31 Nights of Horror - Night Seventeen: Hellraiser (1987)

Ladies and gentlemen...welcome to Hellraiser.

I remember when I first watched Hellraiser I was reading alot of Clive Barker and fully immersed into the horror genre...I heard about this film through several articles in my Fangorias. It had to have been 1988 or 1989. Films typically took a very long time to be released on VHS back in those days and so I was finally able to go to my local West Coast Video and take home Clive Barker's directorial debut. That night something was born in me. A sort of celluloid hell spawn that has had me searching for the same experience that I had with Hellraiser. I later found that same sort of experience with Hellbound: Hellraiser II, but it was more of the same from the first one. I've never found that certain something that left me feeling the way I did when I first watched Barker's original. Not until I watched the film Martyrs* was I so repulsed and intrigued at the same time. I was so scared of something that I didn't know altogether.

Let's take a walk down memory lane...shall we?

A crazy man named Frank Cotton (played briefly by Sean Chapman) solves a puzzle box in his home that he has purchased from some strange looking man in Morocco. Immediately after he solves this mysterious puzzle, chains and hooks fly out of it that tear into Frank's flesh...then, demons named "Cenobites" appear out of nowhere to check out what's left of poor Frank. The Cenobite leader, "Pinhead", puts the puzzle back to it's original state and everything goes back to the way it looked before the puzzle box was solved. Nothing is left of the Cenobites or Frank. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me after I solved my Rubik's cube.

Soon after Frank's disappearance, his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife, Julia (a despicably sultry Clare Higgins), move into the abandoned house believing that Frank is just on another of his nefarious expeditions. Larry cuts his hand on an old nail while moving into the house. While up in the room where his brother disappeared, a drop of his blood falls to the floor and is mysteriously soaked through the floorboards. Later, we see the blood actually partially nourish Frank into a weak version of himself (now played by hideous Oliver Smith).

Frank, who has had a previous affair with Julia (Larry's wife, in case you're not keeping score) convinces her to bring him bodies in which to feed off of. He tells her that he has broken his deal with the Cenobites by reclaiming his body and once he is restored back to his original state, he will escape with Julia to a better place. Like a good little whore, Julia agrees to this.

Everything goes according to Frank's plan until Larry's daughter, Kirsty (played wonderfully by a young Ashley Lawrence), discovers Julia bringing home a mysterious man. She follows them to the attic. All kinds of craziness is going on within in the room so, Kirsty approaches the room when the bloody man stumbles out of the attic with Frank in tow. Kirsty grabs the puzzle box from Frank and gets the fuck out of dodge. She blacks out in the street and wakes up in a hospital where she thinks she dreamed the entire episode, until the nurse hands her the puzzle box. Kirsty inadvertently solves the puzzle box thus summoning Pinhead and the Cenobites and all kinds of wacky horror ensues.

Hellraiser is a fun film that you will no doubt either love or hate...but, you have to appreciate it's originallity created by a genious of horror. Clive Barker will forever go down as one of the most important figures in the genre and it is here where he made his mark in film. The only thing keeping this film from a perfect score is the horrible dubbing.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks for reading,

*Sidenote: Martyrs talented director, Pascal Laugier, was in negotiations to direct an inevitable remake of Hellraiser before subsequently dropping out of the project. In my humble opinion, as much as I usually loathe remakes, Pascal would've been the only man in the known universe to be able to handle a remake of this classic. Shame. The proposed remake has been recently dropped and there are no further plans to unlock any more chapters of the malevolent puzzle...other than the occassional direct-to-DVD flop.