Archive for the 'Slasher films' Category

May

Comments Off on Hellraiser: Hellseeker

I was excited, dammit, when I saw Ashley Laurence had been hauled onboard for “Hellraiser: Hellseeker.” Maybe hauled onboard isn’t the right analogy. Maybe it’s more like she was lured into the back of the craft services van and chloroformed or she walked across a pit covered with copies of a totally different script.

Laurence matters because she played Kirsty Cotton, the heroine of the first two films and for my quatloos probably the best Final Girl of the 1980s. After the meandering noir fable of “Hellraiser: Inferno,” roots needed returning to, and Laurence’s Kirsty never failed to kick ass. Plus, Kirsty still had a story to tell. Unlike many a horror franchise heroine, she skipped the traditional perfunctory offing in the opening of the first sequel she wasn’t heroine-ing. So after literally wearing the skin of her wicked stepmother and witnessing the ultimate answer to man’s search for meaning is a grey maze filled with kinky zombies, how did her hellbound heart go on? I mean…did she take a year off and backpack Europe? I want to know.

More crucial, unfortunately, than Kirsty’s involvement is the helming of this film by Rick Bota, who also directs the next two entries in the franchise. If I ever get access to time travel technology, I’m going back to 2002 and hunting down every person in the phone book named Rick Bota. To be fair, Bota is a deft cinematographer, and I have the feeling these movies were requisitioned by the studio with about as much vision, passion, and resources as you put into ordering a Subway sandwich. “Hey, Rick, here’s a director credit and a script from the slush pile. Go make a Hellraiser so we don’t lose the copyright. On Hearty Italian.”

So all that said, “Hellseeker” sucks.

While I’m feeling food metaphors, let me start with the three-cheese soundtrack. Gone is the fantastic choral score of the first few films, replaced with some wailing-on-a-Stratocaster Winger audition that you could plunk at the start of a light Skinimax offering, maybe something on the USA Up All Night docket. Unacceptable. Save your bargain brand Dokken for Freddy. We need some majesty and dignity up in this joint. You’re not playing Pinhead on with that crap.
It is true that Clive Barker originally wanted metal for the score of the first “Hellraiser.” But Clive wanted metal for the score. This soundtrack is to metal as Screech is to Bill Nye.

Ah, but I’ve not touched the story. Let me get my asbestos gloves.

The movie opens with Kirsty and her husband Trevor riding in a car, laughing, playing, loving each other conspicuously, like people do in commercials for antidepressants and boner pills.

The dialogue neatly informs us they are reconciling from something and embarking on a new start. Then they start kissing and Trevor smooches them right across the center line. Honk, honk, Trevor swerves to avoid a face full of Honda and loses control of his car. The compact goes full Duke Boys rampant, plunging them into a lake, albeit absent Waylon Jennings narration.

Trevor manages to worm out of the car, but the door gets stuck and he can’t save Kirsty. Police divers find no sign of her body, and her seatbelt was undone. Trevor hasn’t even left the scene before he finds himself the target of oblique insinuations from a homicide detective, who by the way is clearly the love child of Lieutenant Columbo and Sergeant Murtaugh.

Besides the police detective who seems to have skipped ahead to the end of the script, Trevor has two other big problems. One: he came out of the accident with a head injury, and so he has trouble remembering anything. Also, his days weave in and out of fugue states and delusions, which are great when you want to mess with the audience without committing to anything happening. I will give Bota and company full credit for some nice Pinhead foreshadowing in a brain surgery scene though.

Trevor’s other big problem is that he sweats Sex Panther cologne. This guy’s BVDs are getting their elastic challenged by every woman in the movie. Who knew being a widower was such a turn-on? You could probably change the music and make this into a sex farce. Just splice in Rob Schneider as a wacky neighbor instead of Pinhead and boom, you’re good. In fact, just keep the music.

Eventually we find out that Trevor was unfaithful with lots of women during the marriage, and so the women aren’t exactly coming out of nowhere. We are also shown that Kirsty found out about the affairs, but more interestingly, that Trevor obtained a Hellraiser box and made Kirsty open it. We don’t get to find out the result of that delightful gag gift until the curtain falls, but you will have figured it out long before then. Suffice it to say, that long drive off a short pier we started with was less straightforward than we originally witnessed.

