Release date: September 18, 1987
Director: Clive Barker
Robert Hines and
Hellraiser is certainly original in all aspects. It begins with a mysterious small puzzle box, which looks harmless, but is said to unlock an experience where pain and pleasure are indivisible. The man who is looking for it is named Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman). He thought he'd been to the limits of human pleasures, but his fate is unimaginable. He is able to solve the puzzle box, but what is brought is hell itself, in the form of the Cenboites. He dies in the third floor room of this house that is soon after taken by his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson), his wife Julia (Clare Higgins), and his daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence). After cutting himself trying to get the mattress up the stairs, Larry's blood spills on the same floor that Frank died on. That small amount of blood is enough to regenerate some amount of Frank's living body. He is able to escape from hell, and hell doesn't like that. We learn of a past sexual relationship between Julia and Frank, and he uses her devotion to him to regain his full body through unsuspecting men. Kirsty is caught in the middle, and things move to another level when the Cenobites come looking for some more victims.
This movie is very dark, gory, and an unbound vision of horror by our director Clive Barker. Even the way it is filmed makes it even more entertaining. In retrospect, it is easy for one's focus to shift too much towards Doug Bradley and the other Cenobites as the star attraction's in the movie. In my opinion it is the performances of our human characters which make the movie the best. The emotional and psychological depth that the actors bring to their roles are amazing. Clare Higgins is devilishly seductive, but also, presents an honest vulnerability and apprehension. Andrew Robinson is also great. While his portrayal of Larry Cotton is definetely what it should be, and doesn't seem like too much of a standout, he is able to portray it with a lot of heart. It's sincere and honest. Though, it is his turn at the end of the film which really gets the juices flowing. He becomes extremely sadistic and sinister. He really does a great job, and lets nothing stand in his way of delivering an insidious, lustful villian.
The gore of Hellraiser is intense and in definetely in abundance. For the weak of stomach(not us horror fans), it could get to be a little much, but the skinless Frank (Oliver Smith) is a genuine work of awsome, gruesome art. Barker has a way to make horror beautiful, in a twisted, demented fashion. The Cenobite makeup, just adds to the texture of this movie. I actually like this look more than the later installments which I guess got cheap in the costume department, and sleeker in the makeup design. By the direct-to-dvd entries, their appearance became a little fake and soft. The only dated piece for the effects work comes with the visual effects, which were simple cell animation, but it's all kept to minimum. It's really apparent in the climax, but it hardly lessens the greatness of the movie as a whole.
The Cenobites in the film are used as a plot device, same as the puzzle box. Tortured, twisted, and horrific to hellish greatness, the Cenobites are the background characters here, but very good ones. Doug Bradley begins his legendary role of Pinhead (referred to, only as "Lead Cenobite" in the end credits). In a time where B level, slasher horror movies were the majority sub-genre in horror, this film came out and changed the standard for the horror movies. Fortunately/unfortunately, nothing has yet to equal to the first Hellraiser, except for maybe its first sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II. This has allowed Barker's 1987 film to stand out still, to this day, as a great horror classic.
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