Tag Line: He’ll tear your soul apart.
Release Date: 1987.
Director: Clive Barker.
Producer: Christopher Figg.
Screenplay: Clive Barker.
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley.
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes.
In his directorial debut, horror writer Clive Barker revamps his Hellbound Heart novella into a feature film. As bloody as the inside of a slaughter house, Hellraiser made Cenobite head honcho Pinhead and the actor who portrays him, Doug Bradley, into cult film icons. Not much is revealed about Pinhead’s origin in this the first film in the series, only that he is the Machiavellian, merciless, sadistic leader of the Cenobite demons.
An ancient puzzle box (The Lament Configuration) — similar to a Rubik’s cube — falls into human hands. Once the riddle of the box is solved, hideous demons from hell pass through a dimensional rift to claim human souls.
Larry (Andrew Robinson), his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) and daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) move into Larry’s dead brother’s home oblivious to the fact that Frank’s corpse is rotting upstairs in the attic. In pursuit of sexual pleasure and pain, the fermenting Frank was executed by the Cenobite demons. A drop of blood from Larry’s hand starts Frank’s regeneration process. The sinful Julia (who had an affair with Frank) lures horny men into the attic to drain their blood and speed Frank’s recovery. Kirsty exposes Julia’s scheme and things go to hell rather quickly.
The uncompromising graphic subject matter is accented by explicit gore and sexual overtones. Bob Keen’s special effects, especially Frank’s regeneration and the design of all the Cenobites are masterworks. Christopher Young’s commanding score is nothing short of a marvel.
Hellraiser was followed by nine sequels but none of them really captured the unearthly creepiness of the original as the Cenobites stepped out of the shadows and into the light gaining more screen time and becoming less and less of a sinister presence. Compared to other horror film franchises, Hellraiser rates at the top when it comes to overall quality with most of the sequels being fairly decent even if the Cenobites serve as only linchpins for stories that don’t really give their mythology the attention it deserves.
Cenobite chains rip somebody apart in a flashback sequence.
Two men are clubbed to death with a hammer.
A man’s throat is cut.
A victim is killed (off camera).
Someone is stabbed to death.
A victim is torn to shreds by Cenobite chains.
Three Hollywood sex scenes.
Lots of female and male nudity.
Pinhead: The box, you opened it, we came.
Pinhead: We have such sights to show you.
Frank: Jesus wept.
A merchant: What’s your pleasure, sir?
Pinhead: Oh, no tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.
Kirsty Cotton: Go to hell!
Pinhead: We’ll tear your soul apart!
Pints of Blood