Title: Hellraiser (1987)
Director: Clive Barker
Genre: Supernatural Horror
Summary: A couple moves to an old house to find the man’s brother and the wife’s former lover who has turned into an ugly beast. He now bids the woman to bring him human sacrifices to help him be whole again.
As a baby goth, I remember seeing Pinhead’s pierced up visage glaring at me from absolutely everywhere. All the local punk/metal/goth/hippie shops (you know the type- where you can buy Nag Champa incense alongside crotchless PVC panties with a bike chain attached) sold a variety of Hellraiser-themed merchandise- bobble heads, t-shirts, posters, buttons, whatever. There’s no denying Pinhead is a badass looking movie villain (if you can regard him as a villain).
So, watching this horror classic for the first time, I was surprised at how long it takes to actually catch a glimpse of Pinhead and his cenobite crew. It takes them over an hour to show up- and at this point, we’re already several murders into the plot! I was expecting Pinhead to be the Big Bad- stalking victims, spouting logic, looking cool in his BDSM priest get-up. Nope. For the most part, this is basically the story of the amount of effort a woman will go to to have good sex. Julia, I understand you, babe, but let’s draw the line somewhere, yeah?
The lack of cenobites, whilst surprising, didn’t deter me from how enjoyable and schlocky I found Hellraiser. It is one of the oddest horror movies I’ve ever seen- gross at times, at incredibly funny at others (Julia in a negligee and inexplicable high heels awkwardly dumping a human husk of skin into a random room as her husband comes up the stairs stands out). The plot is downright bizarre – you certainly can’t accuse Hellraiser of simply leaning into the common stereotypes or tropes.
I had no idea what kind of weird ass hell monster would show up next, or what creepy line skulking Frank was going to utter. As I mentioned before, Pinhead is marketed as the main movie villain/demon/monster, yet he is a neutral, largely ambivalent force in this movie. He’s just clocking in and doing his job, really. Major props to the special effects and makeup departments- the cenobites look amazing. I’ve read some criticism online that the SFX are horribly dated- I disagree. It’s a product of it’s time, sure, but it still looks awesome.
Speaking of looking awesome, I couldn’t get over Julia’s looks. Terrifying skinless lover/brother-in-law at home or not, she never fails to look like a Boss Bitch the entire time. This is a woman who might be killing men she picks up in hotel bars with a hammer, but goddamit if she doesn’t always make sure her manicure matches her lipstick! This woman has never met a shoulder pad or copper coloured eye shadow she doesn’t like, and that hair must take some serious blow-drying. You can tell you’d be able to smell her minutes before she arrives anywhere- the wafting scent of cigarettes, Elnett hairspray and Dior ‘Poison’. It might not be my style, but I can only admire her efforts:
I also really loved Kirsty- our Final Girl. She acted (somewhat) rationally throughout, given how insane the situation around her was. She managed to fight off creepy men, homeless bug-eating hobos, an evil step-mother and hell demons, and managed to do it in a very comfortable and appropriate pair of Levi’s and a white tee (I’m not saying all Final Girls should be dressed comfortably, but my god, it irritates me when they are in miniskirts and heels and all the male characters are dressed for Winter and this happens far too often). I loved when she whacked Chatterer around the chops with the puzzle box. Go, Kirsty!
Overall, I found Hellraiser a lot of fun to watch. I don’t find it scary at all, and I’m not in a rush to watch it again, but it watching it with a glass of wine and some pizza wasn’t a terrible way to spend a Friday evening. Also, I absolutely love both the Dragula and Face Off episodes where contestants take inspiration from Clive Barker’s universe to create their own cenobite interpretations- aesthetically, there’s no denying this is one uniquely interesting looking movie.