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Hellraiser (1987)

IMDB descriptions don't get much better than this: "An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; demons are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld." Well. I suppose.

Uncle Frank (Sean Chapman - he'll always be Uncle Frank to me / and Oliver Smith in Frank's, um, skinnier form) has opened the puzzle box and been dragged to the netherworld by grotesques who wish to show him such things. Sister-in-law Julia (Clare Higgins) and Brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) are moving into the house he was squatting in, accidentally bringing him back.

Larry's daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) weaves into the story, and suddenly those of the netherworld are being offered a deal to swap Kirsty's soul for Frank's.

Skinless Uncle Frank and Julia

The thing with Hellraiser is less of the spectacle. and more of the heart and soul of writer/director Clive Barker. What I mean by that is that the story is there. As Barker famously moved away from the franchise the entries become more and more, well, bizarre.

Hellraiser, based on Barker's own "Hell Bound Heart", is clever storytelling. That, mixed with the love that he has for his own source material, and his unflinching desire to get from the page to the screen in his words.

Consequently the film is great.

Barker's keen eye and deft storytelling are matched by the primary cast, with Chapman, Higgins, Robinson, and Laurence doing a solid job. The special effects (practical) were outstanding for the day, and mostly still hold up today.

Then there is of course the mainstay of the franchise. The Cenobites, Lead, Chattering, Female, and Butterball.


Obviously to reach infamy as 'Pinhead', Doug Bradley leads the Cenobite demons (purely, I understand, only because he was able to speak more clearly in makeup), with Nicholas Vince, Grace Kirby, and Simon Bamford.

This all comes together to make something most horror fans today still consider to be something special.

The film has an underpinning terror throughout. The scenes are shot delicately (sometimes out of choice, and sometimes necessity).

Together this leaves us one of the most respected horror movies of all time, falling with grace next to Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th.

And it had sequels.

Oh, so many sequels.

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