Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)

Director: Clive Barker
Starring: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence

A man escapes a hellish dimension of the ultimate pain and pleasure and with the aid of his brother's wife, seeks to restore his flesh and elude his captors from the other side.

When I was a little kid, many of my peers were avid fans of scary movie. I, however, was a big coward and my mother wouldn't have allowed it anyway. Even so, I always had this fascination with the horror section of the video store (you young things in the audience wouldn't know about that) and one face that managed to leave a strong impression was that of the Hellraiser series' iconic lead villain Pinhead. It was a few years back that I saw Hellraiser for the first time and it's interesting rewatching it after having marathoned the rest of the series. It reminded me of just how good the first entry is and just how far the series fell as it descended to cut-rate direct-to-video sequels.

Maybe it appeals to my meticulous nature, but I like horror that has a set system that follows certain rules. It rewards the clever character who can use the rules (or bend them) to come out on top. The Cenobites are terrifying and powerful, but they can be talked to and bargained with. I find this infinitely more fascinating than a mindless slasher.

I also like the setup with the character. Boringly nice guy Larry with cold, distant second wife Julia who lusts after bad boy brother Frank and daughter Kirsty stuck in the middle. Nods to Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman/Oliver Smith and Ashley Laurence for their portrayals of this tragically dysfunctional family. And of course we have give special mention to Doug Bradley as Pinhead. He and the other Cenobites don't have all that much screentime but, dang, do they ever leave an impression.

There are some excellent practical effects, particularly when Frank first reconstitutes his body. The design of the Cenobites is among my favorite in the horror genre. There are also a couple of good creatures as well. I also want to credit the music by Christopher Young. In case you didn't know, this is a very bloody, very gory film, so it's not for the squeamish. Also, the themes of the sadomasochistic intersection of pleasure and pain may be disturbing for some. If all that doesn't deter you, then buckle yourself in for one of the greats in cinematic horror. I highly recommend it.

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