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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day 124: Hellraiser

I don't think I can re-gift that

Alright, I admit it: I've never seen Hellraiser before. It's not like I was completely avoiding it, it had just never popped into my mind to watch it. If it's ever on TV, it would be too cut up and edited, thus defeating the purpose of watching it. Plus it would be stretched out over an absurd amount of time to cram in lots of commercials for Tide and Pepsi. Next time you see Godfather on TV, look at how long the running time is. Most of my knowledge of Hellraiser is just based on movie quotes used in metal and hardcore songs and Pinface. My father and I used to joke that every time we drove by a shack with a weird glow in the window, Pinface lived there. Maybe he fell on hard times or just needed some alone time. Anyway, it was finally time to see Hellraiser.

Hellraiser is a 1987 horror movie based off of director Clive Barker's (Candyman, Lord of Illusions) novella, “The Hellbound Heart”. The movie starts with hedonistic Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman, Underworld, A Mighty Heart) who has purchased a mystical puzzle box from a dealer in Morocco. Frank solves the box back in the attic of his London home, unlocking a dimension where Frank is brutally tortured and ripped to pieces by strange humanoids. After his disappearance, Frank's brother Larry (Andrew Robinson, Mask, Cobra) moves into the home with his wife Julia (Clare Higgins, The Golden Compass, Being Human). It is revealed that Julia had a passionate and hedonistic affair with Frank, which she has managed to keep secret. During the move, Frank cuts his hand on a nail and his blood drips onto the floor of the attic. His blood manages to bring Frank back from the other dimension, but only as a mass of bones and nerves. Julia finds him and Frank tells her he needs more blood to become whole again. Julia begins to pick up men at bars only to bring them to the attic and murder them, bringing Frank closer to becoming whole again. Frank explains to Julia that he had exhausted all sensory pleasures and sought out the puzzle box, hoping to unlock new pleasures. Instead it opened a portal to a realm inhabited by beings known as Cenobites who subjected him to extreme sadomasochistic torture. Larry's daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence, Red, Hellbound) spies on Julia and discovers the not-quite-whole Frank in the attic. She escapes with the puzzle box and accidentally enters the Cenobite's realm. She cuts a deal with them to bring them to Frank. Will she be able to stop Frank from becoming whole and what will the Cenobites do to her?

From the looks of it, make her join a shitty Goth band

Just based on my very limited knowledge of the franchise, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting. Calling it weird is an understatement. Not that that's a bad thing, I was just way out of the loop. About half the movie is focused on Julia and Frank, whereas the second half gives more attention to Kirsty and the Cenobites. The Cenobites are never actually named, but in credits they're referred to as Lead Cenobite (Pinhead), Female Cenobite, Chatterer, and Butterball. In sequels, more attention is given to the Cenobites, specifically Pinhead. I was hoping to get a little more of them in this movie, like background information, but it wasn't to be. They look quite terrifying, though. The makeup is great and their pseudo S&M costumes fit perfectly.

One small thing that bothered me was the relationship between Julia and Frank. It just felt out of place and convenient. Maybe she just really needed a solid rogering, but I just couldn't get over how their affair just sort of “happened”. It's a minor detail, but it stuck with me. When I think about it, there really isn't a lot of story to the movie, but it is still entertaining. The performances all around are very solid. There are plenty of scares and a good amount of action throughout. Some scenes are particularly graphic, so the movie is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. Barker does a great job with a very limited budget and a story that would be too bizarre to be made nowadays. 

"Hey, this suit was bloody when I found it."

Hellraiser is a different kind of horror movie. The monsters are plenty scary and there is lots of blood, but the overall S&M content and torture sets it apart from your average horror movie. The fear and terror created in the movie doesn't come from music swells or implied violence; it's right in your face, smacking you with a bloody stump. The performances and direction are very good and the makeup and effects help bring the movie to another level. It's a fun watch, but not for ones that do not like gore. I didn't absolutely love it, but it had some good scary moments and was worth my time. At least I can finally mark it on my horror movie checklist.


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