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on February 23, 2006
Back when I was a kid I always heard about the guy called 'Pinhead' in a movie called 'Hellraiser', but always assumed it was just another lousy slasher series. But after seeing a clip from Hellraiser (of a man being shredded by chains) and its awesome trailer on the Boogeymen compilation DVD, I really wanted to see this movie. I was not disappointed. Hellraiser blew my mind.

First off, I really liked the audio commentary on this DVD. Director and writer Clive Barker and star Ashley Laurence do an informative commentary that is moderated by Peter Atkins (who wrote the sequel). It's great to see a commentary where everyone looks back on their earliest work and says what they like about it, what they don't like about it, laugh at a few parts of the film, and experience some nostalgia as they recall what went into the making of Hellraiser. When you listen to this commentary, you get the feeling that the atmosphere on the set was warm and inviting, not cold and impersonal (as big budget films seem to be). You get the same feeling from the commentary on the Hellraiser II DVD.

The violence committed by the demons (called cenobites) in Hellraiser is usually praised by the lowbrow fans of the series. But hell, I'm more lowbrow than anyone else. Like most Hellraiser fans, I can't get enough of the cenobites, especially the Lead Cenobite. But a lot of us tend to overlook the murders committed by Julia and Frank. Frank is in an interesting position - he was tortured and murdered by the cenobites, then (his soul?) escaped from hell. After what looks like a very painful regeneration sequence for Frank, he is presumably dismayed to realize that his body hasn't finished regenerating. Frank's a living corpse, and is so weak that he can only drag himself across a floor. Knowing that blood gives him strength and allows his body to continue regenerating he asks his former flame Julia to help him out. In case you can't see where this is going, a lot of men end up being led to their doom after having their brains bashed in with a hammer. These murders are shown in gruesome fashion - it isn't just some guy getting hit on the head and falling unconscious without feeling a thing. I liked seeing Julia's evolution from a lonely housewife to an evil seductress who has become completely desensitized to killing. Frank absorbs the blood of Julia's victims - each murder brings Frank another step closer to gaining the rest of his body. But you just know the cenobites are bound to make another appearance - and they won't be happy.

The 'Lead Cenobite' is excellently played by Doug Bradley. This Lead Cenobite would later become known among fans as 'Pinhead' - a rather crude and completely inappropriate name. I'm assuming that the Lead Cenobite is never referred to as 'Pinhead' in any of the Hellraiser movies, and that it's just a nickname the fans have for that cenobite. Barker's Pinhead is an obviously witty fellow, as evidenced by his line "No tears please... it's a waste of good suffering!" Pinhead is certainly not a comedian - but in Hellraiser II, with a different writer and director, we see a very different Pinhead. No longer is he the angry, straight-faced, and no-nonsense cenobite leader. He is a very comical fellow in the sequel, who enjoys inflicting pain and playing mindgames. If anything, Barker's Pinhead seemed to regard torturing the solvers of the puzzle box as a chore - a task that was once fun but is now so repetitive that he just wants to do the job as quickly as possible and be done with it. But while he finds his job boring, he also seems to have a very strong work ethic. It's as if Hell has set out some strict rules that govern the use of the puzzle box that the cenobites must follow and enforce. This becomes more apparent in Hellraiser II (when Tiffany solves the box) and Pinhead calls off his eager associates. I guess if you prefer Pinhead's no-nonsense style in Hellraiser, you won't be too fond of his more relaxed style in Hellraiser II. I liked Barker's Pinhead a lot. But I prefer the Pinhead of Hellraiser II - he is more entertaining. If Pinhead was straight-faced in all the sequels, he would get boring after a while. One movie with the raw and humorless Pinhead is enough. Pinhead has a great sense of humor in Hellraiser II, as perverse as it is. I look forward to seeing more of it in the sequels - even though I heard they're all crappy.

The 'Chatterer' and 'Butterball' cenobites are entertaining, even though they don't say a word and don't really do anything except hang around in the background. But they look cool, and it's not necessary for anyone besides Pinhead and the Female Cenobite to do all the talking anyway. The Butterball cenobite looks a little silly (he is wearing shades afterall), but the reason he wears them is revealed at the end of the movie, and it's a really cool reason. The Female Cenobite is the most frightening character in the movie - it's all in her eyes and the way she talks.

