One of the taglines used in the marketing of the movie was a quote by Stephen King stating “I have seen the future of horror, and its name is Clive Barker”. Now to be honest I don’t know if Clive lived up to that in his novels but he sure didn’t in his movies. Nightbreed and Lord Of Illusions both were unmemorable films. This film however didn’t go down the road of forget but is a classic and still is being re-released on various media from time to time. It made Pinhead an icon, gave Doug Bradley a steady paycheck with its 7 sequels and was the inspiration of house-parties/raves with a Hellraiser theme. This was one of those movies that was panned by critics but loved by horror-buffs throughout the world.
One of the criticisms of Hellraiser: Inferno and every succeeding movie was that Pinhead was barely in those films. That is true, but when looking back he isn’t much in Hellraiser either. I guess he has 15 minutes screen time tops. That’s quite little considering he is the face of the franchise and was featured solely on the movie poster. His image sold the film in first place. Pinhead is more of a secondary character here only appearing when the script requires him too. I must say that he makes every second he is on screen count, every line of mono- or dialogue is memorable and this was one of the first movies which was sucked dry of its audio samples which have turned up in dozens of tracks.
Like I said the image of Pinhead on the posters sold the movie to many people including me. As a young boy, 11, maybe 12 years old, I roamed the video-store. When renting a movie like Short Circuit 2 I couldn’t help but look at the poster of Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 and the video cover of Hellraiser. That looked like scary stuff to me. When I was 14 or 15 I actually got to see it and loved it. It was dark and gothic, nothing like the gag-rich films like the Elm Street or Friday movies had become at the time. What is there for a horror freak not to love? You get blood and gore in all kinds of variations, a skinless man, people torn apart with hooks, some senseless act of animal cruelty performed on a rat and the cenobites. Pinhead isn’t alone in this film, he’s got a couple of sidekicks each with there own personality. That might not look like a big thing to you but consider the fact that these guys and girl even have less screen time than Pinhead and in most cases no dialogue either. So it’s admirable that they all have their distinctive personalities.
The star of the show is Kirsty, played by the beautiful Ashley Laurence, who’s dad Larry has just moved in the house of his brother Frank with his new wife Julia. This Frank is in their eyes probably somewhere around the world on one of his “adventures”. Such is not case as Frank is actually in Hell where he got because of opening a mysterious puzzle box which features as pathway to Hell. Frank was also at one point the lover of Julia. This must be mentioned because it is important to the plot. One day while moving into the house Larry cuts himself and drops some blood on the floor in the attic. The same place Frank was when he got dragged to hell. Turns out this blood gives Frank a way to get back to the land of the living. In a still impressive sequence we see how Frank slowly becomes alive again but the blood isn’t enough. We have a skinless man resembling something of a zombie only with a full functional brain. Julia discovers this “monster” but gets convinced it is her old lover Frank; the man she had passionate sex with in an earlier flashback. Longing for Franks affection she decides to help him get more blood and so Julia goes all slutty and lures men to the attic where she hits them with a hammer and Frank sucks them dry. This is also a part that puzzled me all these years. A few drops of Larry’s blood is enough to regenerate of something that resembles a man so you would guess that another guys body would be enough to become whole again. Yet, Julia brings 3 or 4 men to the attic and they’re all sucked dry and that still isn’t enough. Oh well, at least they’ve maintained that puzzle in the sequel.
Kirsty is the innocent bystander dragged into this. Well Larry is also but he married Julia while everybody with their brain intact can see what a no good stuck up bitch that is. That’s one point of critique I really have to make. What does that guy see in her? OK, look around and there are enough couples who you could ask the same thing about. But nevertheless I would have divorced that woman years ago. Kirsty stumbles upon Frank and Julia doing their luring shenanigans and comes in possession of the Box. She of course will also ’solve‘ the puzzle and summon the Cenobites giving us the immortal “we’ll tear your soul apart” line. Now that Box is not really a hard puzzle. It always solves itself after being touched a couple of times. That’s a bit of cheating! That also makes a liar out of Pinhead when he says “The Box, you opened it, we came”. Eh, hello, the damn thing opened itself!
Hellraiser has aged fairly nicely but not perfect. The make-up is still terrifying as it was back then and the story is still strong enough. But the look of the film and some of the special effects are dated. You can definitely tell this movie was shot over 20 years ago yet I don’t think this movie should be remade as they are planning to. Hellraiser is a solid horror film and a classic in its genre. I liked it when I was 14 and I still like it today.