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Overall Rating
4.05

Awesome50.82%
Worth A Look: 19.67%
Average: 18.03%
Pretty Bad: 6.56%
Total Crap: 4.92%

2 reviews, 49 user ratings


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Hellraiser
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by Charles Tatum

"Cenobite Me"
4 stars

When Clive Barker's demonic horror film came out in 1987, it debuted in the Golden Decade of the Slasher Film, and confounded everyone by succeeding.

Larry (Andrew Robinson) and wife Julia (Clare Higgins) are moving back to Larry's family home. His brother, Frank (Sean Chapman), is nowhere to be found, although he seems to have been staying at the house recently. That's okay, we kind of know where Frank is. In the beginning of the film, Frank has bought a puzzle box that opens doors to a Hell-like dimension, complete with an eternity of physical torture. Frank figured the box out, opened the door, and was taken by some mysterious beings.

As a clueless Larry works on moving into the house, Julia thinks back to her very passionate affair with Frank, the family's bad boy. Larry's daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is also hanging around the house, and does not get along with her stepmother. Kirsty has recently acquired a bland boyfriend (Robert Hines), but is still close to her father.

After Larry cuts his hand, and bleeds onto the floorboards in an upstairs abandoned room, a monstrous form of Frank (now played by Oliver Smith) is reincarnated. Julia goes to him, even in his gelatinous form, and begins bringing home strange men so Frank can feed off of their blood and become human again. As Julia begins to enjoy the killing more and more, and Frank readies himself to return, Kirsty stumbles across the duo's dirty deeds, and tries to save her father.

When it was released, "Hellraiser" was quite a sensation. The onscreen gore was repulsive, but it upped the suspense quotient in the same way gore worked for John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing." It has spawned over half a dozen sequels, and a remake is being prepared. Watching it again after all these years, the film still holds up well in most areas.

Clive Barker wrote and directed the film, and it is a product of a demented mind. Who better to bring these characters to the screen than the man who thought them up to begin with? For being his first directorial effort, his camera is very assured, with the only technical problems being with some of the special effects. Christopher Young's musical score is sweeping in its orchestrations, and not '80's synth with a catchy beat.

Clare Higgins shines as Julia. Julia is a cold-hearted woman you hate immediately, and Higgins makes her even more hateful without camping it up or Barker giving her a bunch of "funny" lines a la Freddy Krueger. Andrew Robinson's Larry seems a little too clueless at some points, although he is irritating enough that you understand why Julia is drawn to Frank. Laurence is good as the underwritten Kirsty.

Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford, and Grace Kirby portray the Cenobites, the beings who take Frank from this earthly plain to begin with. Bradley has built a career as "Pinhead," a bald monstrosity with nails driven into his skull (although he is credited as "Lead Cenobite" in this first film in the series). Barker does not use the Cenobites much, so they are made more effective and creepy when they appear onscreen. The script almost becomes film-noirish as Julia kills to stay with Frank, and the horror elements only add to the suspense.

As this came out in the late 1980's, the special effects are very hot and cold. The makeup and gore effects work very well, as do simple things like light and smoke playing against slats in a broken wall. The Cenobites' costuming also adds to the creepy factor, they look like S&M freaks from the bowels of Hell. There is one scorpion-like creature that chases Kirsty that did have me laughing (I thought I saw a crew member behind it, pushing it along), and some of the neon-looking animation techniques are just goofy. The ending is okay, the film makers obviously not knowing Pinhead and the gang would be torturing straight-to-video fans for a few more years.

"Hellraiser" is a watermark in the history of the horror film. It's not the scariest film ever made, or the goriest, but it is certainly one to remember.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2528&reviewer=325
originally posted: 02/09/10 08:54:26
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User Comments

