WRITER: Clive Barker
DIRECTOR: Clive Barker
STARRING: Andrew Robinson as Larry
Clare Higgins as Julia
Sean Chapman as Frank
Robert Hines as Steve
Ashley Laurence as Kirsty
QUICK CUT: After opening a mysterious macguffin, Frank Cotton disappears, but he is soon ressurrected. Much to the dismay of many guys wandering around nearby.
Larry - The patriarch of the Cotton family, and a bit of a wet blanket. He's newly married to Julia, and while he's not a pushover, he's not the most observant person, and people tend to use him for their own purposes. But there's a bit of a darkness lurking underneath that he shares with his brother...
Frank - And he doesn't hide the darkness. He is an outright criminal, and has been squatting in the old house Larry and his wife have bought for awhile. He's into the dichotomy of pain and pleasure, and always looking for new ways to experience both.
Julia - I dunno why she married Larry. They seem like an ill fit. She DOES show some moments of loving and tenderness towards him, but it's not long until we find out she likes the bad boys. Meaning Frank, whom she has slept with repeatedly without Larry knowing.
Kirsty - Whose name I can guarantee I misspell at least once as Kristy in the upcoming review. Larry's daughter with his first wife, and our hero, although we don't get to see too much of her. What they do show is a strong, confident woman who may not always stay and fight the darkness, but has no problem shouting it down either.
THE GUTS: Since we have just finished giving birth to the demon seed, what better way to follow that up than with a little raising some hell? We open things up with...opening things up, oddly enough! The first shot of the movie is of the infamous Lament Configuration, or the puzzle box as it is more simply known. I love that this most iconic prop is the first thing ever shown in the entire Hellraiser mythos. It's so very appropriate.
Anyways, we watch some guy buying the puzzle box, and its creepy owner saying it was always his. Oooh, that's bad. But it comes with a free frogurt! That's good!
Elsewhere, he sets up a fire hazard all around him, which is likely to be the most safe place in the entire flick, and begins to fiddle with the puzzle box. Eventually, its long lost mysteries begin to click and open.
It's not long before he has gone too far and regrets his decision when the box opens up and releases chains that hook deep into his flesh like he's the catch of the day. Sadly, he can't throw himself back.
We then see his home is pretty much a run down filth pile, and holy crap the room he was in is now an abbatoir of horrors with more chains and hooks, and bits of flesh splattered everywhere.
Strange, leather garbed figures, and the infamous Pinhead, wander around the slaughterhouse and gather together some of the pieces of the guy before closing the box and sealing the horrors back away.
And with that, everything is back to its normal state of filth, just in time for a couple to come in and check the place out, the husband being our now minced man's brother.
They check the place out, giving some of the backstory, and talking about how they'll be moving in with their daughter, once they've cleaned the Hell out of the place.
When their daughter Kirsty calls, which is amazing since they just got there...I'm gonna assume its the same number since Larry was a kid. Anyways, she calls and says she's found a place to stay until she can meet up with them later.
So the decision is made, they'll move in on Sunday, and as the movers appear days later, they sure did get that place cleaned up in a hurry. It was quite the fixer upper before, and they cleared the maggots out really quick.
As Kirsty finally arrives on moving day, we see Julia find some of Frank's old photos, and she starts to flashback to when they met, shortly after her wedding to Larry. And it is immediately clear she has more of a connection with the bad boy brother than she does with her husband.
Things get increasingly intense in the flashbacks as Frank whips out a knife, and becomes increasingly dominant over Julia.
While the pair have flashback sex, there is some wonderful concurrent imagery. They have Frank pushing harder and harder into Julia, while in the present, Frank and the movers are pushing harder and harder to get a matress up the stairs.
But they should have taken more care, because the rundown house has a few nails poking out in bad places, and as one person is finally penetrated, so is Larry's hand, digging a deep gash.
Larry rushes upstairs and finds his wife in the attic, the same room where the Cenobites were released, and spills his blood everywhere. Yeah, that's not gonna be good. I mean, Pinhead just cleaned up the place, and now he's messing it up?? Those leather dudes do NOT look like the group you wanna piss off!
But it's okay! The floors must be scotch guarded, because that blood just whisks itself away and disappears!
Disappears right into the floor, where there's a few leftover pieces of a telltale heart or something, slowly throbbing away. And the blood probably isn't helping much. Or maybe it is!
