Movie Discussion: Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987)

  • Monthly Theme: Genre Classicshellraiser_1_poster_01
  • The Film: Hellraiser
  • Country of origin: U.K.
  • Date of U.K. release: September 11, 1987
  • Date of U.S. release: September 18, 1987
  • Studio: Cinemarque Entertainment BV, et al.
  • Distributer: New World Pictures
  • Domestic Gross: $13.9 million
  • Budget: $1 million (estimated)
  • Directors: Clive Barker
  • Producers: Mark Armstrong, et al.
  • Screenwriters: Clive Barker
  • Adaptation? Yes, of the 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker.
  • Cinematography: Robin Vidgeon
  • Make-Up/FX: Bob Keen, Cliff Wallace, et al.
  • Music: Christopher Young
  • Part of a series? Yes, this is the first film in the Hellraiser franchise, followed by two theatrical sequels – 1988’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II and 1992’s Hell on Earth – and six direct-to-DVD sequels: 1996’s Bloodline, 2000’s Inferno, 2002’s Hellseeker, 2005’s Deader, 2005’s Hellworld and 2011’s Revelations.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? No.
  • Other notables?: No.
  • Awards?: Fear Section Award at the 1988 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. Critics’ Award at the 1988 Fantasporto.
  • Tagline: “Demon to some. Angel to others.”
  • The Lowdown: Hellraiser is the directorial debut of horror novelist Clive Barker, adapted from his own novella. Barker burst onto the scene in the ’80s with his beloved Books of Blood, a series of story collections that were marketed with a pull quote from Stephen King that read, “I have seen the future of horror fiction, and his name is Clive Barker.” Hellraiser was made for about a million dollars with very little expectations, but became a surprise success, grossing just over 14 million and kicking off a series of 8 sequels (most of which were released direct-to-video). Of the popular horror franchises, the Hellraiser films were the least financially successful; the entire series’ gross places it 10th in the top-ten (after the Friday the 13th, Hannibal Lecter, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Scream, Saw, Psycho, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Child’s Play movies).  But it did introduce the character of Pinhead, who became a familiar horror icon like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers, et al., despite not being a traditional “slasher” figure. Hellraiser concerns a mysterious puzzle box that opens a door to Hell, an unhappily married woman who wears a lot of metallic eye shadow, her simpering husband and idiotic stepdaughter, and a former lover who likes to run around without his skin on.

If you haven’t seen Hellraiser our discussion will include massive SPOILERS. 

Sean: I know you think this movie’s busted.

Kristine: I have softened my opinion a tad since we watched it.

Sean: In what ways?

Kristine: I just really think it is two different movies. Movie 1 is the Julia/Frank/husband movie, then Movie 2 is the Kirsty/Cenobites movie, and both have cool parts and both have shitty parts.

Sean: Right…. I definitely prefer “Julia’s movie,” even with the torrid, Lifetime-movie-eroticism. In fact, that might be why I like it.

Right before this scene, Frank fucked Julia ON HER WEDDING DRESS and it was amazing and VERY Lifetime television movie circa 1985!

Kristine: The Julia/Frank relationship is really interesting and wretched and well done but Kirsty sucks. And the Cenobites are cool but I feel the movie doesn’t spend enough time exploring their world. The whole “finger on the teeth” thing.

Sean: Finger on the teeth?

Kristine: Remember when Frank draws his finger along Julia’s teeth/lips and that is their erotic signal to each other? And when she accepts his request for her to help him by bringing him blood, she grabs his gross bloody hand and puts it on her mouth? It is romantic and sicko at the same time.

Sean: Totally. With this movie I have a really hard time separating it from Clive Barker, the persona. The movie, for me, cannot be talked about without talking about who Clive is as a writer and as a figure in the public imagination. Which might be a problem right?

Kristine: Right. See, I don’t have that baggage at all, I know not a “Clive Barker”. But I still want to hear all about it.

Sean: I mean, I think just knowing he’s a big gay-gay is enough context for you. I just can’t think of this movie in any other way than as the product of a very queer imagination, and as a film entirely about coding things with gay subtext. It is a movie about the gay male imagination, I would argue. Or at least, a gay male imagination.

Kristine: I did see something about the Cenobite’s aesthetic being inspired by punk fashion, Catholicism, and S&M clubs in New York and Amsterdam.

Sean: Oh, the movie is so goth.

