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Hellraiser (1987)

“It will tear your soul apart . . . “

Allegedly once called Sadomasochists From Beyond the Grave and based on the book The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barkers Hellraiser was one of the first of a very small group of intelligent horror films that went beyond the usual amusing slasher flicks of the 80s.

Hellraiser didn’t rely on the shock, ‘made-you-jump’ scares of the Freddie’s and Jason’s of the 80s, but was a very unsettling look at the nature of desire and pain.

When Larry Cotton inherits a family home, he finds his brother Frank had been there before him. A minor accident spills some of Larry’s blood in the room from which Frank disappeared – giving him the chance to come back and escape those who took him to hell – the Cenobites.

Frank may be back, but he’s missing some fairly vital parts of his body – like skin. But Larry’s wife is all too willing to help him get some, and evade the Cenobites who would take him back.

Stunning special effects by Image Animation and brilliant acting by Doug Bradley as the “Lead Cenobite” (who would later become known as ‘Pinhead’) make this film stand out.

Yes, there is a huge gore factor, and you can’t help but wince at the scenes that involve hooks and chains, but the Cenobites are amazing creations.

As Bob Keen of Image Animation said: “There would have been a way to portray a man with pins in his head and a big bloody mess, but you wouldn’t have wanted to look at it – our way you have the geometry of the design drawing you in.”

Another draw of Hellraiser is the whole mythos of the story. So much is implied, and you get the impression there is a lot more to the Cenobites than the fact they are psychos or out for revenge like so many other horror movie monsters.

They have their own history and their own laws (which have been further explored in subsequent films and comics) of which there are hundreds.

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To call the Cenobites, you must open the Lament Configuration – A puzzle box. Open it, and they will come for you. Didn’t know what the box was? Tough! Don’t fancy an eternity having bits pulled off you in hell? Shame . . .

The film isn’t perfect though, as Clive Barker himself will tell you (If you ask him nicely). It does suffer from not being sure where it’s set.

New World Pictures insisted Barker dub a number of the British cast with American accents (a bone of contention to this day) but the landmarks are most definitely British, and the house was in Dollis Hill, North London.

The budget of Hellraiser was $1,000,000. It earned about $20,000,000. It was the directing debut of Barker, who made only two short films before.

A 1988 sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 picks up right after the end of Hellraiser with Kirsty waking up in a psychiatric hospital under the care of Dr Chanard.

Hellbound takes the original’s premise and expands on it, realising the disturbing and visionary hell that only Barker could create. Ashley Laurence reprises her role as Kirsty, the only one to defeat the Cenobites.

While Clive Barker was directly involved with the first two sequels, he found himself sidelined as the series progressed, having signed away the rights when he made the original. Even Doug Bradley was eventually replaced as Pinhead.

Further sequels followed: Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996),  Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005), Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) and Hellraiser: Judgment (2018).

Ian Eames

Larry Cotton
Andrew Robinson
Julia Cotton

Clare Higgins
Kirsty Cotton

Ashley Laurence
Frank Cotton

Sean Chapman
Frank the Monster

Oliver Smith
Steve

Robert Hines
Bill

Kenneth Nelson
Evelyn

Gay Baynes
Lead Cenobite (Pinhead)

Doug Bradley
Chatterer Cenobite

Nicholas Vince
Butterball Cenobite

Simon Bamford
Female Cenobite

Grace Kirby
1st Victim

Anthony Allen
2nd Victim

Leon Davis
3rd Victim

Michael Cassidy
Derelict

Frank Baker
Dinner Guest

Niall Buggy
Moving Man 1

Dave Atkins
Moving Man 2

Oliver Parker
Complaining Customer

Pamela Sholto
Nurse

Sharon Bower
Doctor

Raul Newney

Director
Clive Barker