In a place between
pleasure and pain, there is sensual experience beyond limits. And in a
world between paradise and purgatory, there is a horror that feeds the
souls of evil. Welcome to the singular vision of Clive Barker and his landmark
horror opus, Hellraiser.
"Oh no tears, please.
It's a waste of good suffering."
Some horror films use sadism as a vise. They squeeze the audience past their breaking point, beating them into submission, and ultimately leaving them with a feeling of sheer terror and dread or in a state of nausea and disgust. In a way, this practice was what the horror genre was ultimately invented for. In Hellraiser
, however, Clive Barker throws a twist into the equation. Of course, the film is absolutely sickening and horrifying, but much like the feeling the characters experience, the sadism becomes perversely pleasurable, especially for fans of the genre. The unrelenting cynicism, evil, and gore become strangely hypnotic and, dare I say, form a startling sense of dark humor. Put together, it provides a wonderfully unique film experience.
A married couple buys a new home, and upstairs, the lady, Julia, encounters the zombie of her husband’s half brother, Frank, who also happened to be her secret lover. Frank had been looking for the ultimate pleasure experience, and in search of this Nirvana, he encountered the Cenobites, sadomasochistic demons led by the nefarious lead Cenobite Pinhead, who are more than happy to introduce Frank to their idea of pleasure: pure torment, suffering, and torture. The entrance to their Hell is a small “puzzle-box”, which opens when manipulated correctly.
Now Frank managed to escape from this Hell, but was only able to take form when he absorbs a drop of blood on the floor. He entices Julia to bring human victims to feed upon, as to become more whole and to once again enter the realm of the living. Reluctantly, she agrees, and as the body count increases, she finds it harder to keep her crimes secret. Finally, Frank’s niece, Kirsty, comes across Julia bringing another victim home and walks in on a skinless Frank feeding on his blood. She steals the puzzle box and flees, passes out in the street and wakes up in the hospital. There she manages to open the box, and the Cenobites appear. They’re looking for Frank, and Kirsty manages to spare herself from their wrath by agreeing to lead them to him.
In short, the story is a horror film acid-trip, an orgy of near-psychedelic violence and sensual pain. This, combined with the completely unheard of premise, is why the film is an absolute masterpiece. The correlation between pleasure, pain, and death is mind-bending: each character is searching for their own slice of sexual bliss, but most achieve it at the expense of others. Larry, Julia’s husband, is content with loving Julia, but not physically, which is what she craves. In turn, Julia cheats on her husband with an immoral bastard and regenerating zombie. This zombie had been looking for sexual pleasure with demons (or angels) who get off on inflicting extreme pain on others. And Kirsty… she just fucks her boyfriend.
A similar correlation between life and death exists as well. In the minds of Julia and Frank, to truly live is to have this sexuality in their lives. Frank achieves this through death and torment. In order to escape and live again, he must survive on the deaths of others. Again, the Cenobites achieve their lives’ fulfillments through the torture of others. Larry, on the other hand, is still dull as dirt, and Kirsty is still fucking her boyfriend.
While this deeper meaning is appealing to film analysis, it’s not nearly as interesting as Barker’s rhetoric. What transpires in the film, the experiences of the characters, pleasure and pain, subjective feelings to all, are instilled in the audience as well. Of course, the film is wonderful horror entertainment, but it goes further by planting new ideas and beliefs about sex into the viewer’s mind. It isn’t a beautiful expression of love anymore (or a filthy, ravishing good time, for that matter). Instead, it’s a barbaric, violent, brutal practice, committed by the depraved and morally corrupt, but its appeal is infinite. Put it this way: after watching a film with this much sex, it’s impossible not to feel completely horny, despite the equal amount of death that’s present.
- It took six hours to place Doug Bradley into the Pinhead makeup.
- The budget of this movie was $1,000,000. It earned about $ 20,000,000.
It was the directing debut of Clive Barker, who made only two short films
- Doug Bradley's characters name wasn't "Pinhead". He was just named
"lead cenobite", but was given the name short after the film started.
- Doug Bradley was originally offered a choice of roles between
one of the mattress movers and the Lead Cenobite. He originally thought
it important that, as a new film actor, the audience should see his face,
and nearly turned down the lead cenobite role.
- The film is based on the novel "The Hellbound Heart".
- The film's original title was "Sadomasochists From Beyond The
- Andrew Robinson improvised the line "Jesus wept".
- Industrial band Coil originally did the soundtrack for
this movie, but it was turned down by the film studio. Clive Barker: "The
only group I've heard on disc whose records I've taken off because they
made my bowels churn."