‘HellRaiser’… Still Beautiful Repulsion (Review)
Written by: Matthew Cadman
Directed by: Clive Barker
Cast: Ashley Laurence, Clare Higgins, Andrew Robinson, Sean Chapman, Doug Bradley
Hellraiser (1987) helped define the tone of supernatural horror of the late 80s and early 90s. Melodramatic performances, extremely gory makeups, iconic villains and awesome music from Christopher Young seal the deal on my love for this film.
The movie was based on Barker’s own original 1986 novella, “The Hellbound Heart”. Barker stayed fairly close to his original vision, though he had to make some adjustments due to budgetary needs. Hellraiser is, by now, a well-known story of forbidden love, pain and murder. There’s something special about this production that has only been matched (within the series) by Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, released the following year. What makes the film so enduring is the fact that Barker does not shy away from exploring human nature’s dark side. It’s his forte as an author and director, keeping this horror fan glued to the written page and screen every time.
Hellraiser features a cast of intriguing characters. Ashley Laurence is likable as the heroine with panache, Kirsty Cotton. Clare Higgins (Kirsty’s step-mother, Julia) plays the unfaithful spouse sublimely. Andrew Robinson (Larry, Kirsty’s father) and Sean Chapman (Frank, Julia’s lover) are both effective and creepy in their respective roles. And the best I leave for last: Doug Bradley as the Lead Cenobite, lovingly known as Pinhead. He owned this film! His presence is worth a million bucks and he has me convinced every time that he will “tear your soul apart”. There is no question that Pinhead is to be feared. You do not want to mess with this guy! It’s like watching Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger from the first Nightmare On Elm Street film. I simply cannot imagine and cringe to think of anyone else playing these memorable roles. Though, unfortunately, both franchises have seen shoddy films with mediocre replacements for the iconic baddies, in the past few years.
Although Doug Bradley is on screen all of about 10 minutes he and the other actors really brought so much to the table. They made Hellraiser the memorable and fascinating film that it is, to this day.
If you are a fan of lovingly crafted supernatural gore-fests from the 80s; this is the film for you. Hellraiser lives up to its reputation and most importantly its name!
Favorite Moments *Spoiler Alert*:
The plasmatic ooze forming from drops of blood into a slimy living corpse aka Frank.
Anytime the Cenobites are on screen. They rule this picture!
When Kirsty sells out Frank to get the Cenobites off her trail.
Near the end of the film when Kirsty figures out that there’s something seriously wrong with her father, Larry.
Lead Cenobite: “We have such sights to show you.”, “We’ll tear your soul apart!”
Frank Cotton: “Jesus wept”.
Asian Merchant: “What’s your pleasure, sir?”
About the Author: Matthew Cadman is an avid horror movie and film score fan. He is especially fond of the 80s in all its unabashed, cheesy glory; Troll 2 and Pieces being his all-time favorite horror laugh-fests. Little known fact: Matthew is currently working on a piano solo album.
Matthew, great review. It reminded of just how wonderful Hellraiser is as a horror film. I need to watch it again this Halloween. I remember that Andy Robinson was terrific in it. I hadn’t seen him in a movie since Dirty Harry, when he played the Scorpio killer. You’re right, however, in that Doug Bradley as Pinhead really stole the movie. He scared the daylights out of me. Good stuff!
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Thank you, Wayne. I sincerely love the film and believe that it is a classic, must-watch for the Halloween season. Enjoy!