“Hellseeker” is not terrible, but I’d be straining to call it even okay. I’d rather watch an honestly terrible movie than this thing. Give me all the Zombeavers and Thankskillings you have.

They’ve taken one of the most explicit and daring titles in horror, and they’ve expurgated it until you get something that could play with minimal cuts on Lifetime, at least until the last 15 minutes. It is full of groping and murder, but it is still terribly boring, except when Pinhead is on the screen, but then you probably just feel sad. No Cenobite innovations, barely any Cenobite presence, and you don’t even have the disturbing murders that gave “Inferno” its genuine oog-out moments. And like “Inferno,” the story revolves around getting gutted for hidden sin, metaphorically and literally, which departs significantly from the original BDSM ethos of the Cenobites. They were never here to punish you or reward you; they’re here to play. Because you asked.

There’s nothing to play with here though. Just a dull as dishwater psychological horror title that tacks on some by-the-numbers Hellraiser motifs here and there and calls it a day. This should not have counted toward keeping the copyright.
I have serious issues with the ending, too, honestly, but I’m not going to think too hard about it because it’s a better deal for Kirsty, and she’s the only one I can muster much feeling for in this, what with her 10 minutes of screentime.

roadside attractions

  • The Short Happy Life of Kirsty Cotton
  • Will Someone Turn Off That Guy’s Amp?
  • Pinhead and Kirsty, still Angela’s OTP
  • Wardrobe by Victoria’s Secret
totals

2

blood

BLOOD

Most of it is in that screenshot I have above of the brain surgery.

0

blood

BREASTS


Not even a nip slip.

2

beast

BEASTS Generic retread Cenobites and superficial Pinhead. It won’t do.

2 OVERALL It gets one point for Kirsty, one point for Pinhead, and there are no other points worth spooling this up in your Netflix queue for. Give it a miss.
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Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser: Hellseeker”

trailers

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May

Comments Off on Hellraiser: Inferno

“Hellraiser: Inferno” is a helluva lot better if you don’t think of it as a Hellraiser movie. I’m not sure it was meant to be honestly. You could have swapped the Hellraiser stuff with Candyman or Leprechaun or probably Alf without using very much whiteout, and the story itself is a total departure from every Hellraiser we’ve seen so far.
Craig Sheffer would be playing his second Clive Barker hero here (after Boone from “Nightbreed”) if this were a real Hellraiser movie from Clive Barker, but he’s not, so — anyway, he plays Joseph Thorne, a shady detective with a flair for solving puzzles and playing games. When not being an arsebiscuit to his partner through the unlikely medium of crosswords, he may be found snorting coke, stealing from crime scenes, and cheating on his truly lovely wife with hookers. He’s a flawed protagonist. He’s also the narrator, in another departure from the Hellraiser template, and as faithful as he is to his wife and daughter, probably should pencil him in as an unreliable narrator, too.

Thorne and his partner Tony are called to the super opulent scene of a homicide, and it turns out Thorne knew the victim in school and even bullied him. (Flawed protagonist!) It did not get better for the dead guy, and somewhere along the way, he got himself a hold of the Hellraiser box, and the box got a hold of him, like it do. The true detectives also find a child’s finger encased in a candle at the scene, a particularly chilling little touch that viscerally troubles absentee father Thorne.

Starting with a murder scene and an imperative to hunt down the killer before he finishes murdering the child he sawed that finger off’n, things deescalate quickly when Thorne takes the box along for sexytimes with a hooker. (Flawed protagonist!) He opens it, of course, but strangely, chains do not jet out and get themselves hooked into his face. No! Pinhead, sweetie, did you forget to turn your out-of-office on?
Instead of being shown such sights, he has a dream (or dream-like?) sequence where hotsy-totsy Cenobites try groping him to death, and then a chase, a jump scare, awake, and it’s daylight. Back to work and hunting down that darn killer. Okaaaaaay.

Back at the office, Thorne gets a call from his special friend from the night before, who sounds like she’s about 5 seconds from getting Cenobitified. He rushes back to the no-tell motel, discovers the hooker’s body, along with a child’s finger party favor, and fetches his partner Tony. Thorne then manipulates Tony into helping him clean the crime scene to cover up his involvement, all the while also planting evidence to make Tony a patsy should he get too much conscience and turn on Thorne. (Flawed protagonist!)

