Director: Clive Barker
Starring: Ashley Laurence, Clare Higgins, Doug Bradley
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: When thrill-seeker Frank purchases a strange device in a foreign market, he gets more than he’s bargained for when the device rips him apart. Meanwhile, Frank’s brother Larry moves into Frank’s English home with his wife and teenage daughter. Unfortunately, Frank returns through mysterious means with a desire for blood and flesh which he sorely lacks.
Happy Halloween everybody and I hope you are finding some way to enjoy the holiday despite these crazy times. This month has absolutely flown by and I’ll be sad to see it in the rearview mirror. Despite its brevity, Spooky Season has been a blast this year as I’ve stuck to my schedule (for once) and covered every film across all 4 categories of horror. The lack of new releases this year has been a major letdown, but seeking out all these horror films felt like a more rewarding experience.
Our last film of Spooky Season and the last entry for this week’s horror icons is a favourite of mine, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Naturally, the horror icon is Pinhead, one of the most chilling entities to ever grace the silver screen. Doug Bradley’s iconic performance has been a staple of the series, and his makeup is legendary in the horror community. Hellraiser is truly a product of Barker’s twisted and imaginative mind, only he can mix sadomasochism, cosmic horror and fantasy so perfectly.
The effects and makeup are fantastic throughout. Hellraiser is up there with The Thing for the most grotesque practical effects caught on film. Frank’s resurrection is a marvel of special effects for its time, especially considering the film was shot in a budget of just around $1 million. Effects wizard, Bob Keen, brings the film to life with corn syrup, silicone, and food colouring in one of the goriest films I’ve ever seen.
Perhaps my favourite aspect of Hellraiser is the rich lore of alternative realities and otherworldly beings while also keeping the narrative simple and contained nearly entirely in one setting. A lingering fear as a child was monsters in the attic, so Frank’s grotesque hunting ritual in the family attic was quite literally something out of my nightmares. The Cenobites are so perfectly brought to the screen by Barker; they are pure terror but not unreasonable or inherently malevolent. To summon these foul creatures is an act of your own making and the consequences lie solely on your shoulders, as they’re ripped apart by chains.
If you want the grand daddy of Clive Barker’s twisted mind, look no further than Hellraiser. A film which embraces some of the goriest practical effects ever put to screen and a sexually driven narrative which is sure to disgust; There’s a reason this film is at the top of most horror affectionados lists. Hellraiser is an almost perfect adaptation because the man directing the film wrote it himself; so he captures the aesthetic, the sleaze and the sheer horror which he conjured in his mind when he put pen to paper.
This review is a part of this month’s focus on horror films as part of Halloween season. You can find the full schedule, along with weekly subgenre and previous reviews here.
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