Hellraiser (1987) Review
Written by: BlackTequilaKiss
Due for the remake treatment, I thought now was the time to check out the original once again and remind myself why even after all this time it remains such a treat to watch. Clive Barker is a visionary but his movies can suffer from lack thereof, so it is more than beautiful when a movie gets it right, case in point, Hellraiser.
A classic, that still remains a favourite of mine, years on.
The plotline: A puzzle box is recovered and solved. It unleashes the forces of hell as Pinhead and the Cenobites search for the one who completed the box. The suffering of whomever completed the puzzle will be legendary even in hell...
What makes this such a classic? It's not just the case of horror that makes this movie so well earned but also the talents of the cast, the way the movie is lighted and the flow of the story.
Everything from the way Douglas Bradley so effortlessly becomes Pinhead to the grotesque bloody effects just grabs my attention and makes this a movie I can watch time and time again and feel like I am seeing it freshly with new eyes. I love this film.
Let's begin with the talent,
Ashley Laurence as Kirsty. This woman was beautiful, she played her role with such conviction that you became lost in her way of acting. Her naive approach as Kirsty until the brutal moment of truth was a star turn and I just love the freshness of her character. A vibrant actress who just shines on screen.
Clare Higgins as Julia. A disturbing performance by a mature, well acted actress. To say she was anything but excellent would be an injustice to how well she portrayed the role. Porcelain skin, bright red lipstick she carried a demeanour quality to the role and was fantastic in every respect.
And then there was Douglas Bradley. Graceful and naturally talented, it is hard to imagine anyone taking the mantra from Bradley, his voice, the way he looks when made up as Pinhead. He was made and born for the role. When playing the monster he does it extremely well but when we see glimmers of a man beneath the coat of arms, when he opens himself to a shot of humanity he plays heart and soul and gives everything in those moments. This man is true talent in terms of rawness and understanding. Yes, this is... Pinhead.
Then there was the score. We hear this music and are quickly drawn into the makeshift world of Hellraiser. Imagining the Cenobites, picturing Pinhead there is no given way not to be pulled into the music. It's sad but with a dash of hope, it lingers as piano keys strum gently against the classical music and it heightens as the tension and horror surmounts. I loved the score.
Cinematography? I was impressed but the real question is does it work years after the article? It does. The friction between the darkness and day is obvious. Sun is rather too bright whereas the night & darkness are blended nicely. One of my favourite aspects of the film is when the light streams steadily through the blinds as Pinhead and his pals come to our world. It is a bold, comforting move that works well and derives from the fact that is doesn't try to hard but stick to, rather wisely, what it is capable of. To not love this is to not understand how well cinematography can work when used in the right conditions. Fantastic.
Visual / Special Effects: Now how can I fault this? Easy! Just kidding. Truthfully along with the likes of An American Werewolf in London, some of the earlier slashers, this is how effects should be created. With caution and grace, effects can not only be a great catalyst, but a memory that serves long in the mind after the movie has ended.
There are too many moments to name every one but one of the greatest effects the movie offers is when Frank is reawakened by a cut and blood among the ground where he died. The slow metamorphosis from hideous monster back to his relative self is a great transformation and a love of creation to go from that process and draw it out without seeming long or overdone.
As an entire overview the visual and special effects are fantastic, love, art and creativity went into the process and it shows. This was just brilliance, whatever way you put it.
I have spoken a lot of this movie but only for everything it deserves. Admittedly it starts strong, falters a little in the middle and then goes into overtime for the final act. Yes there are a few moments of weakness but they are not enough to stop this movie being any less of a classic.
The characterisation, the storyline, the effects and the stunning end are what propel and take this movie by heart. It is the creation of a macabre, dark mind (Barker) and an understanding of the craft of horror movies. To not love or even like this movie is to not understand what it can offer.
Remakes are a sore point and the thought of this movie being redone is an ache. If done right this could invigorate the horror genre, if done wrong it would ruin the sensibility of the original movie. Either way, if you have yet to see the original, do so. Before anything comes to the cinema, see the original and realise why this is considered a classic.
Barker is one of a kind and when he does a movie well, beware.
Awesome, go and watch this now!