Archive for October 3rd, 2010
The world was a very different place back in 1987. Horror was a very different kettle of fish and was mostly all but restricted to low budget straight to video releases. Hellraiser came out that year to stir things up a bit. A low budget British horror film, which got a full UK cinema release, here to change British cinema forever.
Based on a short novella by Clive Barker, which was re-written as a screenplay by Clive, who took on the task as director. It’s a brutal fantastical story of love and revenge, desire and lust. A rogue in search of the ultimate fix discovers a magic box, one which can give ultimate pleasure and pain, but at a price. Dead in the attic of a London home, his brother and missus arrive from the States, move in and through pure flook and chance, some blood gets spilt, causing the devilish Uncle Frank (Sean Chapman) in the attic to gain a bit of life. His Brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) unaware of this and unaware that his wife, (Clare Higgins) is having an affair with the corpse, who now requires more victims, more blood to get a bit better so they can run off together. Meanwhile, Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) shows up, doesn’t trust her evil step mother and soon becomes wrapped up in the whole thing, including, playing with the puzzle and making a deal with the Cenobites.
It’s easy to watch, very entertaining and very gruesome, even by today’s standards, Frank and Julia are wicked characters. The murders are brutal and nasty; it’s never nice getting hit with a hammer. At heart, this is classic vampire and Frankenstein spun together, with a real undercurrent of S&M. This was something which still shocks as the characters are enjoying their experience, even though they are without skin. Even when Frank eventually gets some skin to wear, it’s as if he’s parading in a rubber gimp suit. Uncomfortable at times and very close to home when it comes to violence.
Barker directs to a very good standard, but it never gets beyond that. It’s not artistic or beautiful. It’s grim, dark and steady. The script too fails to ignite in the same way his literature sparks the mind of the reader. Here, we have quite stilted dialogue, although full of brilliant comic book one-liners.
The Cenobites need a mention here, as for many, they are the reason to watch. Doug Bradley plays Pinhead, the main man when it comes to the cenobites who are in effect, angels from hell. Pinhead is a legend, an amazing figure, leather clad, open flesh on his chest with a perfect array of nails in a grid across his face head. The effects for the Cenobites are pretty good, as is the gore, but the Engineer really lets the film down. A shoddy, flesh demon with crappy little hands, and a phallic shaped body who runs up and down passageways. I’d be happy for the engineer to be removed, it would make the film a far more enjoyable experience.
As a whole package, this is a great achievement. It was made on a super low budget with the heart and dedication of a single man with a bunch of disciples. It launched the cinematic career of Pinhead, which has always been a good thing and propelled the name, Clive Barker to an international level.