As they note on the commentary, Hellraiser is a disturbing movie, not a scary movie. Even I found it disturbing the first time I saw it. Frank described his own grisly torture - hanging upside down by his ankles, while being spun around in mid-air as he had metal hooks digging into his dangling body - as a painful AND sensual experience. Fascinating. That flashback sequence had some of the coolest imagery in movie history. Considering the low-budget, this film did a hell of a lot with less. Ultimately, Hellraiser helped push the envelope of our trashy pop culture to places it feared to go. Some of the acting was a little weak, but Hellraiser is good enough to give it five stars.
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on November 11, 2007
wow.this movie is truly an it or hate,when it's over it
will probably stick with you for awhile.for me,i thought this movie was had a great story to it,with great characters.i guess you
would call a it horror movie,but i would call it more of an experience.
there are some gory scenes in the movie,and there are some scenes that
are disturbing and even repulsive.but the gore and guts are done much
more tastefully here than in most 'horror' movies.and there is actually
a story that all of this fits into.i didn't find it gratuitous at
all.there are some things in the movie that could certainly be
offensive to some people.there is some religious themes that some
people would find less than positive.and there a lot themes and images
in this movie that i don't think had been explored much before,if at my mind,the main villain in this movie(though i don't think he's
really a villain in the usual sense) dubbed Pinhead(for obvious
reasons)is possibly the most iconic(or at least should be)character of
at least the last thirty years.that may sound like an exaggeration,but
the other big name screen villains don't hold a candle to this
character.there was just so much more thought gone that went into the
character.the others,not so much.anyway,if you are able to throw away
all any preconceived notions and see this film for what it is,i think
you will get something out of it.what that something will be is hard to
say,but it might be different for each person.this is all just my
opinion,but for me,i have to give this movie a perfect 5/5 for being a
true cinematic achievement.
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on April 20, 2012
One of my favorite horror movies and a classic ahead of it's time.Hellraiser is a very imaginitive and unique horror classic.It was made I believe in the late 80's and it delivers the goods;story wise,gore wise and the soundtrack is one of my favorites,done by Christopher young(Nightmare on elm street 2).Move over Stephen King,here comes Clive Barker.
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on February 28, 2004
I love this!The first Hellraiser is such a well done movie!It's one of the best in the series,and you can't have a sequel without an original. Original is the key word here. This movie is one of a kind,Clive Barker wrote it origanaly as a novel(the Hellbound heart) before transforming it into a script and then directing it. Now might I say that this is a definate must for gorehounds everywhere,let's take a look-see, shall we? We've got Frank's skinned corpse thumping around up stairs,skinning rats, and ready to mangulate the unsespecting men whom Julia lures upstairs.Then there's the Cenobites, the demons summoned by the box.And of corse we can't forget the classic in Hellraiser: When Frank gets ripped to pecies by chains with hooks on the ends.The first one set this off and they've been doing it ever sence.I myself am not a true gorehound,but those of you who are go for it. Hellraiser has got seven sequals so far. I can reconise the first one as a classic in the horror movie feild,it's really quite a masterpeice when I think about it. So all in all really great movie,if you're thinking of getting it I say go for it,I know I will,just as long as you've got the stomach for it. This was Deathgirl, telling you why Hellraiser is a classic horror film,It'll tear your soul apart.
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on January 10, 2004
The vast majority of mid to late 80s horror movies are pretty lame. HELLRAISER is one of the rare exceptions. Rather than following the same dull old formula, Clive Barker singlehandedly reinvents the horror film for a frustrated and jaded audience. He uses sheer darkness and evil to enhance a sense of utter doom. Frank is a sado-masochist with a thirst for unlocking the secrets of hell (the ultimate experience of pain and pleasure merged). He attains the Lamont Configuration (a puzzle box which is actually a transdimensional gate), unleashing the cenobites (pinhead and his fellow demons), who torture and tear Frank apart. Some time later, Julia (Clare Higgins) and her family move into Frank's abandoned house. Julia had had an affair with Frank, who is her husband Larry's brother. Frank is resurrected when a drop of blood soaks into the attic floorboards, revitalizing a piece the cenobites missed. As he grows, he needs more blood and flesh to sustain his re-emerging form. Julia grudgingly agrees to help Frank by luring men home with her for sex. Instead, they are hit in the head and attacked by a grotesque, cannibalistic Frank, who takes what he requires, leaving only a shriveled carcass behind. Julia's daugher Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) gets a hold of Frank's puzzle box and inadvertently gates in the cenobites. They are ready to take her with them into hell, until she tells them that she can deliver uncle Frank into their clutches. The rest is a gruesome fearfest! There are moments of real terror in HELLRAISER that make 99% of the rest of the genre look ridiculous by comparison. A uniquely chilling story became a terrifying movie that only Barker could pull off. Highly recommended...
