Halloween Advent: Hellraiser
|FEATURES - MOVIES|
A cult horror film that's now legendary, even in Hell...
White titles on a black background. Plain. Simple. Christopher Young’s subtly powerful opening theme. They give nothing away.
Then a bar. Could be Cairo. Indiscriminate. Not important. A man. Money. Used notes. Dirty fingernails.
“What’s your pleasure…?”
The box. The damn, bloody box. It’s bought. It’s opened. It tears his soul apart.
Chains. Spinning blocks. Flesh and skin. Body parts. Ripped, masticated, shredded. Amongst the rot glide creatures. Unknown but unmistakably – and wholly malevolently - evil.
The whole opening sequence is brief and brutally to the point.
This isn’t going to be a fun ride.
But how wrong one can be?
Made in 1987, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser was, up to that point, quite like nothing else.
Yet it’s a relatively simple tale of lust and desire. Firstly, we have Frank, the catalyst of all this bedevilment – whose desires to seek pleasure transcend the known levels of morality (and mortality). And next we have Julia, Frank’s sister-in-law and a bored, sexually-frustrated housewife – whose erotically-fuelled thoughts of Frank and their previous affair push her into a world she could never imagine.
At the other end of the spectrum we have Larry and Kirsty, the father and daughter team in the line-up. But this certainly doesn’t mean happy families, as Larry appears to struggle with fatherhood, no doubt fuelled by step-mom Julia’s lack of affection towards Kirsty. Kirsty has no respect for her new mother and is not backwards in coming forward about this.
"Adapted from Clive Barker’s own novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser captures the imagination and runs off with it"
Four characters, very human in their design and arguably a little clichéd. But that doesn’t matter. They are all played with such conviction that we actually feel for all of them. Yes – even bad little brother Frank.
Then completely off the scale we have the anti-heroes – the drivers of this sacrilege. They are the Cenobites and they are passionate, focused and wholly committed to their cause. Ironically, they are probably the most centred of all the characters. They are not hindered by rage, by jealousy or by the trappings of the human mind. They just want to be. They are creatures from the darkest recesses of Hell itself and fantastic in their simplicity.
If you want a detailed blow-by-blow breakdown of the plot, you’re not going to get it here. If you want a breakdown of how it was made and who was in it, go elsewhere. It’s a movie 23 years old now and it’s likely most horror fans have seen it – so there’s little point in telling you what you already know.
Likewise, if you haven’t had the pleasure (pun intended), then I’m not going to give the game away. The Cenobites will gladly welcome you with open arms. But be warned: there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain.
Hellraiser, adapted from Clive Barker’s own novella The Hellbound Heart, captures the imagination and runs off with it. You find yourself having to take a breath to catch up with it – and somewhat tame in comparison to modern schlock-horror gore. But that’s unfair to this little movie - for it still packs a punch when it comes to visual execution.
Shot on what appears to be a small budget (it can’t work out if it’s set in the UK or the US) it holds up well and drives along at a cracking pace. It’s brooding, it’s zealous and it’s gory. It’s mean, it’s nasty and it’s fun.
It’s not deep and meaningful and it doesn’t make you go away and think about world-reaching issues and how long you should keep your tap running for when you clean your teeth.
At the end of the day, it entertains.
And what more can you ask for? To be entertained is what most of us desire.
So, do me a favour. Stay in on Hallowe’en night. Be unsociable and be on your own. Turn the lights off. Turn the heating off. Turn your phone off. Light a few meagre candles. Pop the movie into your DVD player and press play.
What’s your pleasure?