“An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; demons are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.” — IMDb
Not to overstate things, but… if you haven’t seen this movie, you need to go do so now. It’s on Netflix so you ain’t got no excuse. This is the movie that got me into loving horror to begin with, way back when I was maybe 13 years old and my best friend’s dad let us watch it (he was always the cool dad). Not to be dramatic or anything but… if you don’t understand Hellraiser, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME.
But really, this movie is great. It has all of the charm of an 80’s horror movie — the teased hair, the costume jewelry, the questionable acting skills, the shoddy special effects. I mean, Roger Ebert hated it, but Stephen King once said of Barker “I have seen the future of horror fiction, and his name is Clive Barker”, so who are you really going to trust here? (That was in response to his book series, The Books of Blood, BUT STILL.)
“Every drop of blood you spill puts more flesh on my bones. And we both want that, don’t we?”
The basic plot is that Frank (played by Sean Chapman), a bad boy in every sense of the phrase, is seeking some intense thrills to liven up his numbed soul and buys a mysterious puzzle box, The Lament Configuration, from a dealer in Morocco. It’s a Lemarchand’s box — one that, when solved, creates a bridge that can be used to go back and forth between our realm and others. He goes back home and opens the box and all hell breaks loose (literally). Months later, his brother, Larry (played by Andrew Robinson), moves into the abandoned house with his second wife, Julia (played by Clare Higgins), who had previously had an affair with Frank. When Larry accidentally cuts himself and spills blood on the floor of the house, Frank’s resurrection begins, but he needs Julia to bring him some human sacrifices (which she is hesitant about at first but ultimately obliges because apparently Frank is reeeeally good in bed).
When the Cenobites find out from Larry’s daughter Kirsty (played by Ashley Laurence in her debut on-screen role) that Frank has escaped them, they are pissed and come back for him. They succeed, but not before Frank kills both Larry AND Julia because dude has absolutely no moral fiber. The Cenobites had agreed to bypass Kirsty in exchange for her bringing them to Frank, but they change their mind and want her, too, but she sends ’em right back to hell and the cycle is able to be started all over again (namely with part two of the series).
“No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.”
I may be biased but I think the storyline is an awesome one. The Cenobites, with Pinhead as their leader (technically he was never actually named “Pinhead”, it was just a nickname that stuck and was eventually used in one of the later sequels — I prefer Barker’s original idea for his name, Priest), are just… so damn cool. Pinhead and the Female Cenobite are the only ones who speak (due to the other two’s makeup and prosthetics making it impossible for them to speak coherently) and their lines are just… chilling. I’ve wanted to be Pinhead for Halloween for so many years now but I don’t think I could pull off such a badass character.
But really, so many great scenes. When you’re watching it, it’s not so much fear that you feel, per se, as a sense of dread. It becomes obvious from the first encounter with the Cenobites that they are soulless, ruthless beings. It’s almost amazing how laughable some of the other effects are — Kirsty being chased at the end, for example — when the makeup and styling for the Cenobites is just flawless. Every time I watch this movie I notice something new about one of their costumes or their physical features. The combination of music (done by Christopher Young), lighting, and sound effects makes every scene with them a memorable one — the clinking of chains, ominous synthesizers, and dusty sunlight shining through wooden slats.
I could probably go on forever, but really. Go watch this damn movie.
Rating: 10/10 | Director: Clive Barker | Writer: Clive Barker, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart | Music: Christopher Young | Starring: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Doug Bradley