Original release: September 11th, 1987
Running time: 94 minutes
Writer and director: Clive Barker
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, Doug Bradley
The world of horror writer and director Clive Barker has never been more terrifying than in his 1987 feature film directorial debut.
Originally titled “Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave“, Hellraiser was an adaptation of his own novella, The Hellbound Heart. It introduced horror audiences to the terrifying Cenobites; extradimensional beings who could be summoned by deciphering a puzzle box called the Lament Configuration. Once summoned, they could bring the summoner “an experience beyond the limits; pain and pleasure, indivisible”.
The leader of the pack, a tall, ghostly white figure with a grid covering his head and at each intersection are pins driven into them, is known simply as “Pinhead”, played by Doug Bradley.
Adorned in black leather, which is fetishist in design, he also has six gaping wounds in his chest with hooks holding them open. When it’s brought to his attention that a human, Frank (Sean Chapman), has escaped their hedonistic dimension after summoning them, Pinhead is keen to get him back.
After Frank first summons the Cenobites, they literally tear him apart in his brother Larry’s (Andrew Robinson) attic, but he’s accidentally brought back to life when Larry cuts his hand on a protruding nail, letting his blood drip onto the floor.
Although the sight of him first horrifies Larry’s unfaithful wife Julia (Clare Higgins), she agrees to help him get back to his former self by luring random men to the house with the promise of sex, something that shouldn’t be too difficult for her. The next step is killing them and letting Frank feed off their blood.
Larry’s teenage daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) discovers the gruesome murders as well as the Cenobites and just as they’re about to tear her soul apart, she offers Pinhead a deal; to lure them to Frank so that they can take him back instead of her.
Hellraiser is gory as Hell and the Cenobites are a group you wouldn’t want to trifle with. That said, the film took horror to a new place and gave us a unique icon in the form of Pinhead. His terror comes from the fact that he’s not malicious, evil or a maniac with a glove, axe, chainsaw or machete. His philosophy of pleasure goes beyond our understanding of it and involves bringing a person to the extreme point of pain where it crosses over into something else entirely.
It was a film that left me shaking and a little nauseous after I first saw it, mind you I was only 10 at the time. Sitting there in our darkened living room while our parents were out I knew I should’ve closed my eyes but I really couldn’t. Hellraiser has of course come to find its place among my favourite horror movies. Unique, bold and compellingly scary; it really will tear your soul apart.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
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