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Hellraiser - Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave!
By James Whittington, Monday 16th February 2009
Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at the Hellraiser phenomenon as well as each of the three Hellraiser movies that Zone Horror will be broadcasting. We start by reminding you what horror cinema was like over twenty years ago…

 

In the late 1980’s UK cinemas were swamped with horror movies. Most were riding the coat tails of the slasher phenomenon that had started with such films as Halloween and Friday the 13th. Freddy Krueger was starting to haunt people’s nightmares and would be around for a long time and a famous psycho was also stalking the silver screen once more. But audiences wanted something more, something unpredictable and raw, something that could be set in suburbia. This meant the monster in the movie could actually be living right next door.

 

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser hit cinema screens in 1987 and was the answer to horror fan’s evil prayers. Based on Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser was his first directorial job for a major studio though he had completed a number of bizarre and surreal shorts in the 1970’s. Hellraiser became known as one of the most ferociously original pieces of horror ever, and raised the benchmark in the genre’s style and storytelling.

 

The story follows Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who has solved the mystery of the Lament Configuration puzzle box, a sort of evil Rubik’s cube. Unfortunately he inadvertently opens a doorway to Hell and, in death, enters the world of the Cenobites, a race of sadistic supernatural beings led by a bald Cenobite (Doug Bradley). Brought back from the edge of damnation by the blood of his brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson), Frank rises to feed on the souls of others. But he needs his lover and sister-in-law Julia (Clare Higgins) to bring him fresh blood.

 

It’s strange to think that there was a time before Pinhead. This gaunt, pale, and truly selfish creature became one of the greatest anti-heroes that’s ever graced the silver (and television) screen and has, up until now, appeared in seven sequels. It’s even stranger to think that he wasn’t even given a name on his first outing and is credited only as Lead Cenobite! Doug Bradley, here in his cinematic debut, plays Pinhead as an all seeing, almost asexual God-like spectre, who speaks about pain as a delight to both suffer and get pleasure from. His straight delivery is far removed from the one-liner addicted caricatures most cinematic monsters at the time had transformed into.

The three other Cenobites, Chatterer (Nick Vince), Butterball (Simon Bamford) and the anonymous one known only as The Female Cenobite (Grace Kirby) all add to the unique atmosphere. By the way the female creature was supposed to have been referred to on set as Deep Throat! The other star of this show is Clare Higgins who could have easily turned Julia into a clichéd nutter; instead she gives her a deep sense of pity and desperation, a woman who will do anything for the man she loved.

 

The storyline contains many references that regularly crop up in Barker’s written work, such as pure terror, pain, graphic violence and the blurring of people’s sexuality. One person’s search for unadulterated pleasure is a lonely one, and Barker hammers this message home like a spike (or pin) into the skull. It was the strongest start a horror series could have wished for, but even darker devilish delights were to come…

 

Final Fact: Barker apparently commissioned a band named Coil to produce the soundtrack but Barker decided upon a score from Christopher Young. “Coil’s music”, according to Barker was “bowl churning”! It is available on a CD if you dare to try it!

Coming soon Hellbound: Hellraiser II – Inside the Lament Configuration

To try and win a Hellraiser Box Set signed by Doug Bradley plus 4 tickets to the London Dungeon click here.


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