Kind of pissed off with each other, but even more desperate to stop the killings than before, Thorne and Tony find themselves on the trail of a mysterious mastermind, known only in breathless criminal whispers as “The Engineer.” I will tell you right now that trail is going to basically involve following chunks of people who know Thorne, along with the occasional child’s finger.

Also, let me tell you about the Engineer. The Engineer is part of the Hellraiser mythos that is never explicitly discussed onscreen up to this point, although he’s familiar to fans, especially fans of the novella. You know that flying snapping thing that chased Kirsty in the first one? That was the Engineer. In lore, he was maybe human once, maybe the one who first opened the gate to hell, but is definitely the one who makes the Cenobites all their fun action features. I suppose taking license with the mythos by making the Engineer the Big Bad is arguable, but to me, it’s one more thing that screams that this movie happened when someone played Hellraiser Mad Libs in someone’s psychological horror spec script.

Craig Sheffer actually does a pretty darn good job with this role. Thorne is a bastard all right, but Sheffer still makes empathy happen and convincingly veers from smarmy self-control to unhinged brutality to utterly beaten and back as the plot demands it. I kind of like that the movie dares to make him such a barely-mitigated dick.

The new Cenobites seem to be purposefully symbolic in their blinded, hypersexualized designs, which is a nice first for the series and unexpectedly deep. There’s also a sort of return of the Chatterer Cenobite, although this one is legless, and somehow that might be creepier.

And then the murders are fairly unflinching and “Criminal Minds” grade disturbing at times, realism that is risky, but interesting, following four movies of nothing but fantastical gore.

I don’t have all good things to say. Honestly, I’m kind of shocked I had that much good to say. For one thing, it drags, often and not in a fun RuPaul way. Also, once the movie starts to invest heavily into the psychological part of its alleged psychological horror, it peels away into a tedious and gory “Groundhog Day.” It tries for profound, but it just gets stuck in a b.s. death spiral, although, I guess, at least the b.s. is internally consistent. Consistent with itself, of course, not Hellraiser or anything from the mind of Clive Barker. Pinhead, the box, and especially the Engineer just do not need to be here, and it makes more sense for everybody if they’re not. But at least Doug Bradley got a paycheck out of it.

roadside attractions

  • Boone! How ya been, Boone?
  • Flawed protagonist!
  • Genuinely creepy new Cenobites
  • Absolutely everybody dying except the guy that deserves to die
  • OK horror movie in there somewhere
  • With special guest star: Pinhead, the Hell Priest
  • What a twist!
totals

8

blood

BLOOD

Grim, realistic horror that’s effective, yet generally no worse than most police procedurals nowadays.

0

blood

BREASTS


Direct to video with minor sexytimes, yet you will have to content yourself with Craig Sheffer nips.

8

beast

BEASTS These are probably the best Cenobites since the original Cenobites. I would also accept them as fine Silent Hill creatures as well. Not enough of ’em though.

6 OVERALL Could have been worse, could have been better, was not a real Hellraiser either way.
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Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser: Inferno”

trailers

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May

Comments Off on Hellraiser: Bloodline

When we last left Pinhead n’ pals at the end of “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth,” Pinhead had been reunited (and it felt so bad) with his ghost, Captain Elliott Spenser, in hell, and the heroine, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Jadzia Dax, plunked the Hellraiser box in the drying foundation of a building, the better to keep people’s mitts off of it. At least people who aren’t Kitty Pryde. And then we see a building with Hellraiser box décor erected on the building site. But Pinhead’s in his hell, the gate to which is literally encased in tons of concrete, and all’s right with the world, right? Right?!
Of course not.
You know how when “Jason X” came out, everyone chortled “haw haw, it’s Jason – in space!” (I love “Jason X” so much, don’t get me started.) But Pinhead did it first and he did it here. The movie opens in the plausibly-distant future with standard issue space marines storming a space facility where a mysterious man, Dr. Merchant, sets a poor innocent low-end Terminator to solving the puzzle box.

