To celebrate Hellraiser's birthday on September 18 (an apt date as it seems as after today we will have all eternity for the soul of Scotland's nation to be torn apart) some of horror's finest and unwashed have dropped in to give their thoughts on this iconic film.
There is also two special additions to Kit Powers My Life In Horror series of articles which can be found by clicking on the following links
WE HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU
THE DEVILS ADVOCATE
Ginger Nut's reviewer Charlotte Bond has also written a review which can be found here
CHARLOTTE OPENS THE BOX
And the wonderful Chantal Noordeloos, Hollands finest horror export has also writtern a review.
CHANTAL SAYS THE UNMENTIONABLE
And why don't you check out these classic interviews with The Chattering Cenobite and The Female Cenobite
CLICK READ MORE FOR SOME THOUGHTS FROM THE GREAT UNWASHED ON HELLRAISER
I first saw Hellraiser during its cinema release in 1987. During a time when horror cinema was lost in a mess of Eurotrash and increasingly lame American slasher films, the film was like a bright light pointing towards the future. The uneasy mix of sex and gore, the fetish imagery, the stripped down plot, the uncompromising subject matter, the serious tone…it was a vision that cut through the surface glitter of a then moribund genre and showed us the nihilism that lurked beneath. For the first time we thought it might just be possible to harness the dark energy behind the Books of Blood and spray it onto the screen in a coherent, narratively satisfying manner. Clive Barker had such sights to show us. -
Gary McMahon - author of The End, The Concrete Grove Trilogy and many other great books
I first saw Pinhead in my local video store, looming out at me from a video cover - I hadn't been old enough to go and see Hellraiser, let alone buy the video. There was something so fascinating about it, that it fuelled an obsession which continues to this day. I knew I had to watch that movie and when I finally did, it was so different from anything else I'd ever seen it just totally blew me away. The look of the demons - these Cenobites - the family story, the theme of obsession, the puzzle box... To me it was, and still remains, pretty much the perfect horror movie. -
Paul Kane - author of The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, co-editor of Hellbound Hearts
It's really easy to go on too long about Hellraiser. You want me to be clever, I could even claim that's the series' problem. There are 9 movies in the series, the most recent of which was made in 2011. There's some worthwhile, even innovative stuff in some of them. I'd particularly recommend Hellraiser III and IV for the sheer glee with which they throw the Lament Configuration at the wall and see what it turns into. IV in particular, with a telepresence robot used to open the box, is especially good fun.
But like a lot of long running series the further you travel, the more distance there is between you and the good stuff. And make no mistake, Hellraiser is the good stuff. Adapted from Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart, it's a story that does three impossible (And horrifying) things all at once and each one is achieved with grace, enthusiasm and the wet noises of something dreadful being born.
First off it's a resolutely modern horror movie. That sounds weird looking back at the 1980s from upstream but it's true. This was horror in streets, houses even, that lacked the comforting distance of history. This story was happening in a world that we lived in. This story was happening next door. This story might have happened here before we moved in...
Secondly, the fact the protagonist is both female and not an idiot still strikes an unusual note even today. Kirsty is a remarkably grounded, smart heroine who is never reduced to simply being a victim. As important, she's also clearly not being faxed pages she isn't on. She reacts with abject terror where we would, her sanity cracks where ours would and she survives where (we hope) we would. She's tough, normal, sympathetic and is no one's Last Girl.
Then, of course, there's Pinhead and the Cenobites and the slick, shining horror they bring with them. Barker's study of the misty border between pain and pleasure is extraordinarily powerful ground and the film pulls absolutely no punches. People are ripped apart, love becomes hate, hate becomes mercy and obsession drives everything forward. Nirvana and oblivion wrapped around each other, one covered in barbed wire, one covered in roses.
In the end though, Hellraiser is, of course, a puzzle box. How you open it is up to you; push on this panel and you'll find the sequels. Twist that pattern and you'll find the comics. Rotate that sigil and you'll be shown the original novella and perhaps the bravura way Barker ultimately ties the Cenobites to his other work. Take whatever path you want, and enjoy whatever you find there.
But make no mistake, you're going to open the box. Because it has such things to show you...
Alasdair Stuart is the host of www.pseudopod.org, the weekly horror fiction podcast. He blogs at www.alasdairstuart.com, Ghostwatch still scares him stupid and he spent some of his adolescence wanting to be Harry D'Amour. Find him on twitter at @AlasdairStuart
I first saw Hellraiser in 1988. By this time I was, or so I thought, a seasoned veteran horror movie buff, starting off on the late night black and white horror movies on BBC2, before progressing on to the 80's classics - the Friday 13th series, Halloween, The Burning and the first Nightmare on Elm Street. I thought I'd seen it all and that horror movies no longer held any fear for me. Then my friends started talking in hushed tones about a movie the likes of which they had never seen before. A movie that was so terrifying and brutal that they were amazed it made it past the censor. That movie was Hellraiser. Of course I laughed at this. I mean, how bad could it be? How much worse was even possible after some of the cinematic slaughter I'd already seen and revelled in? Then I borrowed it from the local video store, and my opinion of horror was changed forever. The characters were, for the most part, loathsome. The story was, for 80's horror movies at least, intelligent and fairly complex. The concept and imagery were absolutely terrifying. And oh my good god, the gore was like nothing I had ever seen before. Nothing I had even been able to contemplate. Seeing those skinless walking corpses made me cringe, just at the thought of how much pain they must be in ALL THE TIME. I could almost feel those hooks sinking into my own flesh as they tore Frank apart. After the second movie, the franchise started to get ridiculous, as these things often do, but the first movie and its even more bloodthirsty sequel were defining moments. The pinnacle of the 80's horror movie glut. It was, for the most part, all downhill after that.
