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** ½
(1987) rated: G, I mean R

Director: Clive Barker

Starring: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashely Laurence, and Doug Bradley.

Synopsis: Naughty Frank Cotton plays with a puzzle box that he shouldn't and ends up paying the price. The happy-go-lucky Cenobites, led by our friend Pinhead, are summoned by Franky-boy and show him their "pleasures". Later, our heroine Kirsty meets up with her father, Larry Cotton, and his new wife when they move into a relative's house. They find that Frank, Larry's brother had been there before them, though he seems to have disappeared. But he is about to reappear, in a most gruesome way...

Review: Barker's directorial debut is a wonderfully gleeful experience, worthy of distribution by Disney. Ok, so that's a bit overboard. Hellraiser is probably one of the most gruesome and grisly movies I have ever seen. Apparently blood and gore is to Barker as empty shell casings are to Woo. Luckily, it works.

The movie is based on Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart, and remains true to the spirit of the book, however, there is a lot that is lost in the translation. One of Barker's strengths is his ability to create a new and convincing mythology, and much of the mythology from the book is not present in the movie. However, the movie presents its tale of family secrets extremely well and the visual interpretation of the Cenobites is damn near perfectly done (having read the novel, I know that was no easy task).

The acting is good, especially Clare Higgins' portrayal of the once-innocent houswife. Andrew Robinson and Ashley Lawrence do a good job, but don't really do anthing special. Doug Bradley plays Pinhead to a tee; its easy to see how Pinhead became such an icon for the movie despite his short appearance on screen.

The direction is competent and Barker does seem to have a good visual flare, but he should probably keep to writing. The direction only really grabs you during the Cenobite scenes, which amount to about 10 minutes of the film. The representation of the puzzle box and the lovable Pinhead are burned into my memory as they are just... unforgettable.

So the movie is not perfect; it certainly has its slow moments. It's a little excessive when it comes to gore, but at least its well done and (somewhat) justified. However, some of the imagery and the mythology comes through just enough to create an enjoyable horror experience. It takes itself seriously and delivers on most of its promises, though it isn't really at the top of the horror genre. If you're a fan of horror, give it a watch and you'll probably enjoy it.

Pinhead: "No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering."
Frank Cotton: "I thought I'd gone to the limits. I hadn't. The Cenobites gave me an experience beyond limits... pain and pleasure, indivisible."

• What's your pleasure sir?
• Were the Cenobites presented well? Or were they just cheesy looking punks?
• Does all the blood and gore detract from the film? Was it used responsibly?
• Do you think the movie is a good translation from the book?

The Hellbound Web
Hellraiser (IMDB)

Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
Hellraiser IV: Bloodlines
Evil Dead II

The Store:
Hellraiser (DVD)
Hellraiser (VHS)
Hellraiser (VHS Widescreen)
The Hellbound Heart (Book)

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