Kristine: I guess I am confused…

Sean: About what?

Kristine: Are you equating gay male sexuality with S&M?

Sean: No, never. Let me clarify.

The character design for “Butterball:” a fat penis wearing sunglasses.

Kristine: “Clarify” reminds me of “clarified butter” which reminds me of… BUTTERBALL. [Editor’s note: Butterball is the official name of the “fat” Cenobite.]

Sean: I think a significant portion of the film hinges on the experience of random sexual hookups, of bringing “strangers” home for sex.

Kristine: Oh, yes, I see what you mean. In Julia’s part of the movie, you mean.

Sean: Yes. I am convinced that Julia is a stand-in for Clive’s take on the gay male. In fact, Julia and Kirsty own the movie in a way that other women characters in other horror franchises DO NOT own their movies. I think Clive has split “himself” into those two halves (Kirsty and Julia) for the purposes of the story, and that “he” is them since they are, arguably, our protagonists (though Julia becomes an antagonist in the second half of the movie).

Kristine: Cool, I buy that but I would say that Kirsty is an absentee “owner,” then, because she’s so dumb and spastic.

Sean: The movie seems to be really interested in “female” experience, but it is a fake female experience that is really gay-male-experience in disguise. That is my argument. It’s like the critique that dumb people levy at Sex and the City (that the “women” in the narrative aren’t women at all, but proxies for gay men) except in this case, I think it’s totally true.

Kristine: Um… Butterball.

Sean: Why do you think of my thesis?

Kristine: I buy it. But I do think that females are capable of the jealousy and infatuation that Julia demonstrates in the movie. I don’t think it is a completely off base characterization.

Sean: Sure.

Kristine: I love how her character degenerates and becomes more amoral as time goes on and the reality of getting her lover back is stronger.

Julia in a nutshell: Star earrings, mustard blouse, helmet hair, metallic eye shadow, black stockings, blood-spattered buttermilk complexion

Sean: I don’t know, this is where I can’t stop psychoanalyzing Clive Barker the public figure. I really think that for Barker, the whole premise of the movie is: What if the hottest fuck you ever had promised to be yours forever if you only did something awful for them? And then his imagination took off from there, and it just, for me, reads as very gay, very cruise-y, very back-alley-hookup-culture…

Kristine: Well, here is my two cents – I am mad at the movie for having stupid wet blanket Kirsty explore the world of the Cenobites. It should have been Julia who gets hold of the puzzle box and enters the world, especially since she demonstrates some of the hedonistic tendencies that bring people to the puzzle, right? And it would have worked with the premise, since she could have been ostensibly entering that world to save Frank… but really entering it because of her own lustful ways.

Sean: I agree 1,000,000%. You are a genius. Yes, that would be so much more interesting. But I really think here’s where Clive is a shitty writer with a great imagination. Rather than listening to his characters, he’s more obsessed with forcing a fairy tale structure onto the story. So Kirsty is his “Dorothy” and Julia is his “Wicked Witch” and he’s going to make them be that even if the story itself suffers as a result. And, my Lord, he’s the one who cast vile Ashley Laurence as Kirsty in the first place.

Kristine: I agree with you about the “fairy tale” thing. For some reason, he felt he needed to have an innocent naïf enter that world. All that dumb stuff with Kirsty and her boyfriend in the subway, about how she could be a bad girl, or whatever.

Sean: Here’s a question, as a kid did you actually like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? Like, did you love Dorothy the character?

Further proof that Kirsty is a worthless “Dorothy:” She can only fit, like, two fingers in her mouth?

Kristine: Hmm, Dorothy did not make a huge impression on me.

Sean: Exactly my point.

Kristine: Yep. How about you?

Sean: No of course not. I loved the Tin Man. But I did adore Alice, and Kirsty ain’t no Alice.

Kristine: Alice is a much better character, with real desires and motivations.

Sean: And curiosity. And an interesting identity crisis. I just think the only valid way to read Julia is as a man-in-drag, especially since as a “woman” character she’s kind of pathetic. I just want to add that Clare Higgins, the actress who plays Julia, I think knocks it out of the park, and is without a doubt the best thing about the movie.

Kristine: I agree…her metallic eye shadow is my everything. So, I think it is interesting that we watched Hellraiser when Shame is currently a part of the “awards season” conversation, since Frank is a sex addict with insatiable desires that ultimately destroy him and so is Michael Fassbender in Shame. I haven’t seen Shame yet – maybe it ends with Fassbender solving the puzzle box.