7/22/17 Chaz Walter One of the GREATEST horror films of all time. Definitely in my top 2. 5 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell innovative & grisly horrorhounds check it out 4 stars
1/30/16 Alexis H A masterpiece of horror that will haunt your soul 5 stars
9/26/12 mr.mike Decent horror flick that did not rock my world. 3 stars
5/01/12 roscoe FINE, DARK, BUT PINHEAD IS BARELY IN IT. RIP OFF 2 stars
10/06/10 PAUL SHORTT SADISTIC AND GRISLY 2 stars
3/03/10 Richard Brandt A triumph of perverse imagination over budget 5 stars
6/05/09 art IT"S A CLONE OF NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET! 1 stars
8/17/08 JM Synth Powerful and inventive 5 stars
11/02/07 Total Crap Innovative, sadomasochistic. This is the coolest horror movie I've ever seen. 5 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold Incredibly classic 5 stars
11/15/06 zac I haven't seen this movie but after reading this it seems better than TCM the 70's version 5 stars
11/02/06 cody Clive barker deliver a soild gory and shocking horror flim, but it little overated 3 stars
11/02/06 bobby clare higgins, clssic british stage actress, is very fetching in this forgettable POS 3 stars
10/09/06 K.Sear Meh. Not terrible, not great, just a pretty average horror flick. 3 stars
10/04/06 Sugarfoot Quite possibly the greatest horror movie of the 80's. Recalls Vincent Price style horror. 5 stars
8/10/06 Dragon The Artist A good classic, I would'nt mind owning it!!!! 4 stars
7/11/06 William Goss Weak story, truly demented visuals, and palpable dread. Nightmarish, but mildly overrated. 3 stars
12/07/05 Indrid Cold Plot is too weak to make it truly great. Still, very well done, especially the visuals. 4 stars
10/03/05 Biz-e Not great, not horrible...Cool ideas not present well. 3 stars
9/30/05 ShabbaRanks Good little Halloween flick...not as good as everyone says, though. 3 stars
9/29/05 Jakub Not bad, but highly overrated. Great concept, mediocre execution. Fun, but no classic. C+ 3 stars
9/03/05 Eden Hated it on my first viewing but i was wrong 5 stars
4/01/05 Richard Box One of the best British Horror Films in the last 30 years. Apart from 28 days later. 5 stars
9/21/04 Samuel sick and just, fantastic. 5 stars
8/18/04 Paula A great must-see! It gets better with every viewing! 5 stars
7/26/04 Josh Standlee Friggin' awesome to the max! 5 stars
6/25/04 Suz An excellent spine chiller 5 stars
4/18/04 valerie hart its ok but great for real horror fans its totaly gory and sick not good if ur squeemish 4 stars
3/18/04 Umbrella Corporation. PLZ! Micahel Myers VS. Pinhead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 stars
3/17/04 PAYNE_KillerZ Not bad... But it could've been better & the ending is questionable...!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 stars
2/23/04 Naturezrevenge This movie makes me WET. Pinhead is the king!!! H.R 2 is even better, all beyond that SUCK. 5 stars
11/02/03 American Slasher Goddess One of the most original horror movies of the 80's. 5 stars
8/31/03 DHite Sucked. The concept had such great potential, but it played out really poorly... 2 stars
8/02/03 Double G f 5 stars
7/10/03 gman ggggggood on ya, barker 5 stars
7/04/03 Kyle Holy shit, this kicks ass. 5 stars
6/16/03 Jack Bourbon The crappiest trash of all of the trashy crap out there. Hated this one. ICK! 1 stars
1/28/03 Thrash Loved the movie 5 stars
4/27/02 maximal01 Hellraiser is scary as, well, hell; and the Cenobites are like nothing else you'll ever see 5 stars
3/07/02 Alan Smithee While the acting could have been better at times, overall this movie is pretty twisted. 4 stars
1/16/02 David A. Science Fiction and horror just don't mix. This thing was lame. 2 stars
1/13/02 J. An average horror film. Nowhere near as terrifying as its fans will have you believe. 3 stars
8/07/01 Joe Zappa "HELLRAISER" may be a cult classic, BUT IT TOTALLY SUCKS ASS! 1 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Psychotic...romantic...Clive Barker's most original work with buckets o' blood for all. 5 stars
8/02/01 Elgyn A modern horror classic. A little slow-moving, but it`s still great. 5 stars
6/11/01 Stephanie M. Horton A Great Movie For Any Horror Fan 5 stars
6/08/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Clive Barker is a genius. Period. 5 stars
4/12/01 Andrew Carden Hellraiser is extremly scary and worth the rent if you're up to it. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Sep-1987 (R)
  DVD: 21-Apr-2009

UK
  11-Sep-1987 (18)

Australia
  22-Oct-1987 (R)




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