About This Item

Preview Image for Hellraiser
Hellraiser (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000118320
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 15/7/2009 14:28
View Changes

Other Reviews, etc
  • Log in to Add Reviews, Videos, Etc
  • Places to Buy

    Searching for products...

    Other Images


    8 / 10

    There are two distinct groups of horror icons: the Universal monsters from the 1930s and '40s such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy and those from the '80s like Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers.  One of the more fascinating additions to this latter category is Pinhead, the Lead Cenobite from the Hellraiser series.
    In 1987 Clive Barker was a little-known horror writer with only the Books of Blood to his name, not the established literary and art figure that he is now with many film credits under his belt.  Based on his novel The Hellbound Heart, Barker wrote a screenplay for a film (with a brilliant working title of Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave) he intended to direct but really had no knowledge of how to go about making a film.  Teaming up with producer Chris Figg they approached New World Cinema who agreed to finance the film and, armed with a tiny budget and an extremely dark and twisted screenplay, they set about looking for actors.  One of the first to come aboard was Doug Bradley who Barker had known since college but they needed a name so offered the lead role to Andrew Robinson, an actor who had been desperate to escape the typecasting started by his debut role as the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry so the chance to play an everyman - 'a Fred MacMurray' as he puts it - was a welcome opportunity.
    Robinson plays Larry, a fairly newly remarried man who has a strained relationship with his teenage daughter Kirsty and is slightly put upon by his wife Julia.  When they move into his old home, they try to make the best of things but, unbeknownst to them, Larry's brother Frank has been living there and trying to find the ultimate in pleasure.  As part of his search he bought an ancient Chinese puzzle box which, when opened, brought forth the Cenobites who tore him apart, showing him the ultimate in pain and pleasure so that he couldn't tell the difference.  All that Larry knows is that Frank has been there, not that the Cenobites killed him in that room, that bits of Frank are still there under the floorboards and his wife is having vivid fantasies about when she and Frank had an affair.

    Inline Image

    Whilst moving a mattress up the stairs, Larry tears his hand open on a nail and seeks out Julia's assistance, tracking her down to the top floor room where Frank had been staying.  The blood dripping on the floorboards is mysteriously absorbed and, whilst Larry and Julia are in casualty, the blood awakens Frank who is able to partly reconstruct himself.
    When they return home, Julia returns to the small bedroom and is horrified to see a skinless creature lurking in the shadows but there is something familiar about the voice and, when she realises that it's Frank, she allows him to convince her that he needs human flesh to reconstruct himself and lures men back to the house with the promise of sex as sacrifices to bring back her lost love.  However, the Cenobites don't like being cheated and when they discover that Frank has returned to life, they track him down and turn their attentions to Kirsty who has found the Lament Configuration box and solved the puzzle.
    Amongst all the slasher films that dominated the horror genre in the 1980s, Hellraiser is arguably the most inventive and original of the decade with a real darkness which the others couldn't match.  It helps that the source material is so solid and that Clive Barker is a real gothic visionary with an extraordinary eye for the macabre.  His lack of experience as a film director (he had some in the theatre) isn't obvious because he knows what he wants to show and is both strong-willed and open-minded enough to listen to suggestions from the veterans in the cast and crew.  Both Andrew Robinson and Clare Higgins are assured screen presences with good theatre groundings which allows for Ashley Laurence to impress in her first film role.  Sean Chapman only really appears in flashbacks and right at the beginning as most of the time Frank is a hideous creature with no skin and various amounts of muscle, nerve and bone but Chapman is a fine actor (though his voice was dubbed) and really looks the part, giving his scenes with Clare Higgins great sexual intensity.
    Inline Image

    Though I like most of the 1980s horror films, Hellraiser is probably my favourite as the Halloween franchise started to wear thin, Friday the 13th stopped being interesting after the third instalment and A Nightmare on Elm Street really only had its moments after the excellent first movie.  What I like about Hellraiser and, to a lesser extent, the two sequels, is the intelligence of the set up and the complexities of the relationship between the central characters and between them and the Cenobites who have far more to them than the masked and scarred killers from the other movies.  In addition, what they offer isn't just death but something more fascinating and disturbing.

    The Disc

    Extra Features
    The disc contains the commentary from the 2000 DVD release plus the features from the box sets.
    Moderated by screenwriter Peter Atkins, this commentary with Clive Barker and Ashley Laurence is a reasonably interesting listen as Barker talks about the challenges of shooting in a real house, getting the project under way and casting with Laurence chipping in about her experiences and memories.
    There is a trivia track which really duplicates the information from this commentary which is perfect if you don't want to listen to it as you can select the trivia track and watch the film, reading the information as it appears.
    The five featurettes include interviews with Andrew Robinson, Ashley Laurence, composer Christopher Young, the actors who played the Cenobites and a piece about the Hellraiser phenomenon.  These are all really interesting as they don't just cover this film, but the three Hellraiser movies and how they feel about them looking back and their experiences at the time.
    There are also TV spots, trailers and galleries.
    Inline Image

    The Picture
    As with any film that has slightly ropey effects but a fond place in fans' hearts, you always worry that the transition to high definition will change something and detract from the version you have on DVD.  Pleasingly, as with Ghostbusters, this isn't the case as all they've done is polished up the picture leaving the effects as they were and even the occasional white spotting is still evident which is a blessing and a curse: I would have hated it if someone had gone through and polished up the entire film, removing everything they thought was wrong but, on the other hand, a little bit of restoration wouldn't have done any harm - it's just a question of where to draw the line.
    As I said, the optical effects are a little bit unconvincing by today's standards, but the Cenobites still look fantastic as do the 'regrowth' effects on Frank but some of the prosthetics and monsters look a little hokey by today's standards but that's really part of the charm and I'd hate for a 'Lucasing' of the film, updating it and 'correcting' these.
    The Sound
    A very impressive Dolby TrueHD soundtrack with a superb score by Christopher Young and crystal clear dialogue; the surrounds are used to good effect when need be to emphasise the horror and the overall impression is of a soundtrack that has been well updated from the previous DD 5.1.
    Inline Image

    Final Thoughts
    Hellraiser isn't the finest horror movie ever made, I'm sure even its most ardent fans would admit this, but it remains one of the more fascinating of the genre films from the 1980s and an extremely impressive independent picture.  Aside from the work done in the '80s by David Cronenberg, Dario Argento and George A. Romero, this has the most longevity of the lower budget horror films and has a fantastic icon in Pinhead.  Though this BD isn't essential, it is a disc well worth picking up for fans of the film or genre aficionados who don't yet own it.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    Image looked pretty good from what I saw before I sent the disc off to one of our lot. Didn't really have much chance to test out the audio. Speaking of which, on a technical point, it's Dolby TruehD, rather than Dolby Digital TrueHD. Dolby Digital and Dolby TrueHD are separate entities.

    I have the boxed set on SD, which will do me. I like the first and second films, but the third isn't so hot. I've always been more of an Elm Street fan anyway.
    posted by Chris Gould on 15/7/2009 15:49
    A momentary lack of concentration about the Dolby soundtrack - now corrected.  Thanks for pointing it out.
    posted by David Beckett on 15/7/2009 16:06