Sunday, October 12, 2014

The MONTH of HORROR - Day 12: Hellraiser

"Jesus wept!"

You can thank actor Andrew Robinson for that now iconic line because it was never originally written that way by Clive Barker, who had something more vulgar in mind however the actor's suggestion would win out in the end, and a classic horror scene was born!

'Hellraiser' is a fascinating horror flick because it's unlike anything else that was being churned out at that time, it set itself apart with some unique and very striking world building, as well as containing some fairly stomach churning gore, and makeup effects. Sado-masochism isn't usually a theme you see in too many movies in general but here that's our springboard into a violent, depraved, and memorable horror universe. The Cenobites are intriguing villains that all look like they emerged from some sort of BDSM leather party where someone got a little too carried away with mutilations. They are the guardians/over-lords of their realm of "pain for pleasure" torture, and if you're the unfortunate soul who has summoned them, it won't be long before they show up and tear that soul from your body but not before subjecting you to sensations that would make your eyeballs bleed.

The Cenobites are pretty wild creations but they're not actually the central antagonists of the story. Seems crazy to have such horrible monsters hanging around in a movie, and for them to not be the focus of the conflict but that's precisely the case here, and it's all the better for it! The real "bad guys" are the step-mother, and uncle of our teenage girl character played by Ashley Laurence. You see, stepmom cheated on her husband (Andrew Robinson) with his brother Frank on the day before their wedding, and when good ol Uncle Frank wanted more of a thrill (adultery just isn't enough for some folks) he decides to seek out something called The Lament Configuration, which is a puzzle box that can bring about the most intense pleasures ever known to man. The puzzle box summons the Cenobites who torture, and kill Frank except that his body is eventually resurrected back to Earth however he needs to consume large quantities of blood to regain his human form once again, and... okay, it's a very convoluted plot, and it doesn't always make sense yet somehow the movie doesn't completely collapse in on itself. It's messy but it works!

Speaking of messy, bodies are torn apart by metal hooks, organs are ripped out and splattered all over the floor, craniums are bludgeoned by hammers, and of course necks are snapped--this is a very violent fright flick yet oddly it never once feels gratuitous. All of the deaths serve the story, and keep it chugging along which is a nice surprise--you're actually invested in the characters, and are always looking forward to the next Cenobite appearance because they are wisely only used sparingly, and effectively. Some of the practical creature effects towards the end are quite low grade, and cheesy by today's standards but those are obviously forgivable nitpicks in an overall very strong entry into the horror genre. It's bloody, and it's disturbing at times but it's a great one to check out if you're a fan of being scared!

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