Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#1,073. Hellraiser (1987)

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

It's interesting to note that, in the 12 years I attended Catholic school, I was never once 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 Moroccan street vendor. Frank does eventually figure it out, but once opened, the box unleashes a collection of demons known as Cenobites, which proceed to tear Frank's body apart. 

A short time later, Frank’s brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson), moves into this same house with his wife Julia (Clare Higgins). While working in the attic, Larry accidentally cuts his hand and drips blood onto the floor, "awakening" Frank’s mangled remains, which are buried under the floorboards. 

In need of even 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 murder them, so that he can absorb their blood and slowly return to normal. 

Their diabolical scheme is discovered, however, by Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), Larry’s daughter from a previous marriage, who does everything in her power to stop them. 

But will Frank and Julia, with a little help from some hellish friends, get the last laugh after all?

I’ve always been a fan of Andrew Robinson's, who, aside from portraying the sadistic Scorpio killer in Dirty Harry played another slime ball in the underrated 1973 thriller Charley Varrick, and also had a recurring role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Garek, the station’s shifty Cardassian tailor. The character he plays in Hellraiser is 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 (including Ashley Laurence's Kirsty, who makes for a fine heroine) can outshine the Cenobites, a coillection of grotesque demons that collect the souls of the living. The most memorable of the bunch is the aptly-named “Pinhead” (Doug Bradley), who gets 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). They may not get a whole lot of screen time, but these creatures from hell definitely make the most of every second that they're front and center.

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 is one of my favorite horror films of all-time.

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

I had never seen the film when I was offered an opening to submit scripts to the new HELLRAISER book at Marvel Comics. I'd heard of the movies but had never watched either of the two that were out by then. Frankly (no pun intended), I didn't care for them. But I thought I could write within the Hellraiser universe since it borrowed so heavily from so many other sources. I ended up selling them several scripts. I've forgotten how many...three or four. The money was good, but the experience of working at Marvel was not so great after the editor (Dan Chichester) left and was replaced.