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on January 10, 2004
I have been a long-time hardcore horror movie buff for many years now. (with such favorites as Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Leatherface) However, there is no other horror film villain like that of the calm, yet terrifying personality of Pinhead. Doug Bradley as the diabolical demon (or angel to some) is quite possibly the most convincing in horror since "A Nightmare On Elm Street" with Robert Englund as Freddy Kruegar! With such popular quotes like, "Nobody escapes us!" and "We Will tear your soul apart!" it just remains in your head and haunts you. The storyline is also very original and easy to follow due to that it doesn't require as much logic and thinking from the viewer. The soundtrack is also very scary and nightmarish and the blood and gore is one of the most disturbing in cinema history! The acting may drag just a LITTLE at times and some character development could be improved a bit, but it's still a horrifying masterpiece by British horror master, Clive Barker. The plot concerns young Kirsty and her father and evil stepmother who move into their new home in England. Little do they know that Kirtsen's father, Larry's brother, Frank had died in that house years before. When Larry cuts himself, the blood drips onto and below the floorboard, where Frank's corpse still lies, bringing him back from the grave (and from hell!) Armed with a mysterious puzzle box called the Lament Configuration, it is the power to unlock the doors to either heaven or hell and barely making it away from her bloodthirsty uncle, Kirsten steals the box and eventually solves the puzzle, releasing a group of monsters called Cenobites (led by Pinhead, obviously) from their imprisonment. Kirsten decides to make a deal with them to lead them to her twisted uncle who escaped hell in exchange for her OWN SOUL! A non-stop nightmare at every corner and plenty of excellent special effects that while being dated by today's standards, still add a chilling touch! Very scary in a gothic manner. I recommend this movie to any horror fan out there! I also recommend "Hellbound: Hellraiser II". (it is even scarier than this one!)
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on October 28, 2003
Hellraiser is an original film made at a time when the genre was seriously bankrupt of new ideas. Hellraiser stands apart from other 80s horror films and it was welcomed when it first appeared in 1987, a point where Jason and Freddy were slashing screens and the horror genre was by the numbers profiteering.
Clive Barker got to direct his own story and with a budget of only one million dollars he made a very stylish and inventive horror film. Based on the novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser is about the ends people will go to experience pleasure...and pain. Frank is a drifter who is presumably bored with his travels and his excesses. As the film opens he purchases a mysterious, black laquered box and opens it, unleashing unfathomable pain at the hands of the Cenobites--"angels to some, demons to others"--figures from hell led by 'Pinhead'. Meanwhile, Frank's brother Larry and his wife Julia move into an old family home in England as they try to kick start their icy marriage.
Before long, a drop of blood in the floorboards awakens Frank, who escaped the Cenobites and is hiding in a gellatinous, skeletal form. He begs Julia to help him, and she lures men to the house where Frank consumes them in the hopes of growing flesh back on his slimy bones. Meanwhile, Frank's daughter Kirstie (from a previous marriage) arrives and suspects all is not well on Ludovico Street. Eventually she summons the Cenobites, led by Pinhead, and cuts a deal with them so that they reclaim Frank and spare her. This sets up a cruel and bloody climax between hell and earth.
Hellraiser has proven very popular over the years. It's a gothic horror tale about desire, lust, betrayal, and consequences. Pinhead immediately became another horror icon alongside Jason, Freddy, and Michael, but he's not a movie slasher and he's not some unstoppable id hunting down teenagers. Indeed, Pinhead and the rest of the Cenobites (the first two films feature the best crop including the Chatterer, Butterball, and an unnamed female Cenobite played by different actresses) are called by those who have sought out the elusive Box and they provide a kind of ultimate judgement on their souls. (Both Inferno and Hellseeker, the fifth and sixth installments of the series, respectively, would play this angle.) Indeed, the Box itself (known as the Lament Configuration) is a recognizable icon as well. Doug Bradley plays Pinhead and has gone on to be the only consistent factor in every Hellraiser film since.
