Monday, October 30, 2017

The Horror Of...Halloween Night, Hellraiser (1987)

There are many gory horror movies and movie series out there. Some go for the ridiculous. Some go for the ongoing dread. Some are just about throwing some blood around.

And then you have films that take you to another world. Where gore is the beginning of an exploration. Where it acts as a portal for beings outside our understanding.

All you need to do to meet them is...solve the puzzle.

It's time to solve accept the challenge, welcome the suffering, and see if we can come out sane on the other side of...


The film is the creation of horror writing great Clive Barker, who wrote and directed this movie. It was his first major film.

It's an adaptation of The Hellbound Heart, which he also wrote. The move from book to film offers many changes. Some were ones he had pushed on the film by censors and studio, but others are his willing changes for the sake of adaptation.

The changes, in part, soften some of the stories edges a bit. That may annoy some viewers, but I don't mind having a little easier time starting with a clearer protagonist for the story. It helps give the character in the film, and in other appearances, more of an arc.

But this film is still filled with gory and gruesome images, moments, and scenes. It was a film that took me time to actually see through and appreciate. So it is definitely not for everyone, particularly with it's key facet of body horror.

But that is one of the things you go to Clive Barker for.

As the film opens we see a man meeting with merchant in some open air cafe. They are coming to a deal on an item. An odd little box.

"I swear, if this is another Squirtle..."

This is Frank Cotton. He's a man who's happily hedonistic. His pleasure. His joy. His needs. These are the things that drive this man. No one will stand in his way.

And now he seeks the ultimate pleasure. And he's been told this box is the answer. Solve the puzzle of the box. And untold experiences will find you.

As he works the box, it opens to him. The environment around him slowly changes.

The more he manipulates it, the more the world shifts.

And then he's done. And that experience finds him. Chained hooks fly out of the darkness, snagging and gouging him.

Then they tear him apart.

And a figure overlooks it's work.

Some time later, Larry and Julia Cotton (Andrew Robinson and Clare Higgins) move into the old family home, which Frank had been living in.

They have a strained and troubled marriage. Julia is Larry's second wife, and since their marriage they've had trouble. Much of this stems from Frank who had a torrid affair with Julia. It seems like a dark experience that has left a mark on Julia.

She still thinks of him. She's haunted by him.

Larry has a daughter from his first marriage. Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence). She loves her dad, but has chosen to not live with them in the house. But she's eager to stay in her dad's life.

While the couple moves into the house, Larry is accidentally gashed, spilling quite a bit of blood. The blood lands on the floor where Frank was when he was taken and torn asunder.

And after a time, Frank slowly returns. Bit by bit he reforms. Not completely, but he is alive and in agony.

He soon finds Julia, and he begs her to help him. He needs something to become whole again. Blood. Lots of blood. Blood from a living person.

So, drawn into his world again, Julia begins luring men to the house. And then she strikes.

She is stunned at first by what she is doing. But she slowly embraces her role.

And Frank slowly returns to some semblance of himself.

He is almost back to normal, but lacks his skin, and little more life essence.

He explains that he sought the puzzle box to received the ultimate sensual experience. But it proved to be the most extreme sadistic experience.

The box opens the portal to let strange forces take you away.

Kristy stumbles in on them, and ends up stealing the puzzle box.

In shock, Kristy is taken to a hospital. While there she decides to solve the puzzle box to figure out what is happening.

She causes a doorway to open in the wall.

Inside she finds a large strange creature, that terrifies her.

She runs, with it following closely behind. She gets out and grabs the puzzle box, looking to close the doorway.

She does.

But then the room starts to change around her. Things begin to become warped and twisted,

She slowly realizes something bad is happening.

And then the Cenobites appear around her.

The Cenobites are the beings that engage humans via the puzzle box. They are explorers. They aren't demons. They aren't angels. They just seek carnal pleasure. And, for them pleasure and pain are the same.




Now these aren't there actual names. They are descriptors that have been tied to the characters. Though Pinhead has ended up being more solidly tied to the name, due to his prominence. (Clive Barker does not care for that name.)

And fans have embraced the names.

Chatter grabs and holds Kirsty.

They have come for her. She opened the box. She sent out the call. And now the deal is struck.

But Kirsty looks for a way out. And she proves to be quite clever and calculating. She's going from a teen struggling with her dad's troubled marriage to a someone that can work a dark deal with horrific beings of immense power.

