October 16th, 2009

HELLRAISER (1987) ****

Ah yes, remember the days when it was okay to make your iconic movie monster SCARY without giving him a whole bunch of bullshit back story and cheesy one-liners?  Pinhead (Doug Bradley) is that kind of monster and Hellraiser is that kind of movie.  He doesn’t get a lot of screen time throughout the film but when he does, look out!


Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into his brother’s house with his slut wife Julia (Claire Higgins).  What he doesn’t know is that his brother, Frank (Sean Chapman) fucked with the Lament Configuration Puzzle Box and Pinhead and his Cenobite cronies ripped his shit up with a bunch of industrial strength fishing hooks.  When Larry accidentally cuts himself and bleeds on the floor, it brings Frank back to life. 


Well sorta.  Frank’s really just like a bloody blob of bones and bile.  He needs more blood to come all the way back so he enlists the help of Julia (who also happens to be his former lover) to supply him with fresh bodies.  Julia brings home businessmen on their lunch break for a quickie and right when they get their pants off, she brains them with a hammer.  Franks slurps them dry and slowly regains his body back.  Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) gets wind of all this and eventually makes a deal with Pinhead to send Frank back to Hell.


Horror author Clive Barker wrote the screenplay (based on his novel “The Hellbound Heart”) and directed this (sick) puppy.  He’s really good at making you care about his characters and even better at scaring the bejabbers out of the audience.  Clive is my kind of director.  I can only imagine some of Clive’s directions on the set like, “Please, could we get MORE slime on Frank’s face?”, or “Now when you peel this dead rat like an orange, could you pull the skin back SLOWLY?” or “Your motivation in this scene is to rip apart this poor bastard with a dozen hooks”. 


Clive was also responsible for creating Pinhead, one of the most memorable screen monsters of the 80’s.  He’s barely in the flick but since his face was all over the movie posters, he became an iconic slasher like Michael Myers and Jason.  The fact that he has little in common with those fellas is beside the point.  I’ve always thought of these screen psychos in terms of single women.  If Michael Myers is the marriage-minded goodie-two-shoes and Jason is 3 AM booty call, then Pinhead is the kinky chick who likes the whips and chains.


Pinhead is actually like the Boba Fett of the movie.  He isn’t given a whole lot to do beside bounty hunt for evil and stand around looking like a badass.  That’s enough though.  Doug Bradley does an incredible job with the character and plays him with a lot of authority and menace.


The main thrust of the story though is the twisted love triangle between cuckold Larry, his whore wife, and his undead brother.  The scenes where Julia must seduce and kill random guys for her lover have a nasty edge to them.  In fact, Frank and Julia’s relationship is a lot more involving than the scenes of Pinhead and his crew fucking shit up.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the Cenobites a lot, but they aren’t nearly as interesting as the demented relationship between Frank and Julia.


After a flawless first hour, Hellraiser kinda stumbles once Pinhead and Co. shows up.  Then it becomes less about the characters and more about special effects.  There’s also some random ass shit in the end that doesn’t make a lick of sense too.  Like the Upside Down Penis Monster.  What was his deal?  And I still don’t know what the fuck was up with that cricket-eating homeless man who caught on fire and became a Dragon Hellbeast either.  I’ll let these lame-o special effects off with a warning though because Frank’s rebirth scene is some of the ickiest grossest shit ever captured on film.  I’ve seen this flick like a dozen times over the past two decades (Damn, am I really that old?) and that shit is still impressive.  You couldn’t CGI that, and if you did, it would look like total ass.


The original Hellraiser is an undisputed classic.  It’s dark, twisted, and unafraid to be a little kinky.  The sequels never recaptured the magic of this one (the Direct to DVD sequels in particular should be avoided at all costs), but that’s fine because it just makes the original that much more unique.


Hellraiser is Number 8 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of the Year for 1987, placing it just below Full Metal Jacket and right above The Hidden.


<Tomorrow’s Horror Franchise Movie:  Child’s Play>