FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 11, 2007

Day 11- "You know me and blood..."

In 1987, writer/director Clive Barker burst onto the scene with Hellraiser, a deeply disturbing meditation on human desire, sadomasochism, and hedonism. Barker created an entire universe within a single film- a universe where pleasure and pain are intertwined and flesh is weak. Who could have predicted that Hellraiser would go on to spawn 7 sequels, that Pinhead would go on to become a bonafide horror icon?

I don't know...maybe Micki Dahne?

It's a tale as old as time itself: unsatisfied with the pleasures available to him in our dimension, Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) seeks out and purchases a puzzle box from a mysterious dealer. Upon opening the puzzle box, the Cenobites appear- they're demons from another dimension, natch- and tear Frank apart with chains, hooks, and all manner of pain-inflicting paraphernalia. The puzzle box closes and Frank disappears.

Frank's mousy brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into Frank's empty house with his frigid wife Julia (Clare Higgins); before long, Julia is reminiscing about her brief-n-torrid affair with Frank. Larry can't satisfy her with his gentle ways- Julia needs a man who gets things done! By "things", of course, I mean "her".

After Larry accidentally cuts his hand and spills some blood on the floor, Frank is resurrected- but not completely. Though he's gooey and grody, Frank convinces Julia to provide him with bodies on which to feed; their blood will make him complete. Once he's complete, he and Julia can once again get it on, and Frank promises they'll run away together to escape the Cenobites, who will no doubt be pissed that Frank managed to elude their grasp.

Into the midst of all of this wanders Larry's daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), who soon enough finds herself battling both Uncle Frank and the Cenobites. What's a girl to do?

I always enjoy watching the earliest films in a horror franchise- it gives you a chance to check out the movie maniacs before they were stars, so to speak. You know, back when Freddy Krueger was more frightening than funny...and when the atrocities inflicted by Pinhead and Company played second fiddle to the atrocities humans inflict on one another in the name of selfish pursuits. Yes, that time long ago, before the Cenobites were depicted on t-shirts and reduced to Lego-size.

Admittedly, though, those Lego Cenobites are kickass and cute as Hell- though I'm sure Clive Barker never intended them to be cute. These demons are at their most frightening in Hellraiser, and that's largely thanks to Barker's direction. They're kept largely in the shadows, they're mysterious, intimidating, and fucking scary. The threats the Cenobites make- or are they promises?- make something as innocuous as a small puzzle box a frightening tool of eeeeevil, a gateway to a dimension you might not want to visit. That said, however, it's still not as terrifying as the time I finally solved a Rubik's Cube and this dude showed up at my door:

With the exception of the laser light show at the end of the film, the effects in Hellraiser are top notch. There's blood and goo and gross chunks galore, and Frank's resurrection scene is a gory joy to behold (though I couldn't help but think- "Man, that's going to be all CGIed in the remake...").

Clive Barker created a world that horror fans simply wanted to see more of, and so Pinhead and His Peeps have gone on to all sorts of wacky adventures through time and- Charles Nelson Reilly help us all- outer space. It's understandable, in a way, that the Cenobites would move to center stage in subsequent films in the series, but they're at their most frightening when they act as a sort of Greek chorus, when they show us the true horrors of human nature.


Sarah said...

Is it wrong that this film was a staple during the slumber parties I went to ages 8-11? I haven't seen it since, although I've been thinking that I should re-watch it lately. I'd probably understand it now.

John Barleycorn said...

Are they remaking Hellraiser? Tell me you were kidding.

Anonymous said...

To John Barleycorn:
They're remaking EVERYthing! I've even read of an upcoming Adam Sandler remake of "The Green Mile" - yikes!

As for "Hellraiser," I love this movie. It kicks ass! On of the best 80s horror flicks.

Stacie Ponder said...

"Tell me you were kidding."

If only.

It's from Dimension, which means Weinstein, which means...well, fill in the blanks.

And Sarah, I don't think that's wrong at all, but consider the source on that one. It's definitely a film one understands more on repeated viewings...and after puberty! :D

Anonymous said...

You know, the only thing I wish "they" would do if they're thinking remake is to actually take the original film, and just re-do those "electricity" effects that looks like someone directly scratched into the celluloid directly with a paperclip.
You know, a Special Edition HELLRAISER.
I saw a scene from the movie on TV within the last year, and I couldn't believe how badly dated those effects looked. Just those electricity squiggle things. You see them, for instance, when someone's playing with the puzzlebox and the parts start moving of their own volition...

Of course, it never looked that bad when I first saw it, when it first came out, but jeez, it don't look the same now.
So, that's my request, my wish, my dream: no remake, just a special edition that ONLY fixes this electricity squiggle effect.
That's all.

PS. Have you seen the Geico commercial that Ashley Laurence did? She's playing with the Geico gecko, swinging him around in slo-mo. It's pretty funny to watch, and mind-bogglingly cool/weird that it's the actress from HELLRAISER that's bonding with this little lizard.
If you go to her website, you'll see a banner for her 6 minute demo reel.
Okay, I just tried to watch it to see if the clip from Geico is still on there and it was a total pain-in-the-ass to get the player thingy function to work. Of course, I didn't want to sign up for some permanent player software and that's what it looked like I had to do.
BUT, the third picture in the video banner is of her looking affectionately at the little gecko.
So, watch the commercial yourself at your own risk. But you can still see the photo:

M said...

I'd love to see a stick figure spoof of Hellraiser based on your idea of a Rubik's Cube dude showing up at your door.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Near Dark is being remade too. It was just made, like, last week. Is it already time for another version?

John Barleycorn said...

Oh, Christ on a pony.

From the one sentence I read before gagging on my own vomit, I guess Clive Barker will be involved with the remake. But if you look at Barker's Coldheart Canyon, one of the biggest mistakes in modern horror literature, that's not necessarily a good sign.


They should remake the remake of Halloween with an actual screenwriter.

Anonymous said...

What about the score? I love the score-but I like the score to part 2 just a little more-great stuff! I can't get enough of Ashley-one of my favorite final girls.