Jessie’s Saturday Night Fright Flick: Hellraiser


Jessie's Saturday Night Fright Flick: Hellraiser

Jessie’s Saturday night fright flick pick is Clive Barker’s immortal 1987 classic Hellraiser

jessieBack in June, I had the privilege to meet Doug Bradley at Niagara Falls Comic Con and moderate a Q&A with him talking about his work in theater, his time as Pinhead, and his thoughts on the new Hellraiser film. Since then, I’ve been jonesing for a little “pain and pleasure, indivisible” so I succumbed to my earthly desires and spent some time with my favorite cenobites.

I don’t need to tell you the story, but I will anyway because I’m a nice person. Frank Cotton, a sexual deviant and overall pretty bad guy, seeks out a mysterious puzzle box. Hidden in an attic, surrounded by unsafely-lit candles, he solves the puzzle, and transports himself into another dimension.  Soon after, his brother Larry (Dirty Harry‘s Andrew Robinson) and Larry’s wife Julia (Claire Higgins) move into Larry’s family home, the same house that Frank had been essentially squatting in. After cutting himself pathetically on a rogue nail, Larry bleeds excessively all over the attic, and while Julia reluctantly takes him to the hospital (theirs is a strained marriage), the blood spilled in the attic summons a sickly, skeletal husk of a man from god knows where, who we later find out is Frank, rescued from the fiery depths of hell. Julia, after discovering him in the attic, longs for Frank to come back, remembering the lurid affair she had with him before she and Larry tied the knot, and agrees to secretly bring him men to kill and bleed dry, to restore him back to his perverted former self.

Hellraiser is amazing for a few reasons. I have never actually read the tale The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker on which the film is based, but beneath some of the once revolutionary and now admittedly kinda cheesy make-up effects and Larry’s odd character quirks, you can see the artistry and the darkness that’s bubbling within. Kirsty (Larry’s daughter) is plagued with horrible, prophetic nightmares of a baby crying, sheets being drenched in blood, her father, mutilated, that are truly unsettling and probably the scariest parts of the film. The influence is seen in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009), when Laurie begins having similar dreams. I would love to read the cenobite-centric stories and imagine what the hell dimension and the cenobites look like as written, minus that staurated ’80s haze.

Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is one of my favorite horror film heroines. She is strong in the face of utter impossibility but still realistic enough to experience symptoms of shock given what she has seen. Ashley Laurence was such a great pick for this character, given the fact that throughout the film, Kirsty goes through pretty much every emotion there is, and does so completely believably, in an otherwise unbelievable film.

I watched this with a friend of mine who doesn’t watch a lot of horror films, and I briefed her ahead of time and just said, “Really, the gore looks like play dough, and the cenobites aren’t really scary, and overall it’s kind of funny, but trust me, the movie is amazing.” And it’s true, while the gore is rampant given the subject matter, it really does look less like hooks digging into flesh, and more like hooks digging into play dough or a leather couch, but it still makes your skin crawl! Even the worst makeup effects in the film, the “Jesus wept,” scene included, are extremely unsettling. And while we’re on the topic, the effects of the cenobites materializing and vanishing back into the box looks like someone drew squiggly lines on MS Paint and threw them in last minute. But again, this was the ’80s.

All in all, Hellraiser is an amazing and fun film, Doug Bradley steals the show as the composed-yet-terrifying Priest, and I admitted to my friend that while I may not be into everything he’s into, I still have a bit of a crush on Pinhead. That power! That voice! That… weird belly button thing!

So on this rainy afternoon (in Southern Ontario, Canada, anyway) open the door to Uncle Frank, and let him on in.

Have a great Saturday, demons (or angels, whichever you prefer…)

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Tuesday: Mar. 30, 2020


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