‘What’s your pleasure Mr. Cotton?’
And so begins our rather sordid and dirty adventure into the bat-shit crazy mind of Clive Barker.
Written and directed by our favourite Liverpudlian sado-masochist and based on his short story ‘Hellbound Heart’, Hellraiser delivers a terrific alternative to slasher horror, by presenting something altogether more… Erm unconventional.
You have to forgive the film pretty early. As the words ‘Introducing Ashley Laurence’ pop onto the screen only those not already familiar with Hellraiser may appreciate this polite announcement. The rest of us however will groan and roll our eyes in the expectation of a performance that perhaps can teach all aspiring actors exactly how not to do it. Mind you, by this point all warm-blooded males will have had their cockles well and truly toasted by the name Clare Higgins playing Julia, all big hair and bad make-up slathered with an impossible amount of sauce.
You won’t want to fancy her, but you will.
Our rather convoluted story revolves around a filthy and unscrupulous man (Frank) making an ill advised deal via an ornamental puzzle box with the Cenobites, demons from another dimension! You heard me right! Cenobites. FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION! A dimension where you can only wear leather! A dimension where you have to be in a permanent state of agony! A dimension that you will not find in travel directories!
Well, Frank has reneged on the deal. Bad move. The Cenobites want him back!
Hellraiser isn’t your typical horror movie, it’s not particularly scary, apart from the acting and Julia’s make up, and there’s not exactly a high body count. It doesn’t mind throwing around the old claret though and it really goes in for people wearing no skin. And the bad guys aren’t necessarily the ones with pins in their heads and wire coat hangers around their necks.
Bob Keen, as make-up and special effects maestro really does a cracking job here. He sets his stall out early with a thoroughly disgusting ‘evolution’ of Frank, from some foul gloop right up to a sloppy, but still cretinous, partially regenerated body.
His work on the Cenobites is also terrific, trying to get that beautiful but horrific aesthetic that Clive Barker always seems to aim for in his work – Chatterer and Butterball not included though, they’re just disgusting.
The budget on Hellraiser was small and at times painfully obvious, especially at the end. It’s pretty impressive what they achieved on the film with this in mind, sure the Engineer is a stupid rubbery monstrosity, but the various stages of Frank more than makes amends.
Hellraiser, for better or worse, has gone on to build one of those communities that has created and continued to evolve an overly detailed mythology. Taken from the films (currently running at eight instalments with a remake on the way – Jan ’11), and supported by comic books and further references in Clive Barkers work, you really need know none of this extraneous information and I would struggle to tell you where most of this guff comes from.
Your checklist for standout moments include:
The ridiculous gnashing engineer!
A tramp eating insects!
A totally unexpected skeletal dragon!
Julia looking saucy!