Sean: Well, I do not think Hellraiser thinks Frank is anything other than totally fucking sexy and amazing, and that the Dad character is anything other than porridge-in-shorts.

Kristine: I think that’s what you think.

Sean: The movie thinks it too.

Clive Barker to audience: “This is what sex looks like.”

Kristine: Do you think sex addiction is a thing? I ask because you know some people are skeptical.

Sean: Yes. And, believe me, I have known some homos…. I think for some people sex is a compulsion, and not a narrative. I think for most people, it’s a narrative.

Kristine: Absolutely true. I know some straighties who are compulsive sex addicts, too.

Sean: I actually think it’s really sad and tragic to have that compulsive relationship with sex and I would never ever want that problem.

Kristine: Yes, it is.

Sean: I’ve seen it drive people into the arms of fanatical religiosity, because it’s the only way they can cope with their “urges” and it is wicked sad.

Kristine: Can we talk about the Cenobites and what they mean? And why doesn’t the movie spend more time with them??

Sean: Yes. But I might need to process Julia more later… I think we see so little of the Cenobites because they are supposed to be the big “Second Act” reveal.

Kristine: When I read the thing about what influences Barker’s aesthetic with them, I also came across the phrase “repulsive glamour.” I love that.

Meet the Cenobites, from right to left: Vagina Tummy, Vagina Nipples, Vagina Throat and Vagina Mouth

Sean: : I’m sorry, but I don’t see the “glamour” part. I actually also think the Cenobites might do so little because of budgetary constraints.

Kristine: Interesting.

Sean: That’s wild speculation.

Kristine: Repulsive glamour. You know what they reminded me of?

Sean: Tell me.

Kristine: Pan’s Labyrinth, a little.

Sean: I can totally see that. But Pan’s Labyrinth is so much less… cheesy.

Kristine: Well, yes. Do you think Guillermo del Toro was inspired by Barker?

Sean: I think Barker’s vision of goth is very dated and very silly. You know he was like, into industrial music and stuff right?

Kristine: I also had the thought while we were watching that it was Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice as an S&M story.

Sean: Yes, they’re all of a piece: Burton, del Toro, Barker…

Kristine: And my other thought was Marilyn Manson.

Sean: Oh totally.

Kristine: Who I am certain loves Pinhead.

Sean: I would bet money on it.

Kristine: That whole band obvs wants to live in Barker’s world.

Sean: Well, this question of the Cenobites really, to me, opens up the question of “What exactly is this film’s relationship to S&M/leather/fetish culture?”

Kristine: That’s a part of gay culture you are not plugged into.

Sean: That’s funny because I think of it as a straight thing, not a gay thing. But I know that it’s also present in the gays’ world. I’ve seen the Internet porn to prove it.

Kristine: Huh. I see it as both. Leather daddies and all that. Again, Tom of Finland.

Clive Barker’s imagination: “Imagine this BOX, and if you RUB IT long enough, then chains EXPLODE OUT into your face!”

Sean: Chains. One of the main things about the movie is chains. The central iconography of the movie is: the chains, the peeled skin, the nails, the leather. What do think the movie is doing with all that stuff? And with the idea of S&M in the first place?

Kristine: The chains and the hooks was definitely the MAIN visual. When the hooks tear his face apart at the end… So, is Clive personally into S&M? Do we know?

Sean: I don’t know. But I want to know what you think of S&M and how it plays in the movie.

Kristine: I guess the movie is about surrender and sacrifice – Julia surrenders and sacrifices for Frank, and Frank surrenders and sacrifices for the Cenobites. But both are doing it for reasons that are, at the end of the day, self-serving.

Sean: I mean, is the movie really just a commercial for fetish culture?

Kristine: No, I don’t think it is a commercial for fetish culture, because of Kirsty.

Sean: See but here’s where the bad writing really matters again, because I think any conversation about “character” or “motivation” will end in a cul de sac because the movie is entirely uninteresting on that level. For me, the only thing interesting about the movie is its aesthetics.  And I think if the movie has any power, it is aesthetic power and not narrative power. Am I dumb?

Kristine:  No, I agree that is ALL about the aesthetics, with the semi-exception of Julia’s character. But it can’t be just a fetish commercial because there are numerous demonstrations that Frank is more than just hedonistic, he is evil. Such as screwing over Julia at the end, and the suggestion of incest with Kirsty. All that “daddy” talk.

