Friday, September 9, 2011

Halloween Horror Recommendation! -- Hellraiser

'Halloween Horror Recommendation!' is an ongoing series where we take a quick look at some of my favorite horror movies of all time! Sometimes they are big sometimes they are small but every time they are guaranteed to make you shriek with fright! Updated every Friday from now until October 31st!


If you have never had the chance to read Clive Barker's short story "The Hellbound Heart" I strongly suggest you do so. It is an incredibly sick and twisted book that is both brutal and straight to the point, clocking in at only 164 pages. "The Hellbound Heart" focuses on a mysterious puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration. When opened the box is said to revile a place of great pleasure to its owner. However in actuality the puzzle box is home to a group of very disturbing creatures known as The Cenobites. Devilish looking creatures straight out of the depths of hell they see little difference between extreme pleasure and extreme pain. "The Hellbound Heart" was first published in November of 1986 and it would not take long for Hollywood to come knocking at the door of author Clive Barker. A little less than a year later, September of  1987 to be exact, Barkers novel would be released as a major motion picture. Hellraiser was a horror film the likes of which mainstream horror had not seen in years. In fact it many will argue that Hellraiser was the original "torture porn" film that would later go on to inspire films such as Saw and Hostel.

Hellraiser is an adaptation of the short story "The Hellbound Heart". Written and directed by author Clive Barker this 1987 film features a very solid cast headlined by seasoned actor Andrew Robinson, who stars as Larry Cotton. Though it goes without saying that the real star of the show is Doug Bradley and his amazing portrait as "The Lead Cenobite" aka Pinhead. I have often viewed Pinhead as the bastard stepchild of sorts of 80's horror movie icons. Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers always seem to get top billing while Pinhead falls to either the second or third tier, often lumped in with much lesser films. This is despite the fact that Pinhead is, pun not intended, a much more fleshed out character than the top three.


Michael Myers was never fully explained why he killed and was ultimately just a guy in a white mask. Jason Voorhees was never able to keep any sort of continuity from film to film, sometimes being portrayed as human while others coming off as some sort of mythological super being. Freddy Kruger seemed to have the most potential but quickly turned into a parody of himself, being quicker to make jokes than appear frightful on screen. Pinhead on the other hand has lasted through nine sequels and has not cracked one joke, said or done a single nice thing throughout. He remains constant and vigilant in preforming his job, to unleash pain and suffering on those who disturb him. You see unlike all the other horror icons who either kill for fun, because they are crazy, or for some sort of revenge, to Pinhead it is all work. He is completely unpartial and unbiased in his doing. Actor Doug Bradley brings a very minimalistic approach to the character where less is more, making Pinhead seem almost uninterested in what he is doing. It all comes and works on a much deeper level than your standard horror movie serial killer.

Also working on a deeper level than your typical slasher film is Barker's story. A lessor author / director might be inclined to spend the whole film around the Pinhead character and the rest of the Cenobites. Instead Clive spends the proper time to paint an image of the Cotton family and the troubles they face every day. A sexually frustrated wife (Julie) in a failing marriage with a husband (Larry) who likes to pretends that everything is alright. Her stepdaughter Kirsty, who ultimately disapproves of her fathers new marriage and does not get along with Julie in the slightest. This is really where the films plot lies, is within these character driven moments. The horrific Cenobites simply intersect the films narrative and serve as a backdrop to the horrors that this family puts each-other through.


Of course when things do go wrong with the Cenobites there is, no pun intended, hell to pay. It is bloody, it is disgusting, and it is brutal. All coming out in a time long before CGI the special effects in Hellraiser are top of the line. Easily some of the best and most frightening work to come out of the 1980's cinema, Hellraiser manages to bring about and show you some truly horrific sights. The Cenobites are all about pain and suffering so there are no quick deaths. Everything is maliciously planned out and executed in the same manor that a conductor would conduct an orchestra. Hellraiser will stick with you long after you turn off your DVD player and that is why it is most definitely a 'Halloween Horror Recommendation!"

1 comment:

  1. Good review Kyle. My favourite author combined with one of my Top 5 horror films. I rented this on video when it first came out & immediately after watching it, phoned a number of my friends & told them that they had to see this movie. 5 of them turned up later & I watched it a further two times that night!! It was jaw-dropping at the time. Barker is a master of the metaphysical & the visceral!! Mark Bod :)

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