- Andrew Robinson as Larry Cotton
- Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton
- Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton
- Sean Chapman as Frank Cotton
- Oliver Smith as Frank the Monster
- Doug Bradley as Pinhead
Directed by Clive Barker from his own novella, Hellraiser unleashes a chilling, perverse and gruesome spell upon you that still holds up today. Focusing on the consequences of opening a mysterious puzzle box, it makes for ambient, blood-soaked and above all creepy viewing for horror hounds everywhere.If it’s 80’s horror you’re craving, you won’t go wrong with Hellraiser.
In the chilling opening, Frank Cotton, a sexual adventurer purchases a mysterious puzzle box in an unnamed country. In the attic of his London house, surrounded by candles, Frank manages to solve the puzzle. Unfortunately for him, he is then torn apart by hooks. Years later, Frank’s brother Larry and his wife Julia move into the old house, believing that Frank is on the run in some remote corner of the globe. Larry’s daughter from a previous marriage, Kirsty, later comes to visit her father and stepmother. Whilst moving some of the furniture into the house, Larry cuts his hand on a rusty nail near the foreboding attic. The blood seeps through the floorboards and what remains of Frank’s body begins to regenerate. Julia, clearly unhappy in her marriage, encounters the monster form of Frank, later on that day. It is revealed that Julia once had a torrid affair with Frank and still has a burning desire for him. Frank convinces her to bring men to the house, kill them and let him drink the blood, in the hope that it will regenerate him back to a human state. Matters are complicated as Frank explains how the box opens a door to another dimension that houses beings known as Cenobites; black garbed demons with an interesting look at the dangerous boundaries between pleasure and excruciating pain. Frank needs to regenerate before the Cenobites realise he has escaped their clutches. As the blood begins spilling and the bodies begin to pile up,Kirsty becomes suspicious of her stepmother’s actions and later stumbles into the perverse plan involving Frank, Julia and the Cenobites. Prepare for startling effects, a gothic and strangely romantic score and some chilling villains as Hellraiser unearths, like the Cenobites, this frightening tale of a perverse love, sadomasochistic designs and blood-spilling terror.
Adapting from his own novella, Clive Barker captures the darkly sexual undercurrent of the tale and manages to both use gore effectively and draw out the character’s motivations. He nails the haunting visuals, making creepy use of melancholy blue for the attic and his use of sonic trickery to give it a whispered chill. He also creates memorable characters in the Cenobites, the most memorable being the aptly named Pinhead. Although they are seen as the antagonists of the piece and they are spine-chilling to say the least, they can actually be reasoned with as they explain they are “Angels to some, demons to others”. If anything the main antagonists are Frank and Julia, as they harvest the blood so Frank can become human again. The make up department deserves particular praise for the look of the demonic Cenobites and for the gory scene in which Frank’s remains regenerate that will most certainly have the audience squirming in their seats. The score provided adds extra chills and highlights the strangely perverse love that is apparent between Frank and Julia.
On the acting front, the cast assembled perform admirably well. Andrew Robinson nails the role of the husband who doesn’t realise his wife’s dangerous and horrific actions. Clare Higgins manages to make Julia sexy, scary and cold as she plumbs to the depths harvesting humans for the love of her life. As Frank in human form, Sean Chapman oozes oily charm as we watch how his hedonistic actions opened the door to unimaginable hell. In the closest thing we have to a heroine, Ashley Laurence effectively portrays the spunky Kirsty who quite literally stumbles into the hellish universe that Frank has brought upon everyone. She makes a great Final Girl and slowly grows from suspicious to defensive as she tries to reverse the puzzle process. Oliver Smith, as the monster version of Frank is a scary creation; selfish, obsessed and oddly passionate.The most memorable characters have got to be the journeying Cenobites, who really do leave a lasting impression. And as they are not pure evil, you get an interesting confrontation between them and Kirsty, who manages to save herself from returning to their hellish domain. Pinhead, the leader(excellently played by Doug Bradley), gets all the best lines, “We’ll tear your soul apart” and “No tears, it’s a waste of good suffering” being the best.
Hellraiser makes for imaginative, gory and adult viewing with its strange mix of sadistic imagery, haunting music, creepy love story and resilient heroine. It is a horror that still holds up well today and is a great example of balancing gore with an interesting story. Well-performed, ambient and terrifying will all be words that will appear to you if you do see Hellraiser.