I have seen Hellraiser many, many times; but my most recent viewing of
the film was different to the rest. It was different because this was
the first time that I've seen the film since reading Clive Barker's
novel "The Hellbound Heart". The novel both enhanced my enjoyment for
the film, and exposed some of its flaws. With the book, Barker really
allows the reader to get inside the character's head, which ensures
that the horror is more shocking. His descriptions are also a lot more
macabre than what is shown in the film, and the way that certain things
in the book are missed out/abridged shows some of the wasted
opportunities of the story. This isn't really a criticism of the film,
but rather of books being turned into movies on the whole. People often
say that the book is better than the movie; and in this case it's true!
Even so, Hellraiser is an absolute classic horror film, and easily one
of the best of the eighties; not to mention all time. The plot simply
follows Frank Cotton. Frank is a man in search of unknown pleasures,
and in order to achieve that he buys a mysterious music box. This box
does give out pleasure; but it's inflicted by a band of demons, known
as 'Cenobytes' - and their idea of pleasure differs from Frank's! The
story picks up when Frank's brother and his girlfriend, Julia, move
into the house where Frank was taken...
The main reason Hellraiser stands out among horror films is because of its themes. Barker weaves shades of love, eroticism and, of course, pain and pleasure into his tale of demons and scarred flesh - and this really makes the film. We can care for the characters and what happens to them because of what Barker puts between them, and it's always evident that this film is head and shoulders above the rest of the schlock-horror sub-genre. The special effects, particularly on the screen time surrounding Frank, are simply stunning and show how real effects beat all this CGI rubbish hands down, while also showing that a low budget can be overcome. The film is never gratuitous with its gore or effects either, and everything in this film is there because it has to be. This is what annoys me about non-horror fans - films like this are dismissed by them because they're "too gory" or "stupid" - but Hellraiser breaks the mould because it's a truly original story and the way that Barker implements a macabre love story amidst a plethora of shocking horror is extremely skilfully handled, and more than challenges many of the so-called 'A-class' films.
A writer directing his own work tends to ensure that it will get proper treatment, and this is mostly true here. Some things have been changed from the book for no apparent reason (mostly with the characters of Larry and Kristy), but the only thing that really annoyed me was the ending. I suppose it's due to the time that it was made, but the ending feels tacked on to me. Barker's ending in the book was perfectly judged - just open enough to hint at more, while closing the story enough so that the reader is satisfied. Here, we have a schlock finale that is entertaining, but pulls away from the closed atmosphere that Barker has spent the film creating. This film differs from most other eighties horror films because of the fact that the actors are a talented bunch. You come to expect bad acting from this sort of film - but Hellraiser has none of it! The entire cast shine, with Clare Higgins making the biggest impression as the evil Julia. This was Clive Barker's directorial debut, and at times, it's clear that this is the case; but Barker makes the best of his locations, and while his camera sometimes feels enclosed; it fuses with the tragic music brilliantly, and all this helps the film to create that fabulous atmosphere so convincingly.
Overall, I have pointed out a couple of flaws here; but I really can't bring myself to give this masterpiece any less than full marks. The originality on display throughout Hellraiser is astounding, as is the atmosphere and the performances pulled out of the actors, along with the fact that this film has entertained me many times and is still as good today as the first time I saw it. All of this ensures that Hellraiser will be an endearing favourite of mine for the rest of my life. If you consider yourself a fan of horror and haven't seen this; shame on you. Make sure you read the book, too!
Action / Fantasy / Horror
Action / Fantasy / Horror
Clive Barker's feature directing debut graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature - the man's half-brother, who is also the woman's former lover - hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of S&M demons, the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor. He soon forces his former mistress to bring him his necessary human sacrifices to complete his body... but the Cenobites won't be happy about this.
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September 13, 2012 at 06:48 AM