Graeme Reynolds - author of the High Moor trilogy and owner of Horrific Tales Publishing
After a childhood filled with Universal Monsters and Hammer films, came the slashers which fuelled my horror addiction. I thought it was enough until 1987 when I saw "Hellraiser" at my local cinema. I was speechless, mesmorised. The friend who went with me walked out and refused to go back in. I had absolutely no guilt making her wait until the closing credits. I was hooked bad. Dropped her off and went straight to the book store to buy everything Clive Barker they had in stock. A lifelong addiction began. "Hellraiser" broke so many boundaries with such a strong story, a pull. It's so incredible to see that after all these years, the following is even stronger then when it came out.
My first experience with Hellraiser was a simple one. I picked up the VHS cover in a video rental store and couldn't take my eyes off Pinhead. I turned the cover and saw the eviscerated body of Frank Cotton. I was horrified and amused all at once. Horror covers were normally mysterious and subdued, revealing the gore and violence in the movie itself. This cover...was visceral and bold, terrifying but subtle. From that moment, I wanted to see this movie. It would be a few years later (1989) when I actually did, but when I first watched it, I covered my eyes several times. Mind you, I was only eight.
Hellraiser was a pivotal film for me. Around the same time, I discovered horror literature, and started to extend my horror movie education too. Pinhead and the Cenobites marked a change in style for me. Jason and Freddy were cutting edge at the time, but Hellraiser - and the now classic Barker style - was something entirely different. It touched a place within me that few movies have since. I was terrified, aghast, and impressed. To this day, Barker is one of my favourite authors and visionaries, and it's because of moments like this. As a horror author, I credit this movie as one of the major influences that helped me become the writer I am today and it was certainly the movie that cemented my horror passion.
"Is this a video nasty?" I asked "Yeah" replied Jase "It looks like a video nasty" Well it was on video and it was certainly nasty (in a way only teenage boys can appreciate)I was actually just about old enough to see this at the cinema but hadn't managed to see it so as soon as it was released on trusty old VHS I bought it immediately. I knew it hadn't been banned but I really wished it had, just so I could feel part of a small, exclusive club and not because I thought it was too violent etc. I loved this movie, I loved the Cenobites, Pinhead (the leader of the pack) appeared to be an S&M Freddie Krueger. I immediately went out and read Clive Barker's "Books of Blood" The film was nigh on perfect, the books more so, Clive Barker is one sick puppy, and I admire every inch of his horrible mind. Somewhere I imagine Pinhead and his fellow Cenobites are waiting, somewhere dark, waiting for a puzzle box to be picked up and solved, sometimes I hope it's not me who finds it....sometimes
1987. The Town Hall Cinema, Pwllheli, North Wales. Hellraiser: A film about a guy who buys a demonic puzzle box. I'd seen 'video nasties' but nothing had prepared me for Hellraiser as it had excellent production values for its day and lots of style. It opened rapidly, getting to a scene so unexpected and realistic that it cleared half of the Cinema. I remained to witness a novel idea in horror, that of diverse and exceptional beings with strong motives and intelligence behind their creation. Gone were the days of the mindless slash and rip, vampires and werewolves now had to compete with beings created by pushing their own physical and mental boundaries to the ultimate extreme. I believe Hellraiser to be seminal to the 'torture porn' offerings of the present day and highly influential on the popularization of horror as a medium without boundaries. I left the Cinema believing I had witnessed something special. It is the stuff of legend and truly raised the bar for the genre as a whole.
Joe Young Cover Artist
I saw this movie for the first time when I was about 11 and I have loved it ever since, I was pinhead in 6th grade, the looks I got were priceless. I was immediately drawn into the whole world of Hellraiser, i had to have posters and comics and toys. I was a geek in school and this gave me an outlet and would later give me friends with common interests. I am in love with Ashley Laurence lol, had the pleasure of meeting her and Doug Bradley and most of the original cast, super nice people, I love the movie even more having met them. Pinhead is my 2nd favourite horror icon behind only Jason. The idea of our own nature making our hell and our twisted curiosities and naivety becoming the reason for and instruments of our damnation has always fascinated me. This movie stands with maybe 3 or 4 others as the reason i fell in love with horror as a kid and for that will always be one of my all-time favourites --Dwayne Young aka DJ Voorhees, Blood Red Reviews
I first watched Clive Barker’s Hellraiser in the early 90's. It opened a door to my imagination that Stephen King had been unable to achieve. Hellraiser's plot is based on a puzzle box that opened a gateway to a realm in Hell which is occupied by human type creatures named Cenobites, but this was just the beginning. These sadistic, evil and inquisitive creatures took the idea of Hell to another level. Pinhead still to this day terrifies me. Clive Barker allowed us to watch and imagine that this is just one layer of hell, one realm. Plus if this, is so terrifyingly sick, then god forbid what is happening in the other realms. Hellraiser was able to give you a full sensory overload, I felt the creepiness of the Cenobites, the gross human experiments, heard the chink of chain and the smell of tortured flesh. Hellraiser made the idea of Hell truly frightening. His ability to play on readers fears using his own imagination to put down in words a wonderful and creative story is inspiring. Hellraiser for me, raised the bar in the horror genre that is yet to be beaten!
- Carrie, unsure, Weston Super Mare
Lol, you know why its important to me? Because the guy who I would one day marry took me to see the movies with all his friends. I learned about a whole genre I had never known of, I read the books because some things in the movies seemed stupid but my friend explained it all made sense with the logic and history of the books. I read the books, I fell completely in love with the whole genra and so many wonderful new works. That series made me feel connected strangely enough. In time I married that guy. That guy who now writes his own dark and disturbing works.
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