31 Days of Halloween 10 – Hellraiser

hellraiser1Hellraiser (1987) uses a lot of disturbing imagery and begins a trend toward masochistic and sadomasochistic horror films.  In other words, it is a good time.  I’m only half kidding, because when I was younger, I hated this film.  I believed that it was a sick film showing people in pain screaming all the time.  That’s all I thought it was.  Much later, I discovered that Cliver Barker’s style was much better than I originally assumed, so Hellraiser became a film with people in pain screaming, which was well-shot and had style.  I will say that Hellraiser is almost entirely unique, because no other film looks and feels like it, and it’s almost as if the characters are running though Dante’s Inferno, only with more blood.

This movie is essentially about Frank Cotton and the demonic forces he unleashes on the rest of the characters.  After he buys a mysterious box, Frank unlocks it and the Cenobites torment him, who are sadomasochistic demonic creatures.  Surviving something, he manipulates his brother’s wife Julia in order to return to life.  Meanwhile, his brother’s daughter Kirsty tries to figure out what the fudge is going on.

hellraiser7I don’t get the obsession with sadomasochism and horrific body piercings or stabbings.   There’s always stabbings and impalings in a horror movie.  In Hellraiser, body stabbings and moments of pain are common.   I wonder if Clive Barker himself is a sadomasochist.  He must be.  I don’t get it and I don’t think it is interesting.  It is just painful to watch and reminds me why I disliked this movie to begin with.  Still, no other movie has ever gone there to my knowledge, so there is that.  The camera shows close-ups of all the piercings for effect, which I guess is supposed to inspire fear in the audience.  Who knows.

After Larry and Julia move into the family home, Kirsty arrives to make it even more dysfunctional.  Julia remembers having an affair with Frank, Larry swears up a storm when he argues with his wife, and Kirsty hates Julia.  Nice family.  Through Julia’s flashbacks, we learn that she hasn’t gotten over Frank and that he is a total jerkwad.  In more stabbing allusions, Frank cuts off Julia’s clothes before they do the fandango, and Larry cuts his hand while moving a mattress.  What is the deal with this movie and cutting/stabbing?!? Someone explain it to me.

hellraiser6Julia seduces and murders some men to restore Frank’s body.  She clubs one over the head with a hammer.  At least that’s not stabbing.  Claire Higgins really gets into her role and she takes it to an emotional level I wasn’t expecting.  It is pretty interesting.  It’s as if Julia is seducing men to the dark side and being seduced by the dark side at the same time.  The murders continue until Julia starts enjoying it or some crap like that.  She smiles as she sits in a chair with her big hair, thinking she’s Sharon Stone.  Weird.

hellraiser9Since I like allegories, this movie throws out a lot of dark imagery for me to squint at and ponder.  I can’t explain any of it.  A homeless man at Kirsty’s pet shop eats grasshoppers and disappears.  She has dreams about the death of her father and a pillow explodes, coating her with feathers.  Frank twirls around while bleeding like a faucet.  The homeless man becomes a winged creature at the end. They’re all weird.

After Frank takes Larry’s skin and face, he tries to kill Kirsty.  LarryFrank can’t escape the Cenobites and they tear him apart like taffy.  Kirsty then fights off things trying to eat her, stab her, drag her to hell, and cut her to pieces.  Yikes, all kinds of fun.  It’s no wonder Kirsty looks sick to her stomach for most of the movie.  

pinheadAs a MacGuffin and historical artifact, the Box is in an interesting device, and enables most of the strange events in the movie.  The reason the Box works is that it is demonic and cursed.  No other explanation is given for the strange Box or its powers, and that is awesome.   Thanks to the Box and the movie’s strangeness, Clive Barker builds a mysterious allure that works.  

All in all, this is a great movie for Halloween, but I still don’t get it.  I don’t get all the stabbing/cutting and I don’t get sadomasochism.  I’ll never get it.  However, the movie certainly has a vivid imagination and you’ve got to respect that.  Kirsty’s trippy adventure is like a demented version of Alice in Wonderland, but I think Clive Barker builds something memorable that may have influenced later horror movies to present things at a new angle.


1.  Frank is cut by the Cenobite hooks

2.  Julia’s clothes are cut off

3.  Larry cuts his hand on a nail

4.  Businessman #1 takes a hammer to the head and is cut open

5.  Businessman #2 is beaten and eaten by Frank

6.  Frank rips out Businessman #3’s organs

7.  Frank cuts off Larry’s face

8.  Frank stabs Julia with a knife

9.  The Cenobites tear apart Frank after cutting into him with hooks (again)

31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon

1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)