There are monsters and madmen of eighties horror, one of the most iconic of them is the creation of famed author Clive Barker in the form of the lead Cenobite, Pinhead. A being of absolute darkness and pain, this entity can only be called upon through the use of the Lament Configuration, also known as The Puzzle-box. Today we play with the box and discuss a film that changed my perception of horror.
I wrote and published this one about a year ago but, since I have been on a franchise kick as of late, I figured what a better franchise to discuss than one stemmed from the mind of one of my favorite authors. So lets talk about Hellraiser and work our way through ten films of hell itself!
Today’s Key Movie:
Based on the Novella, The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser follows Kristy Cotton and her family as they discover a dark secret in her family’s traditional homestead. Kristy and the rest soon find themselves the unwilling participants in a dark ritual that involves the sadomasochistic species known as The Cenobites.
Starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgens, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman and Doug Bradley as Pinhead, this is Hellraiser.
Why this movie?
I was far to young to watch this film when it came out and my parents were the first to tell me. Since it’s release everyone had been talking about this dark film from the newly popular author Clive Barker. From the school yards to the cafeteria my friends would whisper about how gory and dark this film was, many of them only repeating what their older siblings had said.
The summer after the films release on home video we traveled to visit family up in Kentucky and it was there that the adults decided to rent a film entitled Hellraiser. Knowing I wanted to see it, but also knowing that my relatives would never understand me being allowed to, my parents informed me that I would not be participating in the movie night and sat me in front of my cousins Atari 2600 while the rest watched on the big screen in the basement below. I mean, I loved playing video games, dont get me wrong, but a forbidden film is something I could not ignore.
Waiting for the right moment, I carefully slipped down the stairs and sat in the shadows watching the film from behind everyone, being careful not to make a sound. There is a term called ‘Behind the sofa’ that originated with the classic Doctor Who. This phrase was used to explain how many children would ‘hide’ behind the sofa during the scary parts of the program only to return when thing got safe. This time, however, I was behind the sofa the entire time watching the sexually charged horror from behind my parents, Aunt and uncle. Halfway through, my father noticed my small form behind him and winked at me, knowing that he himself had done this very thing at my age.
While I would not fully understand what I saw that night for several years to come, I found myself morbidly fascinated by the world that Clive Barker presented on the screen. As soon as I was old enough, I found myself exploring his works and discovering that there was so much more beyond the dark fantasy that was presented in Hellraiser. It would not be long before Barker had become my favorite teller of tales and I would rush to experience his latest book or film as soon as I could get my hands on it.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
From those early peeks from behind the couch I found myself obsessed at the dark world of the cenobites,puzzle boxes and the world of darkness they all came from. My young mind didn’t quite comprehend the full story behind the creatures that brought exquisite pain, all I know was that these creatures tormented people and they were fascinating. By that time I was more than familiar with the likes of Freddy Kruegar and Jason Vorhees so the concept of a slasher film was not alien to me but this was something more, something deeper. This film explored concepts I had never thought of, from beings on other planes of existence to the idea that to some pain is the equivalent of pleasure.
Barkers visuals were disturbing at best but I found the mystery behind the extra-dimensional beings to be a fascinating one. Although I feared it, I desperately feared and wanted wanted that gold and wooden puzzle box from the film and still do to this day. I know I would never attempt to solve it for fear of what it might bring but to have it sitting on the shelf in my office would be nothing short of incredible.
Marking Clive Barker’s directorial Debut, this film is everything you could want from this master of horror. While it does manage to have a rather sexual nature to it, I have to admit it is done tastefully and only as the story demands. The thing that makes this film so dark and terrifying is the visceral nature that stems from Frank Cotton’s attempted escape from his Cenobite hell. Barker holds nothing back when it comes to depicting the regrowth of this horrible man from nothing but a withered heart. There is blood galore and every ounce is spent on some of the most terrifying moments in cinema history. In addition to the gore, the special effects are far more than just buckets of blood, there is a clear level of care when it comes to designing the disturbing monsters that appear from the unknown worlds the cenobites live in and boy are they impressive. This is one that is well before the regular use of CGI and man do the practical effects still hold up to this day.
What I find interesting about this film is that the Cenobites themselves are not the monsters of the movie, the real monster is Frank Cotton in his attempt to cheat the Extra-Dimensional beings from their bargain with him. Through their puzzle box, they offer Frank a chance to experience a physical high he has been chasing all of his life. He is an addict of physical pleasure and only stumbles across the beings in an extreme attempt to find the ultimate sensation. Their appearance is only to reclaim what they see as theirs and, in that attempt, they succeed in killing those around them.
Overall, this is one of the best horror films of the 80’s and one that you should certainly see. With a terrific cast including Andrew Robinson (Frank) of Star Trek fame, this film is a classic horror through and through. If you are a horror fan, or a lover of the macabre, this is a must watch. Once you are done with it, while there are an insane number of sequels afterward, I recommend ignoring them and picking up the comics from Boom Studios, This series picks up right where Hellraiser leaves off and is Barkers first return as the writer to the franchise after this film. Honestly, it is pretty incredible giving the beings he created a much needed background and deeper explanation. To say this film has aged well is an understatement. I think it actually got better with age.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is one that is available in pretty much any format and you can pick it up for less than $10 here or find it via your favorite digital platform. If you like horror and want something different than your typical slasher flick, give it a go. I think you will find it worth the while.
Of course, here is the trailer:
Late To The Game 6/3/2021
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!