Hellraiser (1987) Review
“He’ll tear your soul apart.”
Synopsis: An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; the demonic cenobites are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.
Hellraiser is perhaps the best-known of the Clive Barker film adaptations. Based on his novella “The Hellbound Heart,” it is reasonably faithful to the story and happily contains such a thorough dose of horror that it’s easy to see how this became a classic.
Though the story is intriguing and the gore excellent, the film suffers a little with the characters. All of them are fairly one-dimensional, which doesn’t really detract from the movie, but lessens the impact it could have had. If the audience had a better sense of Julia (Clare Higgins) as a person instead of just a sex kitten, how much more deeply would her anguish be felt?
Though famously uneven in some scenes, the makeup and effects of Hellraiser are incredible and do more than any other facet to earn its grade. Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his fellow Cenobites are horrifying; the skinless Frank (Sean Chapman) evokes disgust as much as he does fear.
Hellraiser is by far the best of the subsequent films – and indeed, maybe the franchise should have ended there. It’s a solid adaptation of Clive Barker’s work and his insistence as director on the tone of the movie holds it together well. Though it could have been a more powerful movie with a little more characterization, it’s still an excellent example of the depths of horror.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B