Directed By: Clive Barker
Starring: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
Tag line: "It will tear your soul apart"
Trivia: It took six hours to apply the prosthetic Cenobite makeup on Doug Bradley
In the 12 years I attended Catholic school, I can honestly say I was never as frightened of hell as I was at the conclusion of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, a 1987 film that introduced yet another iconic character to the world of horror.
As Hellraiser opens, Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) is in the attic of the house he grew up in, attempting to solve an ancient puzzle box he bought from a street vendor in Morocco. Frank does eventually figure it out, but, unfortunately, once opened, the box unleashes a collection of demons known as Cenobites, who proceed to tear Frank apart. A short time later, Frank’s brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson), moves into the house with his wife Julia (Clare Higgins). While working in the attic, Larry accidentally cuts his hand and drips blood onto the floor, thus awakening Frank’s remains, which are buried under the floorboards. In need of more blood to regenerate his body, Frank turns to Julia, with whom he once had an affair, and convinces her to lure men back to the house and kill them, so that he can absorb their blood and slowly return to normal. Their evil scheme is discovered, however, by Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), Larry’s daughter from a previous marriage, who does everything in her power to stop them.
I’ve always been a fan of Andrew Robinson, who, aside from playing the sadistic Scorpio killer in Dirty Harry was also a slime ball in the underrated 1973 thriller Charley Varrick, and had a recurring role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Garek, the station’s shifty Cardassian tailor. The character he played in Hellraiser was a bit out of the ordinary in that Larry Cotton was actually a nice guy (though the actor does get a chance to visit some familiar territory later on in the movie). But as much as I like Andrew Robinson, neither he nor any of the film’s other mortal characters outshine the Cenobites, grotesque demons who collect the souls of the living. The most memorable of the bunch is the aptly-named “Pinhead” (Doug Bradley), who’s given all the best lines (“No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering”), yet each of the Cenobites manages to make a lasting impression (the chatterer, thus named because his teeth are always chattering, is every bit as eerie as Pinhead), and while they don’t get a whole lot of screen time, these creatures from hell definitely make the most of what they’re given.
With ample gore (the opening sequence, which involves hooks, chains, and a variety of body parts, will have you squirming in your seat) and some truly unforgettable monsters, Hellraiser is one of the creepiest movies to emerge from the ‘80s, and ranks among my top-5 favorite horror films of all-time.