The man successfully activates the box-by-bot just as he is captured by Rimmer, the Ripley of this set of space marines, and he pleads with her to get off the station and let him finish what he started. Finish what? Hope you brought some popcorn, Rimmer. Settle in.
The previous Hellraiser movies never really got into the background of the box sketched out in the “Hellbound Heart” novella, although neeeeeeerds still picked up it’s called Lemarchand’s box or the Lament Configuration. The franchise is gonna fix that with Dr. Merchant’s Introduction to the Hellraiser Box 101, and the course materials are a couple of big-ass flashbacks. Because, you see, his bloodline is the bloodline of the title, as his ancestor was the one to create the box in the first darn place. Good one, Merchant family.
And so we’re in powdered-wigs-and-tights era France where a toymaker named Philippe Lemarchand, who looks exactly like Dr. Merchant, has whipped up the Hellraiser box to order for a wealthy client. Of course, he somehow designs it to his patron’s specifications without realizing what it does, and his wife is unimpressed when all he can get it to do is open and play tinkly music. Oh, you just wait, hon.

Lemarchand delivers the box to his client on a dark and ominous night. The client, Duc de L’Isle, looks sort of like an evil harlequin Bea Arthur, and he receives the box while a woman he and his trusty apprentice Jacques – Adam Scott’s first film role, everybody! — have just ganked cools offscreen. Then Lemarchand hangs around watching through the windows while the pair use the box to invoke a demon to possess the dead lady. The sequence is long enough to be montaged, so I have to assume Lemarchand is out there for hours. He should have brought a lawn chair.
And, kids, if you’re going to raise the dead in the front room, consider pulling the drapes.

Understandably bummed, Lemarchand relates all he witnessed to a friend, while his friend chops up a dead body for study. His friend has good advice while rib spreading a corpse – if you made a box that can summon demons, maybe you can make one that can destroy ‘em? And so Lemarchand sets to designing a box for just that purpose and goes to L’Isle’s digs to retrieve the original.
He finds the box, but he also finds L’Isle with an extra red smile bisecting his face, and the demon, Angelique, is now shtupping Jacques. Well, Jacques is a better deal, can’t blame her. They catch Lemarchand and moiderize him, but he has a pregnant wife, so the story’s not over, even though his story so is.

Hundreds of years pass, but we don’t have to watch that. What we do have to watch is brilliant architect John Merchant – same face, got some powerfully stubborn genes in that family – as he unwittingly designs a whole building’s worth of Hellraiser box. You know the box in the foundation and the Hellraiser building from the end of III? Yeah, this is that. Angelique and Jacques have been bumming around Europe, living an Anne Rice novel or summat, when she catches wind of this and wants to go do something about it. Jacques says no, and no means dead.
Angelique tries to seduce John, but he has just enough sense and foreboding ancestral dream knowledge to resist. Going with plan B, she finds the original box in the foundation and seduces a meaty partygoer into solving it, opening the portal to hell. Angelique meets Pinhead and the two do shop talk about hell for a bit, both ultimately very interested in making the building itself into a permanent gate to hell. Angelique thinks she can snuggle it out of John, but Pinhead would prefer to rip it out with serrated hooks. Their blue state/red state approaches put them at odds, but neither way looks very good for John. Good thing he also has a son.
No spoilers because you already know this thing will end where it began, back to the future, with Pinhead in space and a whole bunch of dumb, squishy space marines. They should beam over to LV-426 while they’re at it.
…Did I mention Pinhead has a dog in this one?

Overall, this is probably some of Alan Smithee’s best work. Actually Kevin Yagher directed this, and it’s seriously not bad, but the studio meddled in hell’s domain too damn much and prompted him to quit and take his name off. The elegance and intimacy of the original “Hellraiser” has been purged here and they’ve grafted on a luxurious temptation backstory with the Merchant family – none of whom are interesting enough to be tempted to do anything – and an Alien-esque space marine slasher crescendo. The Cenobites are much improved over the punchlines of III though, and that includes the Chatterer Dog Cenobite. Of course, you do get chains and graphic violence and all of that stuff, but at this point, it’s expected, so having a guy’s skin ripped off is little bit of a yawn.

This is, by the way, the last Hellraiser movie Clive Barker was at all associated with, and we’re not even halfway through the franchise.

roadside attractions

  • Piercings
  • Chainings
  • Reanimation
  • Demon possession
  • Extreme Cenobite Makeovers
  • Piiiinheeeeeaads in Spaaaaaaace!
  • Man’s Best Cenobite
  • French stuff
  • Three eras of Bruce Ramsay’s face
totals

7

blood

BLOOD

Yes. Kinda boring blood by Hellraiser standards though honestly.

