Ever since I was a kid there was this particular image associated with the name Hellraiser. It might come to your mind as well; a man wearing tight black clothing and all over his chalk white face in a very geometric pattern are thin needles protruding out. Like a human albino cactus. I saw this image with nearly every visit to the local video store, slapped on countless VHS tapes of Hellraiser. It intrigued and scared me. Now over twenty years later, I’ve finally seen the movie that scared me with its box.
…And it kinda sucked. But hear me out! It’s not a complete loss. While I can’t say it’s a very good movie or that I really liked it, in the moment I honestly enjoyed and appreciated this sick, twisted, gross, creepy mess of a film.
Here’s what it’s about: Frank (Sean Chapman) and his family move back into this old house. It’s kinda run down and there’s evidence that someone has been squatting there. You see, Frank’s half brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson) has been living in it, like a rat on an old mattress playing with a Rubik’s cube from hell that opened a weird portal to some kind of messed up sadomasochistic underworld. Fun, right? Oh, and Frank’s wife, Julia (Clare Higgins) had an affair with Larry and we get too many images of those two humping and moaning. Anyway, Larry’s dead until a little moving accident gets some blood on the floor and resurrects him as a disgusting zombie monster thing. He doesn’t have a body, so to regenerate himself more, he needs more blood spilt. So he gets Julia, who seems she’d rather screw corpsy Larry than Frank, to bring helpless victims to murder in the house so Larry can regenerate. Oh, and Frank has a teenage daughter (Ashley Laurence) who is always suspicious of Julia, discovers her undead uncle Larry and this Rubik’s cube portal to S&M hell where we finally meet that guy on the cover of the VHS box, Pinhead.
Yeah, the plot is a hot mess, but it is kind of fun in a dumb way. By the end of the movie I was enjoying how over-the-top some moments could be and I had some serious questions. Like who was that guy at the pet store and why did he turn into pterodactyl bones at the end? And why? Why, god why? But honestly, I don’t care, I was just happy to witness this weird, messed up wild ride.
I will warn readers that Hellraiser has a very hard R rating. Between the gore, depictions of violence and sex, it nearly got an X. The film is not for teens, ladies night or even the light horror fan. I watched this film alone in my living room holding a newborn baby in my arms and felt a little bad about exposing him to it, even though he’ll never remember it.
What this movie does best, and what I enjoyed most, are the over-the-top disgusting effects. As Larry is reincarnated in stages, each stage is wonderfully gross, from watching this gooey brain and spine come to life, to this weird skin snatching stage towards the end. While the make-up and practical effects may look cheesy to modern audiences who are used to the clean CGI of today, I was in awe of the detail and ingenuity put into them. The movie may be so bad it’s good, but the visual effects and make-up are horribly awesome.
“We have such sights to show you!”