Friday, October 30, 2009

The Return Of 31 Days Of Horror: # 30 Hellraiser

For whatever reason Hellraiser has never really been my thing. On the surface it seems tailor made for me. Plenty of Clive Barker kink, great effects and costumes, prime 80's horror style, and a genuine feeling of oddity that can't be faked. But for ever reason, the sequels which made the leap to terrible much quicker then usual (Witness a CD based Cenobite in part 3), the arch style of the acting, I've just never been able to call myself a fan.

So color me pleasantly surprised to find upon, that I had underestimated Hellraiser. It's so singular so strange that I can't help but be kind of delighted by it. As this is based on a Clive Barker story nothing is really simple. We start by following Frank in the Middle East as he tracks down and then unwisely purchases a puzzle box said to open the door to hell, like an S&M obessesd Indiana Jones.

For his troubles he gets flayed alive and then sent to hell, by Pinhead and his crew of Cenobites. And that's really the last we see of them for about an hour. Unlike the later installments which became "All Cenobites All The Time" Barker wisely keeps them more or less offscreen for thefilm, after allowing them a rather memorable introduction.

This allows the Cenobites to actually be frightening. They stand not as something to pop out and go boo, but as a terrifying latent threat. A reminder that at any moment the stakes may be raised to a Lovecraftian level higher then we're comfortable with. Allowing them to grow in the mind is the best decision Barker makes. By putting them center stage in the other installments, they became defanged. Familiarity breeds contempt after all, and you can only look at a bunch of people covered in leather, latex, pancake makeup, and gore effects so long before they start to come off as rather silly. Barker is actually able to make these creatures awe inspiring.

Anyway Frank's brother and his wife, a trade mark Barker ice bitch, move into the site of the autoerotic vivicestion. And Frank gets resurected thanks to a drop of his weeny brother's blood. And before you can say "Frank enlists the Ice Bitch to help him in a series of ritualistic murders, to help him escape the cenobites." Frank enlists the Ice Bitch to help him in a series of ritualistic murders, to help him escape the cenobites. This is Prime Barker mixing high melodramitic romance that's nearly camp with graphic body horror, the kind of tone that only he seems to be able to reach.

And for most of the movie it's Skinless Guy and Icebitch Go To Town, coicencidently this is the also the name of the new Adam Sandlar joint. Things get Cenobitey again and vaguely incestous when Frank's Niece gets in the mix. While it would be unfair to spoil just how crazy the movie gets (how about that last scene?) Let's just say that this is well worth any horror movie fan's time. I give it five out of five old homeless guys eating crickets.

1 comment:

Will Errickson said...

I think it's because Barker had never directed a movie before that the first Hellraiser has a bit of an oddness about it not seen in other horror films. Seeing it in 1987 in the theater, when slasher flix were all the rage, dragging my friends to it who were all "WTF?" when it was over, was a real treat. Jason or Freddy the Cenobites were not. The first 2 sequels have their moments but none of the movies Barker's been involved in can touch the magic and power of his fiction.