0

blood

BREASTS


No boobs. Well, a couple of really dumb guys, yeah, but not boob boobs.

7

beast

BEASTS New and improved Cenobites, including the Odie of the Damned, but that’s it.

7 OVERALL Crappy sequel to some, last decent sequel to others.
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Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser: Bloodline”

trailers

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Apr

Comments Off on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

You know, sometimes a horror series just takes three entries to get where it’s going. Jason didn’t play goalie until “Friday the 13th Part III” and Freddy’s comic timing never gelled until “Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” So FINALLY, after two movies of being an amoral undead dom invoked by sweaty humans pawing the famous puzzle box, Pinhead’s doin’ it for himself.

The story opens with J.P., a rich jerk, at an art gallery checking out a large baroque pillar smothered in sensual bas-relief carvings – you know, faces and hips and boobs and suchlike. Pinhead’s face and the puzzle box are also floating around in there somewhere, like gluten in your lite beer. If you watched “Hellbound: Hellraiser II,” you may dimly connect this lovely artwork to a cheap prop rising from a blood-soaked mattress in Dr. Channard’s house at the end, complete with, my favorite, a pair of adorable rutting skeleton marionettes on one side. That must have just been hell’s first concept piece.

J.P. is approached by a plausible Kris Kristofferson impersonator/scary drifter, and instead of whipping out his gun, because you know J.P. is the kind of guy that has a Glock tucked in the waistband of his Bugle Boys at all times, he proceeds to negotiate with this guy like he’s the legal owner of something other than the lice in his beard. Mysterious guy tells J.P. the pillar is his and accepts a clutch of bills without counting or caring. Fans of the series so far know where this is going. Although non-English-speaking fans of “Sabado Gigante” probably know where it’s going, too.

We meet our heroine, Joey, who is neither an 8-year-old boy nor a kangaroo. No, Joey is a reporter, or wants to be, and on this particular night, she is fretful because the news desk dispatched her to the hospital emergency room to cover people…um, generically croaking, I guess. And Death must have been still nursing his ankle injury at Peter Griffin’s house, because no one in the city is dying. Poor Joey is super put out by this lack of suffering to report on and convinced the news desk purposefully sent her to cover bupkus. (One might argue a good reporter could turn a totally empty emergency room into a story, Joey.) Despite this being our first glimpse into her character, Joey remains sympathetic, but then this is the same era where it took 9 seasons for audiences to realize the characters in “Seinfeld” were terrible people.

Joey’s cameraman Doc, a sweet Motorhead roadie of a man, is called away to assist another reporter on an actual story. Joey resumes having a sad. But then a man is wheeled in on a gurney covered in chains that summarily electrocute him, and Joey’s night is immediately looking up. She doesn’t have a cameraman and the guy is dead, but he was accompanied by a distraught girl, and Joey is on her like maggots on the guy in the straitjacket in “Hellraiser II.” She doesn’t get much out of the terrified witness though except the location where the guy got chained, a club called The Boiler Room.

As Joey goes after her big story, J.P., the owner of the Boiler Room, discovers a defect in his newest conversation piece where the puzzle box had been. With the help of a critter nested in the hole, J.P. learns how much his new art enjoys soaking up blood. It’s not far from there to find out sacrificing ladies to the pillar is not only a great way to avoid awkwardness after anonymous sex, but it also brings his new bestie Pinhead to life. J.P. cannot imagine a downside.

Joey heads to the Boiler Room and eventually reconnects with the witness, Terri, who just happens also to be J.P.’s off-again girlfriend. Terri crashes at Joey’s pad and gives her the puzzle box, along with a Lifetime Channel’s worth of wronged woman woes. She tells Joey how she never dreams and it’s clear she never hopes for much either; she expects Joey to exploit her, too. When Joey treats her with kindness and offers to let her stay at her condo even after she’s got her story, Terri’s amazed and grateful. But that won’t stop her getting scared of being abandoned again and running to J.P. when he calls.

Terri might not dream, but Joey sure does, and that’s where Pinhead’s better angel comes in. You see, Joey’s father was killed as a soldier in Vietnam, and we join her in a recurring nightmare where she screams for a Medevac to come to her father’s rescue. Also joining Joey this time is Captain Elliott Spenser, a ghost from a previous generation’s war, but you might recognize him better when his face is scored with nails.

A dream of one war is a dream of all wars, Spenser says, explaining how he reached out to her from the eternal WWII limbo where his soul now hangs its hat. (I hope that doesn’t include the Great Joel Versus Mike Compuserve Flame War of 1996.) Spenser tells Joey how he became Pinhead, was released by a friend – meaning Kirsty, the heroine of the first two movies, but I’m pretty darn sure I saw Dr. Channard de-Cenobitify him and cut his throat in “Hellraiser II” – but that his evil was too dang evil to destroy. (That’s the Law of Conservation of Evil established in 1978 by Dr. Sam Loomis.) So Pinhead’s distilled evil got congealed in the pillar of hellstuff that survived the climax of “Hellraiser II” by being made into art, while his better nature went to dream-purgatory-limbo-ville. Sure, you’ve got an authoritative British accent, I’ll buy it. And so will Joey.

The problem is that Captain Spenser can’t do much about Pinhead in the physical world. He needs Joey to bring Pinhead through to the dream plane, where he has power to, erm, do stuff. And you may be thinking – wait. Is Pinhead’s ghost asking Joey to enact reverse Elm Street kid maneuvers against Pinhead? What what what? And a good half and a bad half? Wasn’t that, like, the plot of 10 episodes of “Star Trek”? Yep and yep.
Meanwhile J.P. tries to feed Terri to Pinhead, and that doesn’t work out too well for him. Terri’s weakness for bad men will still be her undoing, although Pinhead is definitely a step up from J.P. So, unbound from the rules of hell and upstairs from a club full of people who have reflexes slowed by drink, Evil!Pinhead begins speechifying and butchering, also raising new, incredibly silly Cenobites from among the dead to help out.

From here it’s blood and Pinhead monologues all the way down. You could argue pretty persuasively on either side of whether “Hellraiser III” was a damning or redemptive moment for the franchise. The director, Anthony Hickox, you may remember as director of such films as “Waxwork,” “Waxwork II: Lost in Time”, and “Warlock II: the Armaggeddon,” and he brings a jewel-toned, distorted-lens panache to the series along with a mordant sense of humor and zeal for extravagant bloodletting. Clive Barker was an executive producer, but the movie doesn’t feel Clive Barker-y anymore. It’s less serious for sure, but also less fantastic; and while it looks better, or more expensive, (hat tip to Hickox on that, it wasn’t) it’s less beautiful somehow. But it is fun, and while the plot bursts into dust at the lightest scrutiny like so much Dracula in sunshine, you could also say that about “Hellraiser II.”

Fun fact: I’m originally from the Piedmont-Triad area of North Carolina, the same general area that gave you Andy Griffith and NASCAR, sorry, and surprisingly, it also gave you “Hellraiser III.” They filmed it largely in Winston-Salem and High Point, and though the movie desperately tries to convey it’s in New York or a similar metropolis, it’s so not. There are no skyscrapers, no public transport, no crowded streets – hell, no city, at least as TV defines it. There’s some urban sprawl and ornamental trees resplendent in magnificent fall color, I guess. They used a bunch of locals, so you can play “spot the Southerner,” but most conspicuously they had a local anchorman at the time, Rick Amme from WXII, as the TV reporter for the Boiler Room slaughter coverage, and you may notice, Rick has a pretty hick accent as TV anchormen go. So there’s an esoteric drinking game for you.

roadside attractions

  • Piercing fetishes, check
  • Chains with hooks, check
  • One skinless corpse, check
  • Extreme Cenobite makeovers, check
  • New, yet by now extremely dated Cenobites
  • Pinheads Gone Wild
  • Mild sexytimes footage
  • Small Southern cities impersonating big Northern cities
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

It is a Hellraiser; there will be blood.

.5

blood

BREASTS


Boobs are almost shown several times, but the nudity remains basic-cable-before-10:00-appropriate.

7

beast

BEASTS Pretty weak field for a Hellraiser with only the new Cenobites and no other monsters.

