Hellraiser (1987)


Hellraiser, 1987
directed by Clive Barker
starring Ashley Laurence, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman

Although now nearly thirty years old, Hellraiser still is very much an impressive, dark, gothic tale that excels visually and atmospherically. The only aspect of Hellraiser that has aged poorly is the infrequent CGI, appearing only very briefly, but most notably near the end. But everything else has aged so well, the fantastically bloody and gruesome makeup, with all the stunts feeling refreshingly real. Combining the liberal splattering of gore throughout the film, the atmosphere is absolutely fantastic. It’s a nightmare that is broody, mysterious, and above all else sinister. The famous plot is simple on the surface, but the depth of a future franchise is visible. After solving a puzzle cube, a man named Frank is brought into an unknown world of “pain and pleasure,” and later resurrected with a need for fresh blood to regenerate his body.


The makeup effects are truly phenomenal. Hellraiser is an excellent example for those who would advocate for more use of traditional makeup. The transformation of Frank throughout the film as he regenerates is outstanding, everything is so viscous and realistic looking. It reminded me of the 1986 version of The Fly. And the now famous sadomasochistic Cenobites are all so fantastically unique, scary to even imagine being in their presence. Hellraiser also doesn’t take too many breaks from showing off the makeup effects, either, and keeps topping itself as the film approaches the chaotic and bloody finish. But, the pacing up until that point is great. A forbidding introduction leads into a mellow start, depicting a couple trying to settle into a house with history for both. While there are a few slow moments that perhaps could have been tightened up early, as the film progresses each moment of horror leads smoothly into the next, all building on the macabre atmosphere.


Extraordinarily entertaining, a biting pace, and excellent makeup and special effects, it would be a shame if you’ve somehow missed out on Hellraiser. The movie is so enjoyable and feels like a ride, one that is disturbing but you don’t want to get off of. The age of the film is hardly an issue, and at many times it looks better than similarly-budgeted modern horror films. For a movie that started off with a production title of Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave (which honestly is a pretty tremendous title), Hellraiser has become rightfully known as a seriously scary, non-campy classic.



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