Hellraiser (1987)
By: David Michael Brown on March 18, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Simitar (Australia - USA Import). All Regions, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1.. 93 minutes
The Movie
Director: Clive Barker
Starring: Virginia Madson, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Vanessa Williams
Screenplay: Clive Barker
Music: Christopher Young
Tagline: "It will tear your soul apart"
Country: UK
The debut film by artist and author Clive Barker, this adaptation of his novella The Hellbound Heart is a classic of the genre. Visceral, iconic and sickening, this low budget triumph introduced the world to the character of Pinhead, arguably the most recognisable horror figure of the Eighties.

The film follows a thrill seeker, Frank played by Sean Chapman, who is after the ultimate pleasure trip. He has passed the point where sex and drugs are of any use to him; he needs more and thinks he has found it in the form of a mysterious puzzle box. Legend has it that this cube unlocks such pleasures that his desires will be sated beyond his wildest dreams. Unfortunately these delights come in the form of the Cenobites who quite literately rip his soul to pieces.

We return to the scene of Frank's demise a few months later, Larry, Frank's brother, played by Andrew Robinson and his new wife Julia, Clare Higgins, have moved into the house. Whilst moving a small accident drips blood onto Franks remains as he is resurrected with a rabid bloodlust to rebuild his shattered body. He seduces his ex lover Higgins into murdering a succession of men and feeds on their blood to replenish his own supply. Soon all he needs is a new skin to complete the gory picture. Unbeknownst to this evil spirit the Cenobites have discovered that he has escaped his limbo and is about to walk the earth again. A bizarre truce between Robinson's daughter Kirsty, played by Ashley Lawrence and Pinhead, the lead Cenobite, is formed to destroy the evil Frank once and for all but at what cost to Lawrence's sanity. To tell much more will spoil a classic tale for the few visitors to this site who haven't already seen it.

Barker's intense story doesn't pull any punches; the flesh ripping imagery is as graphic as anything seen in modern cinema. The Cenobites are a truly monstrous creation; Chattermouth, Butterball and Pinhead are a horrific blend of Gothic design and sadomasochistic chic.
The film is presented in both an enhanced1:85:1 widescreen print and in full frame. The picture quality is exemplary, the blacks are ominous and free of grain, Barker's vision has never looked this good.
The THX approved disc pulls out all the stops. The dynamic AC-3 mix is punchy in all the right places and the surround adds an oppressive atmosphere when the Cenobites make an appearance.
Extra Features
The extras include a fine documentary, entitled Hellraiser: Resurrection, featuring new interviews with Barker, along with star Ashley Lawrence, Pinhead himself Doug Bradley, Special effects guru Bob Keen and Oliver Smith the man who played the skinless Frank. It's informative and also features some brief behind the scenes photographs. Rather disturbingly the short film also features a group of thrill seekers obsessed by the film who indulge in some rather graphic bodily piercing in a warped tribute to some of the more gruesome moments in Hellraiser. Barker also contributes an entertaining audio commentary along with Lawrence moderated by writer Pete Atkins. The trailer and a comprehensive stills gallery complete a great disc.
The Verdict
What can you say; Hellraiser is a classic of the modern horror genre, unflinching with its obsession to disturb the audience. Cinema, and unfortunately Barkers career, has rarely scaled the heights of the depravity on show here. Ignore the numerous awful sequels and stick to the original, you will not be disappointed.
Movie Score
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