8 OVERALL Enjoyable and less confused than “Hellraiser II” was by the end, and it’s fun to watch Pinhead finally cut loose.
dripper

Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth”

trailers

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Apr

Comments Off on Hellraiser

On May 19, 2015, Clive Barker unleashes the long-awaited The Scarlet Gospels on the world. It’s being billed as the last Hellraiser novel and Clive is spoiling us all by letting us know the Hell Priest Pinhead is getting deader than usual, for reals, forever, run up the curtain and joined the choir invisible.
At this point, I go fully Brainy Smurf and point out there has only been one Hellraiser novel, which was a novella called “The Hellbound Heart.” Although, yeah, Pinhead and his S&M monster sect, the Cenobites, were briefly mentioned in his novel Weaveworld as “the Surgeons.”
Really Pinhead and his homies were fleshed out in the movies, of which there are nine. Same number as levels of hell. Coincidence? We’ll see. In celebration/fearful expectation of The Scarlet Gospels, I’m going to watch all nine of these bad boys and review them all here. Assuming I’m not scrawling crosses on the wall in my own excrement by the time I get to “Hellraiser: Deader.”

The 80s gave us so many great monsters – Pumpkinhead, Chucky, the Leprechaun, Michael Myers, the Tall Man, Angela from “Sleepaway Camp” AND Angela from “Night of the Demons” – but Pinhead stands proudly in the winners circle of the greatest monsters of the Reagan years with his arms slung around Freddy and Jason, probably keeping them from going for round 2 against each other. His image is familiar to everyone. He has been on the Simpsons. Your mom knows Pinhead, and for once, that’s not a reflection on your mom. Although time, and so freaking many sequels, clouds the memory, and even if you are a fan, “Hellraiser” might not be entirely the movie you think you saw.
First off, in the novella that spawned it and the first movie, Pinhead and the Cenobites aren’t the Big Bads here, not really. It’s kind of like the first Friday the 13th and Jason’s mom. The real bad guy here is Frank Cotton, a smoldering bad boy hunk and sociopathic hedonist looking for the ultimate in transcendental sexytimes. And so he comes by the box, that iconic Rubik’s Cube of the damned, and retires to his dead mother’s house in London, fingering the box’s faces until the CGI kicks in. The prize inside, however, while not safe for work, is not so much sexytimes as total evisceration, courtesy of the Cenobites. But hey, he asked for it.
If he’s eviscerated, how is he the Big Bad, Angela? OK, fun story. Some indefinite time later, Frank’s brother Larry shows up with his frosty, semi-detached wife Julia in tow. Larry has a great new job in England and intends to reclaim the old homestead, also setting the stage for a fresh start with the pissy missus.
They tour the old house and find lots of Buddy Christ-grade religious iconography, presumably his mom’s, a kitchen given over to maggots, and some of Frank’s things, but no Frank. Not even pieces. The Cenobites love their work.
Larry dismisses it as his ne’er do well, and inexplicably more gorgeous, brother making a smooth criminal exit, but Julia, who was so icy towards her husband, suddenly gets her motor runnin’ and agrees to stay.
On moving day, in a really beautifully-done sequence – have I told you I love this movie? – Julia obsesses over Frank’s picture, and we get flashback mushy stuff as she gets all het up about how he seduced her before her wedding. While she’s, ahem, remembering, Larry and nondescript friends heft the marriage bed upstairs. In the process, Larry accidentally rips his hand open on a nail, and he goes to Julia for help, bleeding all over the floor of Frank’s room. The room Frank was eviscerated in. The floorboards suck the blood up like Karo syrup on a Brawny towel and Frank’s body begins to reconstitute itself underneath the floorboards. It is all very gelatinous and extensively foleyed.
Cut to a dinner party. Larry’s daughter Kirsty is there, and she is about horror movie heroine age and so beautiful. You guys, she is the proto Noxzema girl. Kirsty flirts with one of her Dad’s younger friends, who’s supposed to be British, but speaks with an American accent, and that troubles me at night sometimes. There’s booze and raucous cheer. Except —
Kirsty doesn’t like her stepmother Julia, and while the hostilities aren’t open, Julia is too distracted fantasizing about Frank to be a bitch. She leaves the party to go sniff around in Frank’s things and surprise! Her lover is back, sort of. Some of him. Larry’s blood was enough to bring Frank back to Slim Goodbody suit status, but he needs more. A lot more. Also skin. And he insists Julia help him.
Julia is torn between many competing emotions like so much chain-hooked body, and my God, Clare Higgins deserves an Oscar. Frank is a disgusting monster. But he is also Frank (who is a disgusting monster anyway, but she’s lust-blind to that.) And Frank is a terrifying monster, which both makes him intimidating and something to go screaming to your insignificant other about. And Clare gets all of this across beautifully with wild looks and halted breaths and trembling.
So, Julia consents to help Frank, and the way she’s going to help Frank is by luring men back to the house to bludgeon with a hammer and let Frank suck dry. She starts out very nervous, terrified really, of the men, of herself, and of course, of the thing sucking the marrow out of the guy she just whacked, good old Frankie-poo.
Meanwhile Noxzema Girl Kirsty has troubling dreams with more symbolism than an 80s Heart video, and she begins to worry about her dad. She also has a run in with a really weird guy in the pet shop she’s now working at, and while it’s probably par for the course in New York or L.A. or New Orleans, in England, I gather cricket-eating hobos staring hungrily at you is more of an event.
Kirsty eventually stumbles upon Julia and Frank’s white doughy Englishman abatement service and, after Frank leers at her real good, manages to steal the box and get out. She really does some prime horror movie heroineing here. But then she passes out, and wakes up in a hospital from dreams of a red blooming flower. Mm-hmm.
When a doctor tries to interrogate her, Kirsty insists she remembers nothing. She’s left to recuperate, with the puzzle box as a spur to her memory. So she does what everyone does when they’re left alone with the box and starts feeling it up to reveal its secrets. First, she manages to open a gateway to a fun slobbering, snapping thing that defies physics when it flies and has a stinger for a tail, but after she escapes, she meets the Cenobites. And the only thing the Cenobites want more than to play with Kirsty is to get Frank back.
As gory as it can be, the meat of this movie isn’t effects; it’s Julia turning into a monster for the sake of her love of Frank and it’s Frank being an inhuman bastard who has a 50/50 shot at sticking a knife or his penis in you, and even then probably not where you’d expect. It’s Larry’s marriage turning to ash in front of his hapless, loser eyes and it’s Kirsty being unable to save her father from his own mistakes. The Cenobites are hella memorable, but in this movie, they’re more of a force of nature being invoked by some terribly human appetites.

