What a better way to follow-up Pumpkinhead from last week than with Hellraiser this week? The directorial debut of horror novelist Clive Barker, Hellraiser is an adaptation of his novella, The Hellbound Heart. This will be a spoiler-heavy review as always, so if you haven't seen a movie that's 30 years old go watch and then come back and strap in. I have such sights to show you.
hereI always do a little bit of research before writing these reviews, even if it's a movie I've seen multiple times. What surprised me about Hellraiser that I did not know before is that it has a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average 6/10 from critics and 7/10 from audiences. Starring Sean Chapman, Clare Higgins, Andrew Robinson, and Ashley Laurence, Hellraiser is a tale about love, pleasure, pain, and all the gory fun that comes from those things. "Matt," I hear you say, "how can a horror movie about love be any good?" Well, let's break it down.
Hellraiser is the story of Frank (Champman) who, having reached the boundaries of physical pleasure, buys a strange puzzle box from a merchant that is said to open doors to otherworldly carnal pleasures. Since this is a horror movie, it means that a bunch of weird demon people show up and subject him to the most extreme forms of sadomasochism imaginable, and ultimately kill Frank. Jump forward in time and Frank's bother Larry (Robinson) and his wife Julia (Higgins) move into the house where Frank was murdered, not knowing that he is dead.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're wondering how on earth this is a love story right? I mean, assuming you didn't heed my advice and haven't seen the movie before reading this. Well, as we discover through a series of flashbacks, Frank and Julia were having an affair since the day Julia and Larry got married. When Larry has an accident and cuts his hand open, some of his blood spills on the floor of the room where Frank died, and it returns him to life, albeit as a skinless, mostly muscle-less corpse monster. Julia finds Frank in this state and agrees to help him heal fully and run away with him. Just like that, boom. We have our love story. It's a love story between two of the worst people in the movie, but it's a love story nonetheless.
While I'm thinking about it, I want to talk about the scene where Frank comes back to life. If you haven't seen the movie or it isn't fresh in your head you can watch that scene here:
Now, I don't know about you, but that was terrifying. For me, the inside of the human body is one of the most nightmarish things, and watching a body form up close from the inside out? Yeesh. However, this once again reinforces my position that practical effects beat digital effects 99.99% of the time. If that resurrection would have been handled digitally, I guarantee you it would not have been as effective as it was.
So in order for Frank to fully heal he needs more blood. So Julia agrees to lure dudes back to the house and murder them so Frank can drain their blood to reach his final form (sorry for that joke, I couldn't help myself.) Eventually they end up murdering Larry and Frank wears his skin like a suit. Larry's daughter Kirsty (Laurence) accidentally summons the Cenobites who once again tear Frank apart and then they attempt to do the same to Kirsty, but she manages to reverse-solve the puzzle box to send them back to where they came from.
Now that I've got the story out of the way, let's talk about the acting. I'll be up front, it isn't the best. It's passable, but not great. I'd say it's solid C+ acting. Where this movie really shines is atmosphere and effects. The Cenobites all look cool, especially Chatterer, and the hallway monster (you know what I'm talking about if you've seen the movie) is especially cool looking. The movie is also effectively tense, especially near the end where Frank is trying to kill Kirsty. There is a scene where Kirsty is hiding in a room, and Frank comes in and is looking for her. There is no music, and barely any sound at all. Kirsty ends up stumbling upon one of the drained corpses of Frank's victims and has to try not to scream to alert Frank, and it's easily the most tense moment of the movie.
Overall, while Hellraiser might not be the greatest horror movie of all time, it's certainly a good movie, especially for a directorial debut. If you managed to get all the way to end of this article and haven't seen the movie yet, sorry that I've spoiled it for you, but I did warn you! Either way, you should go watch this movie, and leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts!