Hellraiser (1987)

hellraiser poster 1987 movie pinhead doug bradley
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 9/10

Gory effects, some good jumps, Pinhead and the Cenobites

Some cheesy effects, not the best acting

Movie Info

Movie Name: Hellraiser

Studio: Cinemarque

Genre(s): Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s): September 11, 1987

MPAA Rating: R

hellraiser cenobites pinhead butterball female grace kirby simon bamford doug bradley

Hi…we were told there was punch and pie

Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) seeks pleasures and pain that no human as experienced and an old puzzle box could be the key.  When Frank opens a portal to hell, the Cenobites give him that experience, but the blood of his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) manages to bring him back to Earth.  With his ex-lover and brother’s wife Julia (Clare Higgins) bringing Frank victims to restore him, the only thing standing in Frank’s way could be his niece Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) and the head Cenobite (Doug Bradley) who wants him back.  Frank opened the gate to Hell, and Hell has come to get him back.

hellraiser chattering cenobite kirsty ashley laurence nicholas vince

I hate it when my house guests try to drag me to Hell…

Written and directed by Clive Barker, Hellraiser adapts Barker’s 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart.  The low-budget horror film received mixed reviews and gained a cult following.  The film faced censorship due to its gore and had a moderate return at the box office.

Hellraiser came out at a time when I was scrambling to see any horror movie I could (and being unable to get into R-Rated movies meant renting and/or visiting friends who had them).  As a result, I made the mistake of seeing Hellbound:  Hellraiser II before Hellraiser which was confusing as all get-out.  Once I saw Hellraiser, Hellbound made sense and also Hellraiser revealed itself to be a rather different take on the genre of the time.

hellraiser julia frank clare higgins

Frank you’re chin is dripping…slime.

The ’80s were ripe with slasher in 1987.  Jason, Freddy, and Michael ruled the screen, but Hellraiser wasn’t a slasher.  It was classic supernatural horror mixed with gore and strange elements of S&M.  The story featured slightly more developed characters that literally get ripped apart by the end of the film.  Though Kirsty is the central character of the film, by far the Julia character (who doesn’t necessarily start out as a villain) is kind of the heart of movie who shows the corruption and rot created by the box.  The story loops and twists as to the direction of the story and remains unpredictable in that sense.

The cast is extremely mixed.  Ashley Laurence is a good “final girl” who has more attitude and seems darker than other survivors in horror films, but she is a bit out of her league in acting.  Andrew Robinson brings a lot of experience as Larry Cotton (and then plays Larry as Frank playing Larry which always adds dimension to a performance).  Clare Higgins is surprisingly good as the most layered character and Sean Chapman plays the Frank with skin while Oliver Smith plays the skinless Frank.

hellraiser andrew robinson jesus wept

Worst face-lift…

What jumps out in the Hellraiser films is the Cenobites.  None are officially named but the film introduces Pinhead (Doug Bradley), the Chatterer (Nicholas Vince), Butterball (Simon Bamford), and the female Cenobite (Grace Kirby).  They are joined by the creepy Engineer (aka the monster in the halls) and the old bug-eating homeless man (Frank Baker).  The film gives them a sadomasochism style clothes and the dark twisted and gory world they inhabit oozes off the screen (like Frank’s skeleton) rather well despite a low budget.

Hellraiser is a different movie from the other horror of the ’80s and more resembles a combination of classic gothic horror, grindhouse, and films that came later.  Like it or not, it is kind of a precursor to some of the gore of movies like SawHellraiser was followed by a direct sequel Hellbound:  Hellraiser II in 1988.

Related Links:

Hellbound:  Hellraiser II (1988)

Hellraiser III:  Hell on Earth (1992)

Hellraiser:  Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser:  Inferno (2000)

Hellraiser:  Hellseeker (2002)

Hellraiser:  Deader (2005)

Hellraiser:  Hellworld (2005)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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