It's still hard to believe this was only made for a million dollars in 1987. It's not slicked up, and go figure: the effects and makeup look a lot more expensive than the budget would indicate. These are considered 'old fashioned' makeup effects as well, since today cgi would be cheaper, quicker, and not necessarily better. Christopher Young provides one of the best modern horror scores and that alone seriously raises the stock of this film. He would outdo himself with the score to Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Those who don't like gore be warned: this is a very bloody film. "Jesus wept" indeed. The Cenobites favor ripping people's skin off with hooks and chains, so you know where that's going. (Yes, they'll literally tear your soul and you apart.) However, the gore is not a cheap shock tactic, it's central to the story and is a device Barker uses in his fiction as well.
I would highly recommend tracking down the tin box set featuring Hellraiser and Hellbound together along with a gorgeous booklet and chapter index cards. It's out of print but Amazon always has sellers out there.
The film looks and sounds great on DVD, and the commentary is very rewarding. Barker reveals a lot about the production, and you get the idea that this was a labor of love. A rare thing when a horror writer of some originality gets control the movie of his own work.
Highly recommended for horror films. This film will deliver some legitimate chills.
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on August 1, 2003
Having made his reputation as one of the most prolific and gifted horror writers of his generation Clive Barker made a natural transition to movies with this audacious directorial debut from 1987. Not only did Barker serve up a chilling tale of devilish originality, he also introduced new icons of horror that since have become as popular among genre connoisseurs as Frankenstein's monster and the Wolfman. Foremost among these frightful visions is the sadomasochistic demon affectionately named Pinhead. Pinhead is the leader of the Cenobites, agents of evil who appear only when someone successfully solves the exotic puzzle box called the Lamont Configuration-a mysterious device that opens the door to Hell. The puzzle's latest victim is Frank, who now lives in a gelatinous skeletal state in an upstairs room of the British home just purchased by his newlywed half-brother who has married one of Frank's former lovers. The latter is recruited to supply the cannibalistic Frank with fresh victims, enabling him to reconstitute his own flesh but will Frank succeed in restoring himself completely? Will Pinhead continue to demonstrate the flesh-ripping pleasures of absolute agony? Well find out by watching this classic horror flick alone in the dark. Promiss it'll scare you. If it doesn't you're already dead.
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on April 5, 2003
Hellraiser is a true classic. This is truely one of the most original horror films around. Forget some of the horror films out today, quite frankly they don't cut it for me. Hellraiser is a highly original, scary, exciting film. This should be in any horror fans collection. There's something special about 'Hellraiser'. Out of all the years I've constantly watched 'Hellraiser', it's never lost it's appeal to me. There's a high originality about it. The story line between the Cenobites and the Puzzle Box(the lament configeration) are compellingly mesmerizing and so fasinating. A definite must have for all horror fans. The musicial score by composer Christopher Young is compelling and mesmerizing. It makes it each scene more memorable. The extras on the DVD are what the real fans have been waiting for. The commentary track by Clive Barker, Ashley Laurence and Pete Atkins is superb(it's one of my favourite commentary tracks), the featurette is excellent and informative in the process of the film.There's a nice photo gallery and a trailer, and I love the menu on the DVD. This a excellent movie that every horror fan must see and own. by Justine Ryan
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on December 3, 2002
'Hellraiser' came out in 1987 and still has lost none of it's punch. Clive Barker did an excellent job with his first film. He successfully transferred his vivid, twisted imagination to the big screen. I can honestly say this is one of (if not the) most imaginative and frightening films ever made. The acting is not great, in fact for the most part it is subpar (a given with most horror movies) but the film's concept just reaks fear. The character Pinhead is the epitome of terror and one of the most popular characters ever in the horror genre. We hardly see Pinhead, but when he comes you feel the presence of pure evil, particularly in the climax. The make-up effects on Frank in his in-human form are startling. The Cenobites (headed by Pinhead) are deliciously menacing. This is the type of film that makes you gratefull stuff like this only happens in movies, and is one of the most brilliant additions to the horror genre ever. So if you are a horror fan and you don't own this classic, well, wake up.
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