HELLRAISER (1987)
posted 00/00/2012

Directed by:
Clive Barker

Starring:
Andrew Robinson ... Larry
Clare Higgins ... Julia
Ashley Laurence ... Kirsty Cotton
Sean Chapman ... Frank

Country: UK
Runtime: 94 min
AKA: Clive Barker's Hellraiser
       

So begins my journey into the HELLRAISER series, and I would like to thank you in advance for joining me (if that is you're pleasure...a reference for all you Raiser geeks out there) on this epic 9-movie jaunt through the heights of hell and the lows of direct-to-video atrocity. We begin with the original, of course. A dark and bloody picture written and directed by the man who conceived this hellish world in his novella The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker!

This is the most well-known in the franchise, so I won't over-boil the plot for you. Basically, a man named Frank buys a golden puzzle box that when solved opens a portal to hell. Through this portal come these denizens of hell known as Cenobites. They are pale, bloody monstrosities who have the unenviable job of showing the puzzle-breaker what suffering is all about. Well, Frank gets gutted by these guys, but is unwittingly brought back into existences on the very spot that he died on, which so happens to be his house. His brother and his new wife Julia have just moved in, and Julia, who had a torrid affair with Frank, discovers the unfinished, living-corpse that is Frank hiding in the attic. He convinces her to feed him humans so he can rebuild his body and escape the cenobites, and she does so.

The adorable Ashley Laurence plays Kirsty, the heroine of the film, and step-daughter to the evil Julia. She too discovers that Frank is alive and feeding off of horny strangers that Julia drags into the house, but she escapes with the puzzle box before Frank can get his slimy paws on her. At a hospital, she gets curious and plays with the puzzle box, summoning the Cenobites, who are led by the now world-famous Pinhead. They are ready to take her, but she makes a deal to reveal to them where Frank is so they can reclaim him, so she returns to the house to save her oblivious father before he falls prey to the devilish goings-on. Or is she too late?

This is a solid creep-fest, with a great combination of eerie atmosphere and stellar gore work. Everything from Frank's rebirth in the muck and slime to the giant creature with the massive stinger that chases Kirsty through her brief trip in hell make this movie not only memorable but one worth watching multiple times. The film is almost divided in half with the first part focusing on Frank and Julia and the second half dealing more with Kirsty and her adventures. This is not a complaint, merely an observation, and probably something that Barker and company had planned from the start. I found it a bit jarring, but it wasn't enough to rock my world.

This inventive and highly-imaginative film redefines the haunted house movie and deserves its place in the horror hall of fame. Great acting and fantastical set-pieces set it apart from any other film. Jorge and I were lucky enough to catch a screening of this film on the big screen with an audience full of rowdy drunks, and that was certainly a great way to watch the film. But if you find yourself alone at home one night, turn out the lights and pop this oldie, but goody, into your player, and snuggle into your covers with some popcorn. If you're worried about your bones growing hot under all those protective blankets, fear not, this flick will send a chill down your spine.

- Jose Prendes

 

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