While home becomes literally where the heart is, the family rush Mister Wussypants off to the hospital to get stitches before he passes out from the sight of his own blood. Dude, you are SO in the wrong movie if you've got that for a problem.
As they leave, the remains of whatever is in the attic start to piece themselves back together, in one of the best, most gruesome sequences I've seen, with effects that I would put next to any horror sequence, right up there with anything from The Thing, to the American Werewolf in London transformation. I was going to treat y'all to video of it, but the music triggered it being blocked in some countries, including my own, so sorry!
Later that night, they return home for dinner with some friends, and Kirsty is flirting with one of the guys there. The dinner party doesn't last long as Julia retires for the evening, Kirsty is drunk, and Larry's hand is hurting like hell.
Julia heads upstairs, following whispers to the attic, where she gets surprised by the reconstituted Frank, who has seen better days.
While Frank is in a state that will probably put a crimp in their relationship, he can at least explain that his brother's blood is what pulled his pieces back together from the floorboards.
Skeletor demands more blood so he can put his face on, and things don't look too good for Kirsty's growing love interest. Fortunately for him, he walks her back to the room she's staying at in town before he becomes floor chow.
As Julia lay next to her dented husband, she makes a decision and pokes back into Frank's house of horrors to let him know she'll find him a snack. If just a few splashes of blood brought him back from chunky mist to skin and bones, how much will he REALLY need to finish the job? Just prick a finger already.
Elsewhere, Kirsty's having a weird-ass nightmare full of blood and feathers and her uncle Frank. Whatsisname wakes her up, and she calls home to check on dad at two in the morning.
Well, surprise! He's fine! And I am sure he just LOVED to be woken up in the middle of the night and have to stumble all the way downstairs to the kitchen in the dark in a new home! With a throbbing hand! Uphill both ways in the snow!
The next day, Julia heads out to pick something up for Frank, and meets a guy at a classy bar and brings him home for a night he won't soon forget.
She leads her victim upstairs to his unwitting doom, and they slowly tease out his imminent demise as Frankenstein's leftovers watches from the shadows.
The poor dude's just about to get into it when all the drinks from earlier come back to haunt him. The poor fool is stumbling his way to the door, when Julia grabs a hammer and bashes his head in, providing an easy pour opening for Frank.
While Frank has his English breakfast, Julia goes and cleans up the evidence. And it's a weirdly disconcerting scene because she is staring right down the camera like we're the mirror she's looking into, making us complicit in the horror.
Julia peeks in on how things are going with Frank, and her date isn't looking too great. But the good news is, Frank's got a little more flesh on him! He can at least stand! But his ribs are still showing, and that's a turn off.
But hey, progress, right?
He says they both want him to have more flesh, which means more blood, and she agrees. I mean, at least until he has lips again. Hard to kiss teeth.
Frank starts to get a little grabby, and I get a little ew ew ew, just as Larry returns home. Before Julia rushes downstairs, she covers up the body's torso with her suit jacket, to which I ask...why?? It's not gonna stop the smell, I don't think he's gonna get cold anymore, and it's not like that's the most gruesome part of him.
She quickly moves the body (Which, again, why? Is the room across the hall more secure than Frank's room? Shouldn't she move Frank? Isn't he a more noticeable issue? Eh, whatever...), and runs back into the bathroom to finish cleaning up and lie about feeling sick,
After getting cleaned up, Julia goes back to the crime scene, which is surely just going to lead to more blood. I mean, Frank's gotta be staining everything he touches, right?
Frank tells her he only needs a few more bodies to be whole again, and he's starting to feel pain now that his nerves are beginning to work. And I'm sure walking on old, splintery, dirty wood with bare, skinned feet is not fun.
He says she has to find him more blood soon, because the creatures he's escaped from will notice he's escaped soon and come looking. Which, considering how they treated him before, probably will make that look like a happy fun time party when they find out.
So she brings home another guy who meets the same fate. At least they're getting into a good rythym with these guys.
Frank is slowly rebuilding himself, but he's still looking like a package of raw hamburger more than he's looking like a normal guy. At least he's found the decency to cover up, and hey, he can smoke again! Nice to get back a set of lungs and immediately ruin 'em.
