he succeeds, any ideas he had of what wishes the box would grant him are soon violently torn to shreds by hooked chains. A tall shadowed figure plays with the pieces of Frankâs face then takes the box and disappears.
Larry Cotton and his wife Julia have just arrived in England from Boston to Larryâs childhood home. The house is an utter wreck, religious iconography litters the walls and shelves of the living room, and the kitchen is filled with rotting food with more maggots than you can shake a stick at. The place looks like sh*t, and Julia hates it, but Larry convinces her that with a little fixing up, itâll be home.
Moving day comes, and Kirsty (Larryâs daughter) arrives to help with the move. While attempting to move the mattress up the winding stairs with the moving men, Larry snags his hand on a nail, leaving a deep cut. The big baby canât stand the sight of blood and wanders upstairs to one of the empty rooms that Julia is looking around, the same room that Frank died in. Julia wraps his hand in a handkerchief and takes Larry off to the hospital, as the blood that fell from Larryâs hand is mysteriously absorbed by the floor. Within a few moments, the floor boards begin to quake, and a clear slime forces its way up through the gaps between the boards and through the nail holes. Slowly but surely the slime begins to take shape, and soon we see a half resurrected Frank.
Julia finds the abomination of Frank and he convinces her to bring him victims in order to restore him so that they can be together again.Head full of memories of her infidelities with Frank, the harlot agrees to seduce and subdue victims for Frank.
At some point in all of this madness, Frank tells Julia about the box, and the Cenobites: a group of creatures that are masters in the art of torture. He warns her that she must bring him more victims as quickly as possible so he can be fully restored before the Cenobites realize heâs escaped; Julia agrees. Kirsty makes an unexpected visit, catches Julia bringing a strange man home and decides to investigate.
Soon, Kirsty is involved in the madness that the box brings, and after stealing the box from Frank she collapses on the street, only to awaken in a hospital. Not realizing what the box is capable of, she opens it and meets The Cenobites: Chatterer, Butterball, Female and Pinhead. Kirsty bargains with the Cenobites that sheâll lead them to Frank if they leave her alone. Pinhead and the Female Cenobite offer one of the greatest pieces of dialogue in all of film âBut if you cheat usâŠWeâll tear your soul apart.â
Can Kirsty tell her father in time? Can she summon the Cenobites to take Frank instead of her?
Hellraiser was released in 1987 and to say that it had a small impact is like saying Hiroshima was just another bombing run. The 1980âs were truly an amazing time for horror films. Unfortunately, despite every truly classic film to come out of the decade, weâve also got a stack of âReturn to Horror Highâ and âSorority House Massacreâ type films to clog up the cinemas. By 1987 we had already seen Freddyâs return to glory in âA Nightmare on Elm St. 3â, we were treated to âCreepshow 2â, âEvil Dead 2â, âGhoulies 2â, âProm Night 2â, âHouse 2â and âThe Howling 3â to name just a few. Now thereâs nothing wrong with sequels most of the time, and there were plenty of other original horror films that came out in 1987 like âThe Lost Boysâ, âMonster Squadâ and âNear Darkâ, but Hellraiser set a new bar in the horror genre, pushing the boundaries of what to expect from a horror film.
Hellraiser is a nasty film, not only in the effects department, but also in the story. Here youâve got a scum bag that runs all around the world trying to find some new kind of thrill, an unfaithful wife and oblivious husband and demonic butchers from Hell. Hellraiser is an honest film, in the sense that the human characters are all people youâve probably met on the street or even know. Of course the Cenobites are far fetched, but thatâs what makes Clive Barkerâs writing, and this film, so effective. The film presents us with such a strong dichotomy of reality and fantasy, blurring the lines to such a degree that itâs hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The same can be said of Good and Evil in this film. While Julia and Frank are clearly bad people, theyâre doing what theyâre doing for love, and is that wrong? And what about the Cenobites? Are they evil? They donât do anything out of malice; in fact, the Cenobites are the only characters in the movie that arenât acting on pretense. They are simply doing what their job tells them to do, which is to come when the box is opened and take the soul of the person who opened it with them.
Iâve already sung the praises of âHellbound: Hellraiser IIâ and Iâll do the same for this film. Clive Barker knocked this film out of the park, and considering it was his first time directing a feature length film, he manages to keep the film moving without resorting to silly devices or shock tactics to keep the audience interested. Of course, there are a few scenes here and there that donât seem to make much sense. Kirstyâs dream sequence is more than a little strange, and the images that flash on the TV in Kirstyâs hospital room are another moment where the intention or purpose isnât quite clear. Nonetheless, the film draws you into itâs world and keeps your attention for its duration.
However, some of you younger viewers who have grown up with CGI effects in every horror film youâve seen will probably be disappointed by some of the practical effects in this film. Even I canât help but laugh a little when I watch the scene where the giant hallway monster chases Kirsty because, thanks to DVD, you can see the rig thatâs pushing the monster along that isnât as hidden by shadows as it should be. But overall, every bit of special effects done in this movie is fantastic, and adds to the whole film because you know that they achieved it by doing it the old fashioned way. And Iâd much rather see the rig pushing the hallway monster along then have some over done CGI monster that looks like sh*t.