Also, the Cenobites aren’t clearly Satan-based demons here, despite the title. The Lead Cenobite (Pinhead to you) announces them as “angels to some; demons to others.” That was on the posters, and it’s pretty damn apt. They get to be both in this movie, and while there’s an oblique acknowledgment of hell, it’s arguable whether it refers to a literal Judeo-Christian hell. I’m making that point, because later films are going to go backsies on some of this. But as far as we know in the first movie, they’re just supernaturally-endowed swingers from another dimension.
This is a film Clive Barker made after seeing other filmmakers butcher material from a couple of his other short stories, and he basically said, [bleep], I’m going to do this my way, and it’s going to be awesome. And then he said, oh, [bleep], I don’t know what I’m doing. But he was wrong about that. It’s a tight script and he directs the hell out of it, including some really clever shots and setups. All the actors give it everything they’ve got. There are no limits. So decades later, it’s still scary and there’s not much like it; Phantasm probably is the only series I can think of with a similar feel. I do still have eight movies to go in my Hellraiser-a-thon, but I feel pretty safe saying if there’s one Hellraiser you should see, it’s this one.

roadside attractions

  • Piercing fetishes
  • Extreme maggot wrangling
  • American-dubbed British people because U.S. market
  • Chains of love
  • Guys getting hammered
  • Lots of ectoplasm. At least, I hope it’s ectoplasm.
  • Cannibalizing action
  • Full backal nudity
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Everything that is inside eventually comes outside in this movie.

0

blood

BREASTS


…Except boobs. No boobs. If you don’t look away in time, you may see Frank’s junk though.

10

beast

BEASTS Big slobbering stinger-equipped monster, big flying pterodactyl-like monster, skinless Uncle Frank, and Cenobites for the win.

9 OVERALL Even with some dated SFX, the movie holds up and is still scary, provocative, and – why not say it? – artistically fulfilling. Check it the hell out.
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