She knows the box is tied to her uncle Frank. So he must be tied to them. But in his current state, something is wrong.

So she realizes that he must have fled them. So she offers him up to them. Free her, and she'll show them the way to Frank. So they can take him back and resume their work on him.

The others aren't so sure, or interested. But Pinhead is intrigued. So he agrees.

And this is part of the reason I like this movie above the rest in the series. I like Pinhead when he's more detached, mysterious, and amoral. He isn't hunting. He isn't conning. He isn't plotting. He's doing his job, and he loves that job.

He isn't trying to be evil. He is a passionate explorer of the extreme.

Kirsty runs home to find Frank, and check on her dad. When she finds her father, he tries to reassure her. But she soon realizes that her father isn't there anymore. Franks and Julia preyed on him. They killed him. They skinned him. And now Frank is wearing a Larry Suit.

And he is eager to creep on his niece.

There is now no compunction or doubt that Kirsty is going to go ahead with her deal with Pinhead. She pushes back from her uncle.

Julia and Frank move to kill Kirsty, to give Frank the final life he needs to be made whole. But Kirsty fights back.

In the fight, Frank ends up stabbing Julia. And Frank decides she is just as good to feed on.

As Kirsty evades Frank, she gets him to finally admit just who he is.

And that is all Pinhead was waiting for. He strikes, sending chained hooks at Frank, just as he did the first time they met. And he tears Frank to pieces.

"Dude. What you're doing. It aint cool. Just saying."

Kirsty flees the room to take a breath and process what's happen. But she soon realizes that the Cenobites aren't happy with just Frank. They want her to. After all, she opened the box.

She runs to find the puzzle box to try and end this. It is with Julia, who is now placed on a bed, chained hooks all over her. (I guess this in Punhead's work, or a reflection of the world the puzzle box has opened access to.)  She pulls the box away.

Pinhead appears behind her, ready to begin her experience with pain.

But Kirsty meddles with the box...

,,,and sends Pinhead home.

Some people seem to hate these effects, but they work perfectly well to me.

She proceeds to work the box and send the rest of the Cenobites home as well.

She is pissed, and done with all of this madness.

And then the creature she saw when she first opened the box attacks her. And they get into a slap fight over the box. But she finally gets it back.

Her friend arrives at the house to check on her and help her get out. He even, humorously, tries to get the box from Kirsty, to help her. But she screams and knocks him away. (Like he has any clue about the box or how to use it.)

She finally gets the box back to it's inert form, and sends the last threats home. But the house is in ruins and on fire.

She escapes, and while she watches it all burn, she tosses the puzzle box into the flames.

As they watch, a homeless man walks up and into the fire, to pick the box up. In flames, he transforms into some demonic dragon, or something. It flies the box away.

And Kirsty looks on, bewildered. And why wouldn't you be?

But it's all over...or is it?

Back at the cafe from the start of the movie. The same merchant is selling the box once again.

The cycle continues for the Cenobites.

Hellraiser is a fascinating movie. Body horror. Psychological horror. Horror from Beyond. Like a lot of Clive Barker's work it makes you at times uncomfortable. It pushes some boundaries.

But at the same time it is a tight small story of a disintegrating family, being brought into flaming ruins by the black sheep in the family. Leaving the youngest generation to pick up the pieces and move on.

Andrew Robinson as Larry makes for a wonderful sweet dad. He has his flaws, isn't to forward, but he wants to do right.

Clare Higgins as Julia makes for an interesting woman who is disenchanted with the quiet life she has and haunted by what Frank did to her, and what it's done to her. And as she embraces the dark madness Frank brings back she slides into that world.

Ashley Laurence is a pleasure as Kirsty. Unsure at first. Scared after a time. But by the end she's punching freaky monsters and screaming at them. She comes into her own trying to understand the new reality forming around her, and then in driving it back out of our world.

And then we have the wonderful Doug Bradley. Pinhead. Lead Cenobite. The Priest. He goes through a lot to make this role work. Hours of makeup. Toned down acting, to make the character more austere. And he takes on most of the Cenobite lines (partly due to the face makeup on half the other Cenobites). He is the face of these beings, and these movies. This was an early role for him that he even wasn't sure he wanted, due to be hidden under the make up. But he owns it.

Like Robert Englund in the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, it is hard to imagine moving past this actor in this role. It's a major hurdle.

If you do have a stomach for the films body horror and gore, this is an excellent dark tale to add to your movie marathon. Watch, it has such sights to show you.

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