Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clive Barker|
|Produced by||Christopher Figg|
|Screenplay by||Clive Barker|
|Based on||The Hellbound Heart
by Clive Barker
|Music by||Christopher Young|
|Box office||$14 million|
Hellraiser is a 1987 British horror film written and directed by Clive Barker, based on his own novella The Hellbound Heart. The film spawned a series of sequels. The film involves the resurrection of Frank (Sean Chapman) who had opened the door had his body torn to pieces by creatures known as Cenobites. Years later, Frank's brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into Frank's abandoned house with his daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), and his new wife, Julia (Clare Higgins). An accident causes some of Larry's blood to spill on the attic floor, which somehow triggers Frank's resurrection. To complete his resurrection, he requires more blood which Julia provides while Julia discovers Frank's puzzlebox which leads her to meet with the Cenobites.
Hellraiser was filmed in late 1986. Barker originally wanted the electronic music group Coil to perform the music for the film, but later had the group's music changed by Christopher Young. Hellraiser had its first public showing at the Prince Charles Cinema on September 10 1987. Initial reviews ranged from Melody Maker calling it the greatest horror film made in Britain, to Roger Ebert calling it a "bankruptcy of imagination".
In Morocco, Frank Cotton buys a puzzle box from a dealer. In a bare room, Frank solves the puzzle box. Immediately, hooked chains emerge from it and tear into his flesh. Later the room is filled with swinging chains spattered with the remnants of Frank's body. A black-robed figure picks up the puzzle box and returns it to its original state, restoring the room to normal.
Frank's brother, Larry, has decided to move into his childhood home in an attempt to rebuild his strained relationship with his second wife, Julia, who had an affair with Frank shortly after marrying Larry. Larry's teenage daughter, Kirsty, has chosen not to live with her stepmother and moves into her own home.
The abandoned home shows traces of Frank's recent presence, but Larry assumes Frank has fled the authorities. Larry cuts his hand on a nail, and drips blood on the attic floor, which conceals the remnants of Frank's body. The blood resurrects Frank. That night, Julia finds Frank in the attic. Still obsessed with him, she agrees to harvest blood for him so that he can be fully restored and they can run away together. Julia begins picking up men in bars and bringing them back to the house, where she murders them. Frank consumes their blood, regenerating his body. Frank explains to Julia that he had exhausted all sensory experiences and sought out the puzzle box on the promise that it would open a portal to a realm of new carnal pleasures. When solved, the box opened up a portal to the realm of the "Cenobites", who subjected him to the extremes of sadomasochism.
Kirsty spies Julia bringing men to the house and, believing her to be having an affair, follows her to the attic, where she interrupts Frank's feeding. Frank attacks her, but Kirsty throws the puzzle box out the window, creating enough of a distraction for her to escape. Kirsty retrieves the box and runs away, but, shaken by her experiences, collapses shortly thereafter. Awakening in a hospital, Kirsty solves the puzzle box, summoning the Cenobites and a two-headed monster, which Kirsty narrowly escapes from. The Cenobites' leader, Pinhead, explains that although the Cenobites have been perceived as both angels and demons, they are simply "explorers" of the carnal experience, and they can no longer differentiate between extreme pain and extreme pleasure. Although they attempt to force Kirsty to return to their realm with them, she lets their leader know that one of their "subjects" has escaped, and suggests giving them Frank in exchange for her freedom. They accept.
Kirsty returns home, where Frank, posing as Larry, tells her he had to kill a deranged Frank. Julia shows her a flayed corpse in the attic, locking the door behind her. The Cenobites appear and demand the man who "did this". Kirsty runs out of the room and tries to escape, but is held by Julia and Frank. Frank reveals his true identity to Kirsty, and, when his sexual advances are rejected, he decides to kill her to complete his rejuvenation. He accidentally stabs Julia instead and drinks her blood without remorse.
Frank chases Kirsty to the attic, and when he is about to kill her, the Cenobites appear. Now sure he is their prey, they ensnare him with chains and tear him to pieces. They then attempt to abduct Kirsty. Ripping the puzzle box from Julia's dead hands, Kirsty defeats the Cenobites by reversing the motions needed to open the puzzle box, sending them away in a burst of electricity. Her boyfriend shows up and helps her escape the quickly deteriorating house.
As Kirsty looks back at the house, it bursts into flames, and Kirsty throws the box into them. A vagrant who has been stalking Kirsty walks into the fire and retrieves the box before transforming into a winged creature and flying away. The box ends up in the hands of the merchant who sold it to Frank, who offers it to another prospective customer.
- Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton
- Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton
- Sean Chapman as Frank Cotton
- Andrew Robinson as Larry Cotton
- Doug Bradley as Pinhead
- Nicholas Vince as Chattering Cenobite
- Simon Bamford as Butterball
- Grace Kirby as Female Cenobite
- Oliver Smith as "Skinless" Frank / Frank the Monster
- Robert Hines as Steve
- Anthony Allen as Victim No. 1
- Leon Davis as Victim No. 2
- Michael Cassidy as Victim No. 3
- Frank Baker as Derelict
- Kenneth Nelson as Bill
- Gay Baynes as Evelyn
- Bryan Orcutt as Yukon Cornelius
- Niall Buggy as Dinner guest
- Dave Atkins as Moving man No. 1
- Oliver Parker as Moving man No. 2
- Pamela Sholto as Complaining customer
- Sharon Bower as Nurse
- Raul Newney as Dr. Joey Baxter
Hellraiser was filmed at the end of 1986 and was set to be made in seven weeks, but was extended over a nine to ten week period by New World. The film was originally made under the title of Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave. Barker spoke about filming fondly in The Hellraiser Chronicles stating that his memories on production were of "unalloyed fondness...The cast treated my ineptitudes kindly, and the crew were no less forgiving." Barker admitted his own lack of knowledge on film making, stating that he "didn't know the difference between a 10-millimetre lens and a 35-millimetre lens. If you'd shown me a plate of spaghetti and said that was a lens, I might have believed you."
During production, Doug Bradley had trouble hitting his marks during his takes in make-up as he couldn't see through his black contact lenses and was afraid of tripping over Pinhead's skirts. The special effects of unnamed creature known as The Engineer in the novels proved difficult as the creature was difficult to manoeuvre. Other issues included a rushed shoot of the Chinese restaurant scene with Kirsty and Larry as the person who was set to let the film crew and cast in the restaurant was late.
The film had two editors: Richard Marden and an uncredited Tony Randel. Barker originally wanted the electronic music group Coil to perform the music for the film. The music was rejected by New World. Editor Tony Randel suggested Christopher Young to replace Coil for the films score. Young had previously done scores for genre films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985).
Clive Barker had to make some cuts on the film after MPAA gave it an X rating. Following scenes were cut for R rating;
- Two and a half shots were excised from the first hammer murder, including a closeup of the hammer lodged in the victim's head.
- In the scene where Julia murders another man, the actor playing the victim felt that it made sense for him to do so naked. The nude murder scene was shot but, ultimately, replaced with a semi-clothed version.
- Close-ups of Kirsty sticking her hand into Frank's belly, exposing his guts.
- Longer version of the scene where Frank is being torn into pieces by the Cenobites' hooks. Final shot where his head explodes and his brain messily splashes out was also cut.
In interview for Samhain magazine in July 1987, Barker mentioned some problems that censors had with more erotic scenes in the movie;
"Well, we did have a slight problem with the eroticism. I shot a much hotter flashback sequence than they would allow us to cut in.... Mine was more explicit and less violent. They wanted to substitute one kind of undertow for another. I had a much more explicit sexual encounter between Frank and Julia, but they said no, let's take out the sodomy and put in the flick knife."
Barker also said on the commentary for the movie that seduction scene between Julia and Frank was, initially, a lot more explicit; "We did a version of this scene which had some spanking in it and the MPAA was not very appreciative of that. Lord knows where the spanking footage is. Somebody has it somewhere…The MPAA told me I was allowed two consecutive buttock thrusts from Frank but three is deemed obscene!" 
|Film score by Christopher Young|
The score for Hellraiser was released in 1987. AllMusic stated that the score proved that Christopher Young "hadn't used up all of his ideas for the horror genre" and that Young had matched "Barker's stylish look with a gothic score that mixed in exciting synthesizer effects."
Hellraiser had its first public showing at the Prince Charles Cinema on September 10 1987. The film was released in the United States on September 18, 1987 The film grossed $14,564,000 in the United States and Canada.
Hellraiser was initially banned in Ontario by the Ontario Film and Video Review Board. By a 3-2 majority vote, the film was deemed "not approved in its entirety as it contravenes community standards". It was banned because of its "brutal, graphic violence with blood-letting throughout, horror, degradation and torture." In August 1987, Hellraiser was passed by the Ontario Film Review Board, but only after several cuts were made to the film. New World Mutual Pictures of Canada cut about 40 seconds to get the film passed with an R rating. Thirty-five seconds of an extended torture scene featuring hooks pulling apart a body and face were removed, as well as a scene of squirming rats nailed to a wall.
For contemporary reviews in the United Kingdom, Time Out London referred to the film as "Barker's dazzling debut" that "creates such an atmosphere of dread that the astonishing set-pieces simply detonate in a chain reaction of cumulative intensity" and concluded that the film was "a serious, intelligent and disturbing horror film". The Daily Telegraph stated that "Barker has achieved a fine degree of menace" while The Daily Mail described the film as "a pinnacle of the genre". Melody Maker described it as "the best horror film ever to be made in Britain". Kim Newman writing for the Monthly Film Bulletin noted that the most immediately striking aspect of the movie is its seriousness of tone in an era when horror films (the Nightmare on Elm Street or Evil Dead films in particular) tend to be broadly comic)." Newman noted that the film "suffers from a few minor compromises: notably a decision made fairly late in shooting to change the specifically English setting for an ambiguous (and unbelievable) mid-Atlantic one." Newman also noted that the Cenobites were "well used suggestive figures" but "their monster companion is a more blunderingly obvious concession to the gross-out tastes of the teenage drive-in audience". Newman concluded that the film was "a return to the cutting edge of horror cinema" and that in more gruesome moments the film "is a reminder of the grand guignol intensity that has recently tended to disintegrate into lazy splatter". Q stated that "Hellraiser does have its share of problems: the re-dubbing of peripheral character with a mid-Atlantic twang, the relocation of the film in a geographical limbo [...] The film, however, cannot be faulted for the ambitiousness of its themes [...] Sadly the moral and emotional complexity that is the film's greatest strength is likely to be deemed its greatest weakness by an audience weaned on the misplaced jocularity of House or Fright Night."