Sean: Oh I know. All the incest stuff… I’ll buy that. But I am convinced that Julia and Frank are the heroes of the movie, even if the film is constrained to play out a more traditional, “moral” narrative arc in which they are “punished” for their hedonism. I still think the movie is ultimately more fascinated with them and their impulses than with Kirsty and her ‘80s New Wave boyfriend. Plus Julia and Frank enjoy being “punished.” So the movie actually fulfills their fetish fantasies.

Kristine: Then why have Kirsty at all? Arg. I really like our re-imagined, “Julia-centric” version so much better. Plus, the incest stuff and “Daddy” voice was just dumb to me, but I got it was supposed to be creepy.

Sean: The threat of incest is supposed to be alluring right? I don’t know, I do think the movie’s an ad for S&M and fetish and I think that’s what people like Marilyn Manson are responding to. I think the movie is bored by Kirsty. I think the most interesting thing about Kirsty is that cute New Wave ‘80s boyfriend. But don’t you think that her relationship with her Dad is weird and excessive? And all her obsessing over “Daddy” is actually what the movie is making fun of? Like, when Frank says “Come to Daddy”?

First off, um…. the hat. But admit it, Kirsty’s boyfriend looks like he plays keyboards in the band Squeeze

Kristine: Yes, I thought it was excessive. In fact, I think the movie makes some suggestions that there is a mildly inappropriate relationship between Kirsty and Daddy and that Kirsty views Julia as a rival. And remember when K’s bf makes the sexual joke at the dinner table? So, all the “Come to Daddy” stuff later is echoing and amplifying that tone.

Sean: Yes. I agree. That’s the thing – the movie is shot through with perversion, even in the most “normal” relationship.

Kristine: Truth talk. What about that weird dream Kirsty has?

Sean: The bed with chicken feathers and blood and stuff? Part of me was like, this is just dumb “music video” imagery meant to make this movie seem edgy and surreal. Like, the baby crying? There is no “reason” for that to be there, Clive was just like “And it would be so dark if a baby was crying.”

Kristine: At first I thought it was like her mom died in childbirth or something and that is what the dream was about. But now I agree with your read. Well, back to aesthetics – I thought the effects and makeup were both great. Which reminds me, you know I am a big fan of that reality show Face Off on Syfy (the second season starts January 11). That show was my first exposure to horror movie makeup and special effects. I am wondering, did the makeup or effects from Hellraiser make a big splash?

Sean: I have no idea about official “acclaim…”

Kristine: I was going to also ask, do horror movies ever receive real acclaim for their makeup/effects people? Like Academy Awards acclaim? But then I remembered American Werewolf in London did.

Sean: I think the American Werewolf win was a fluke, though that dumb Benicio del Toro version of The Wolfman won it, but that’s just because they are obsessed with Rick Baker. The makeup awards are usually always given to dumb Curious Case of Benjamin Button and shit.

Kristine: Ugh, for slopping dumb fake wrinkles on Bradley Pitt??? So, this is totally another example of the ghettoizing of the genre?

Sean: I think. There’s no way Hellraiser is getting an Academy Award nomination, even if it’s the best thing ever. [Editor’s Note: Looking at the list of nominees and winners for Best Makeup since the award was created in 1981, the only horror movies to get awards or nominations are “prestige” horror films like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Winner – 1992), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Nominee – 1994) or Shadow of the Vampire (Nominee – 2000). A striking exception is Cronenberg’s The Fly, which won the award in 1986, but Cronenberg arguably fits the “prestige” idea despite that movie’s genre excesses. Movies that HAVE won or been nominated include The Way Back, The Young Victoria, Norbit, Click, Cinderella Man, Frida, A Beautiful Mind, Austin Powers:The Spy Who Shagged Me, Mrs. Brown, Philadelphia and Bicentennial Man] But like we said before, the main thing the movie has going for it are its aesthetics….

Kristine: Well, I thought the Cenobites were good n’ creepy. I really liked how each one has their own things going on, but they all were absolutely from the same “world.” If Tim Gunn were judging their look, he would say it was “impressively cohesive.” Right?

Sean: Were any of them “scary”?

Kristine: Yes, they were scary, but I can’t say the movie scared me. I am not scared to go in the bathroom because of Cenobites, like I was with Leatherface or Tomás from The Orphanage. Did they scare you?

