Written and Directed by Clive Barker.
In 1987, in the midst of other slasher films like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween, Clive Barker introduced horror audiences all over the world to a new monster that would become just as classic as Jason Voorhees. From the first glimpse of Pinhead in a room full of hanging chains with body pieces littered among them you feel like you’re witnessing something else.
While the film isn’t nearly as up-front about disturbing you as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Clive Barker teaches a master class in body horror. The Cenobites themselves play out like BDSM Nightmares come to life, evoking an image of both terror and eroticism. Those themes run rampant throughout the film from the first bloody chain room to the ceramic sex doll which is one of the first images we see in the house. Frank’s resurrection happening because his brother bleeds and when his sister-in-law remembers the first time they had sex sets the stage brilliantly. Having the Cenobites be monsters looking for a new carnal experience sets them apart from other Horror Monsters and gives them a demented reason. It isn’t as much about killing to them.
The effects in this film are top notch. Frank’s body reanimating from goop in the floor with entirely practical effects is brilliant and it looks no less wonderful thirty years later. His slow transition from a grey heap of bones to a walking man is brought to life with a disturbing amount of detail by the makeup team. The Cenobites themselves are creepy monsters and the design of each and every one of them makes them all unique and just as gruesome. Bits of flesh flayed off, leather-bound costumes, and hooks and nails sticking out of them make them unforgettable.
The acting is just as good. With the film focusing on a small family of four it gave the opportunity to make you care about the father and daughter. Andrew Robinson and Ashley Laurence bring some genuine human emotion to the mix and you actually feel like they have a good relationship. They’re good people. Clare Higgins plays Julia’s descent in to madness with a certain level of insanity. Doug Bradley of course brings Pinhead to life in a role that he would shape for at least a half a dozen more films.
Lastly the soundtrack, because that can be just as important to a film as everything else. It uses heavy string in that seems at parts almost grandiose and others like it’s spelling out the doom the people can’t yet see. At times sounds in the film themselves are heightened. The rattling of chains, the sound of maggots on the plates, creaking doors. Clive Barker uses the sound just as much as the image to draw your attention to certain things, and he gives each Cenobite their own sound to give them even more individuality.
Hellraiser is a brilliant film. Bloody, erotic, and well acted and directed, Clive Barker brings the source material to life with so much care and artfulness that Hellraiser more than earned its place in the upper echelon of Horror Films.
Have you seen Hellraiser? Comment below and let me know!
See you tomorrow for Hellbound: Hellraiser II!