In the United States, The New York Times stated that Barker cast "singularly uninteresting actors" while "the special effects aren't bad - only damp." The Washington Post referred to the film as a "dark, frequently disturbing and occasionally terrifying film" as well as noting that "Barker's vision hasn't quite made the conversion from paper to celluloid [...] There are some weaknesses, particularly the framing of close-ups and the generic score, but there are some moments of genuinely inventive gore [...] the film falls apart at its climax, degenerating to a surprisingly lame ending full of special effects and triumphant good." Roger Ebert stated "as dreary a piece of goods as has masqueraded as horror in many a long, cold night. This is one of those movies you sit through with mounting dread, as the fear grows inside of you that it will indeed turn out to be feature length." and that "This is a movie without wit, style or reason, and the true horror is that actors were made to portray, and technicians to realize, its bankruptcy of imagination." Variety stated that Hellraiser is "well made, well acted, and the visual effects are generally handled with skill"
In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. Hellraiser placed at number 80 on their top 100 list.
In North America, Hellraiser has been released by Anchor Bay Entertainment three times, all of which are the original 93-minute version of the film (this is the only version to ever be released on DVD). The original DVD release was a "barebones" release and is now out of print. It was reissued in 2000 with a new 5.1 mix mastered in THX. Finally, it was packaged along with Hellbound: Hellraiser II in a Limited Edition tin case which included a 48-page colour booklet and a reproduction theatrical poster for both films. Anchor Bay released the film on Blu-ray in 2009. This version retains all of the special features found on the 20th anniversary special edition DVD. In 2011, the film was re-released on Blu-ray by Image Entertainment under the "Midnight Madness" series label. This version contains no special features. However, various Blu-ray releases have since emerged with a highly variable selection of special features, although most of these are recycled from previous DVD releases.
Dimension Films' remake of Hellraiser was announced in November 2006. French director Pascal Laugier was set to direct the film but was later taken off the project due to creative differences with the producers; Laugier wanted his film to be a very serious take whereas the producers wanted the film to be more commercial and appeal to a teen audience.
On 20 October 2010, it was officially announced that Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer were to direct and write, respectively, the reboot of the Hellraiser franchise. The film's story would differ from the original film, as Lussier and Farmer did not want to retell the original story out of respect for Clive Barker's work. The film was to instead focus on the world and function of the puzzle box. However, in 2011, Farmer confirmed that both he and Lussier were no longer attached to the project.
On October 24, 2013, Clive Barker posted on his official Facebook page that he would be personally writing the remake of the original "Hellraiser" and that he had already completed a deal with Dimension Films' Bob Weinstein. He also stated that he will be pushing for practical effects rather than CGI and the original Cenobite actor Doug Bradley would be returning as Pinhead. Here is his official post:
"HOT FROM HELL! My friends, I have some news which may be of interest to you. A few weeks ago I had a very productive meeting with Bob Weinstein of Dimension Pictures, in the course of which I pitched a remake of the first HELLRAISER film. The idea of my coming back to the original film and telling the story with a fresh intensity - honoring the structure and the designs from the first incarnation but hopefully creating an even darker and richer film - was attractive to Dimension. Today I have officially been invited to write the script based upon that pitch. What can I tell you about it?
Well, it will not be a film awash with CGI. I remain as passionate about the power of practical make-up effects as I was when I wrote and directed the first HELLRAISER. Of course the best make-up in the world loses force if not inhabited by a first-rate actor. I told the Dimension team that in my opinion there could never be a Pinhead without Doug Bradley, and much to my delight Bob Weinstein agreed. So once the papers are signed, I will open a Lemarchand Configuration, dip my quill in its contents and start writing. I promise that there will be nowhere on the Internet where the news of my progress will be more reliable than here, because the only author of these reports will be Your Infernal Corespondent, me. My very best wishes to you all, my friends. Clive."
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- Rewind @ www.dvdcompare.net – Hellraiser AKA Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987)
- The Hellbound Web | Collectibles | Video Recordings
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- Darren Rea (17 March 2009). "Pascal Laugier (Director / Writer) – Martyrs". Review Graveyard. Review Graveyard. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
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- Hellraiser digital comics from Devil's Due Digital
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