Sean: Um… no.

Kristine: Did you think they were goofy?

Sean: I think when I first saw them I just thought they were cool like the background aliens in Star Wars scenes were cool. Like, those would be cool action figures.

Kristine: You are so right. Like I said, the two most mal-formed ones (Chatterer and Butterball) were very Beetlejuice.

Sean: I think the Chatterer is the coolest one, design wise, and that Pinhead is second coolest.

Kristine: They need to make one of those wind-up chattering teeth toys of the Chatterer.

Sean: I think Butterball is really dumb.

Kristine: What about the lady Cenobite?

Lady Cenobite to Kirsty: “I am very gay for you.” Come to think of it, there has got to be a UK grime artist named “Lady Cenobite,” right?

Sean: Obligatory and unexciting. But what a horny dyke. I did not remember how bad she flirted with Kirsty. She like, sucked in breath through her clenched teeth like Hannibal Lecter and it was total “cunnilingus breath.”

Kristine: Well, I thought they were good ghouls, but I don’t think Butterball and Chatterer really come across as S&M kingpins. Is there anything about scarification or body mutilation you think is hot?

Sean: Nothing whatsoever.

Kristine: Lie.

Sean: Oh goodness, it really isn’t a lie.

Kristine: You like boys with those nasty giant ear plugs.

Sean: I do like the medium-sized ones. But only on stocky boys and only on tattooed boys.

Kristine: Oy vey, the specifics.

Sean: So, can we talk more seriously about the aesthetics of the Cenobites? I am curious if you think they reference non-Western cultures.

Kristine: Perhaps that is the intent, but in actualization… not really. Not for me, anyway.

Sean: I just wondered what the appeal is. They’re so “Jim Rose Sideshow.”

Kristine: Yes, for sure. I mean, in Southeast Asia there are those guys that put 10,000 fishhooks in their body and carry shit or whatever.

Sean: Because remember the movie has a touch of Orientalism, don’t you think? The bookends take place in an undisclosed Asian location. The source of the “gate to hell” is decidedly and emphatically not Western.

Kristine: Well, I thought that was that Frank had traveled to the end of the world in search of new highs. I thought it was just supposed to represent the Other, not necessarily Orientalism. Beause remember the photograph Julia steals where Frank is with a dark-skinned woman? I think his foray into “exotics” is just supposed to be another symptom of his disorder, which is problematic and kind of lazy.

Sean: Totally agree.

Kristine: Like, if you sleep with a black woman you are soooooo kinky?

Sean: All the non-white people, they’re so….. mystical and sexy and have animalistic desires.

Kristine: Exactly. Whatever, I reject that.

Sean: But the Cenobites are very Caucasian. In fact, they’re exaggeratedly Caucasian: pale, wan, scrawny. Whiter than white.

Kristine: Oh well, yeah.

Sean: Well, I just want to say that of all the movie’s aesthetics, my favorite is the puzzle box itself. I think it’s really cool.

Kristine: Hmmm, really? Huh.

Sean: The scene of “opening the box” is the coolest scene, despite horrid Kirsty being the one who does it.

Kristine: I agree – sort of.

Admit that Kirsty looks like a lost castmember from “The Facts of Life.” This image could be from the episode where Natalie and Tutti make the rest of the girls go with them to the S&M parlor.

Sean: Tell me.

Kristine: Oh, okay, I disagree. I thought it was cool when Frank first did it. All the machinery and inner workings and stuff = cool. But when Kirsty did it and lights and shit came out of it, I thought it was dumb. But overall, I thought as a cursed object it was pretty good.

Sean: I just liked how the bricks in the room when to photonegative and the idea of this doorway being opened… I was down with it.

Kristine: I like the part at the beginning when the man of indeterminate Asian descent says something about how the box was Frank’s all along (cause of his depravity).

Sean: Right. It’s very “Pandora’s Box.”

Kristine: Exactly. The hospital scene was pretty cool I guess, despite Kirsty and the lights.

Sean: Pandora, but with a satisfying gender twist that Frank is the one who opens it originally. For once, it is not a woman who opens the gate to hell.

Kristine: I just don’t think objects emitting lights = scary, at all.

Sean: I don’t even remember these lights you speak of. Do you mean the bad Atari effects when she’s banishing the Cenobites at the end?

Kristine: I think there were lights and maybe even fog. Very… heavy metal concert. Did you think the big creature that chases Kirsty and shows up at the end is scary?

Yet ANOTHER monster that looks like a penis. Coincidence?

Sean: No. The monsters in Hellraiser suck. That upside-down hallway monster sucked and the winged skeleton beast at the end sucked.

Kristine: And what about that transient? That cricket-eating scene made me want to die. That was way scarier then the monsters, for me.

Sean: The cricket eating is great. More cricket eating, please.

Kristine: So is the transient supposed to be the Asian guy? Or just what transports the box? Or what?

Sean: I don’t know who the fucking transient is. I don’t think Clive knows either.

Kristine: He is coming to get you. And feed you crickets.

Sean: Well, I think Hellraiser is the faggiest horror movie to ever spawn 8 sequels.

Kristine: I do think that society needs/craves fagginess. After an overdose of Mucho Macho™ in any art form, a shot of fagginess is always needed.

Sean: I thought it was interesting to watch this around the same time as Rare Exports because they’re both “dark fairy tales.” But why do you think this was such a cult success?

Kristine: I have no idea why Hellraiser is so enduring. I am not familiar with the source material, so I don’t know how much that does/doesn’t have to do with it.

Sean: Can I actually point out something that has bothered me since I was 12 and I first saw this?

Kristine: Yes, please do.

Sean: Okay, so Julia is married to an ugly wet noodle who she loathes right?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: Why does she let Frank take his skin? Why wouldn’t she be like, please God, anyone else?

Kristine: You are saying she should have found some hot piece?

Sean: Just anyone else. It’s like, if it was me, and Frank wanted to kill some wretched ex of mine and take his skin I’d be like, I’m not exploring heaven and hell with someone who looks like my ex, betch.

Would YOU want to explore the furthest reaches of pleasure and pain with…. THIS?!?

Kristine: I think it’s just what you said a while back – Barker is not thinking about his character’s motivations, just about, “Wouldn’t it be cool if he looks like Wet Noodle but he is not Wet Noodle?” and it plays into the incest stuff, too. I’m sure he thinks it is a daring psychological twist, but it is not.

Sean: Poor Julia, she is so underserved by this fucking movie. Stupid Clive.

Kristine: Okay, so you tell me why it is so enduring. Is it the aesthetics of Pinhead? Who, btw, was hardly in the movie at all! I feel cheated.

Sean: I actually think it’s the box as a narrative device that captured the collective imagination. And then the aesthetics of Pinhead and the Cenobites.

Kristine: That still doesn’t seem like enough… I hope some diehard Hellraiser fans read this and school us on why it is awesome because I do not get it.

Sean: I want to know if you felt an abiding sense of identification when Pinhead said that he is an “angel to some, a demon to others.”

Kristine: Ha ha, yes that is I.

Sean: When former boyfriends have messed with you, have you yelled “I’ll tear your soul….APAAAAAAAAARRRRTTTTTTTT”?

Kristine: You know I have.

Sean: You know what’s weird? The setup of the movie presupposes that we’d want to explore pain and pleasure. Do you think mainstream audiences relate to that?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: I mean, since when is that a popular fantasy?

Kristine: I think people are familiar with it. I mean, in terms of people knowing about it, S&M is the most popular kink, right? The aesthetics and accoutrements of it are so widespread and well known.

Sean: Sure. See, I’m disappointed. I think the movie could really have explored some of this stuff in a more interesting way. Like, the allure of having pain inflicted on you by a lover…

Kristine: But do all people wearing dog collars really want to be someone’s dog?

Sean: The movie just plays all that for cheap aesthetics and doesn’t actually grapple with it. Like, does Julia like to be bound and gagged? What if she did?

Kristine: See, that’s why Julia’s character is the best thing in the movie and she is cheated, because she kind of grapples with it.

Sean: Right. This movie should be called “Julia’s Box.” Final questions: If you found the puzzle box, would you try to solve it?

Kristine: If I knew what it was? Or if I just found it?

Sean: If you knew the legend, but as far as you knew it was just a legend.

Kristine: I don’t know…maybe…but it’s a moot point cause you know me. If I didn’t solve it in 10 seconds I would get frustrated and bored and throw it across the room and go do something else.

Sean: I am dying laughing.

Kristine: Would you? (I already know the answer).

Sean: I would actively try to make the Cenobites appear.

Kristine: Of course you would. Okay, last question… “Jesus Wept.” Love it or hate it?

Frank’s final line: “Jesus Wept.” Number of goth/industrial bands have used this line as a song title: 2,153.

Sean:   I just don’t care about it. No scratch that, I like it.

Kristine: I liked it, too. I actually thought it was funny.

Sean: And I’ll tell you why I like it. Because it actually reveals Frank’s character.

Kristine: Huh, how so?

Sean: Because, he’s saying it like, “Jesus was a wimp! Look at me! Hahahahaha!”

Kristine: Oh, I see what you are saying.

Sean: It’s very “in character” and I think it tells us something about how he sees himself and the universe.

Kristine: Well, even though I think Hellraiser fails as a movie I am glad we watched it. Lots of interesting stuff.

Sean: So, knowing that fans think Part 2 is better, would you be interested in watching it?

Kristine: Sure.

Sean: All the cast returns. Wait, not the dad. Frank, Julia and Kirsty return.

Kristine: I would not be holding my breath for greatness, frankly.

Ratings Round-Up

The Girl’s rating: Busted!

The Freak’s rating: Something this gay should be better, dammit!

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27 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987)

  1. It’s been forever since I’ve watched any of the Hellraiser films, I don’t think I even saw the last couple. Oh well…

    While I really enjoy some of them they are far from my favs in the genre. My lack of firm memory on the series will keep me from commenting too much on this entry but I will say I LOOOOOOOOVE the cenobites! Then again, who doesn’t? They are so cool and some change from movie to movie. In the ridiculous part 3, for instance, there is one cenobite that is morphed with a video camera and another with CDs. Guess they were trying to stay on the cusp of evolving tech, but it’s fucking hysterical to watch now. One of the things I really like about the direct-to-video part 5, known as Inferno, is that it has very little to do with Pinhead, a character I really don’t care about, and more with a Groundhog’s Day labyrinth of hell all surrounding the cenobites. It’s not too great but I applaud them for doing something different and I appreciate it. Also, Chatterer (who is also my favorite of the group) is just a torso in part 5. His clicking and walking around Johnny Eck style with his arms is suh-weet.

    As for the others – I remember thinking part 2 is the best and I might watch it again soon. It has my favorite scene from any Hellraiser film with the bloody, skinless girl in an all white room. Part 4 has Adam Scott (Parks & Rec, Party Down) in the cast if I remember correctly.

    Can’t wait to read about Session 9, and I think I’ll watch it again too. Only saw it once but completely loved it, despite it starring Caruso.

    Maybe you should change the name of the blog to “Girl Hates All Horror Movies”. ;)

    1. Daaaaaaamn! You give one “eh” review to Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and you get labelled a hater for all time!

      My biggest gripe about ‘Hellraiser’ (besides dum dum Kirsty) is I wanted MORE MORE MORE of the Cenobites! After reading your comment, I went on an online odyssey to learn about all the other Cenobites. Holy crap you are so right about CD cenobite – he kills people by whipping compact discs at them???? HA HA HA dying laughing! Here is a funny tribute vid someone made for CD cenobite:

      There are about a billion tribute vids for the Chatterer.

  2. Damon – Of the sequels I’ve ONLY seen Part 2, which I remember liking, but your descriptions of some of these sound totally amazing (compact disc Cenobite? I’m sold). I don’t know how you feel, but I’ve been mostly disappointed by anything of Barker’s that’s been brought to the screen. I think they mostly range from “problematic with some decent parts” (like Candyman and Midnight Meat Train) to embarrassing as all get-out (Rawhead Rex, Lord of Illusions, Nightbreed). I think the best of the lot is actually that adaptation of “Dread” that came out a couple of years ago, and was part of the often disappointing “After Dark” series, but was actually pretty good. What say you?

    1. I’ve yet to see Dread, but did enjoy Midnight Meat Train and Candyman is greatness. Don’t remember much of Lord, it’s been forever since I’ve seen it. Rawhead Rex is… well, you know. Nightbreed is where we disagree. I love that movie so much, though the book, under the title Cabal, is much better. Everything about that movie makes me happy – Midian, Cronenberg acting, Elfman’s score, all the strange creatures, a guy cutting his own face off, and so much more. Wish we’d get to see the full director’s cut but it seems like that’s never going to happen. Sigh.

  3. Big gay gay? The woo-woo? I’ll be hard pressed not to say those words the next time I see you. :) Another great review! Happy new year to the girl and the freak!