It's finally time for a bit of an infodump, and Frank gives us some brief explanations that the box opens doorways, and he was trapped with the Cenobites that taught him new meanings to the words pain and pleasure.
We're given some pretty graphic looks at Pinhead and his crew, in all their leather fetishy pointy stabby glory. They are some of the most unique creature designs anywhere, and have always been some of the most memorable. There's a reason Pinhead has endured, when he hasn't done much in this film.
The horror story finishes, and considering Julia's reaction was more than words for her, giving the impression that somehow either Frank or the puzzle box showed her what happened. Who knows, she might've gotten sights, sounds, smells, and feelings to go along with it too.
She vows that they will finish healing Frank, and they will run away and the Cenobites will never ever find them. The things can pop out of a paperweight the size of my balled together fists, I don't think running will help much.
While the married couple sits in the living room and watches some boxing, Frank decides he's bored and bangs on the walls a bit. I guess he's not a fan of boxing.
Naturally, Larry wants to go see what's making all that racket upstairs, and his wife tries to stop him. I guess for as much as she's done with Frank, done FOR Frank, and plans to run away with him, some part of her actually cares for Larry. Or at least she just doesn't want him to get eaten yet.
She tries her best to stop him with a ruse of kissing and making out, but Larry shows some surprising fortitude by actually continuing onwards and upwards.
Granted, it probably won't end well for him, but hey! Points for not giving in to the femme fatale routine!
He heads into Frank's room and finds it empty, since Mr. Gruesome wandered elsewhere. Quick, Larry! Check the room across the hall! That's where she's hiding all the bodies!
Julia was visibly shaken by expecting Frank to pick the meat from his brother's bones, and she remains a little freaked that he's nowhere to be seen and could leap out of the shadows any moment.
But now that he's seen there's nothing upstairs, Larry is more than ready to get back to the promised makeout session! He's got his priorities straightened out.
That's when Frank pops up out of the closet with his trusty knife, and Julia begs no, and for him to stop and to not do anything. Good thing Larry's a little distracted to notice she's not talking to him.
Instead, Frank just stands there and scalps a rat to act all creepy and weird. For the record, creepy and weird? That's pretty much a Clive Barker staple, if you haven't already noticed.
Of course, that's when Larry notices Julia is really not into the bedroom games, and shakes his head in confusion and walks out.
After the weirdness in the bedroom, clueless Larry has lunch out with his daughter, and tries to get her to come by and see her stepmom. Now that Julia doesn't want to leave the house, Larry hopes a friend to talk to might help.
What could possibly go wrong here?
My first thoughts were of Kirsty trying to be fed to her Uncle Festering, but instead she shows up and sees her wicked stepmother bringing home another soon to be dead date.
She's probably just thinking that it's an affair, but I'm sure the loud screams made by his head being cracked with a hammer convinced Kirsty otherwise.
Kirsty makes the classic horror heroine blunder of running towards the screams. And at the same moment, the movie blows its creepy surreal atmosphere by having straw sucking sounds come up on the soundtrack while Frank tries and drain his newest victim.
Julia sees the meddlesome girl enter and ducks back into the room across from Frank's. Why does she think this room is more invisible than the other one? Why does she think it's the safest place to hide things? Does it have a perception filter? Is it like the missing door in Amy Pond's house? Is she hiding Prisoner Zero?!
But she needn't worry too much yet, as instead of walking into the normal room, Kirsty gets interrupted. As she reaches the top of the stairs, hapless idiot #3 stumbles out of Frank's room begging for help.
Frank jumps out and finishes the job by strangling the guy to death, which at this point? Probably a mercy killing.
And surprise! Kirsty freaks out that her uncle is a giant mass of bloody red muscle tissue at the moment! Didn't see that one coming!
The reunion does not go well, as you might have expected. Fortunately, Frank's still a little soft in the flesh area, and Kirsty punches him right through the gut. Well, that's gonna take a whole 'nother extra guy to fix up.
In their struggles, she grabs the puzzle box and is about to use it as little more than a blunt object to brain her uncle. He sees the box, afraid of it, and she instantly picks up on his concern.
He begs his niece to give it back to him, and she instead throws it out the window. While Frank is distracted, she books it down the stairs, out the door, and grabs the box from the driveway as she passes by.
Kirsty runs away, flashing back to a few minutes ago to strange things that Frank said, and eventually exhaustion and the just plain disgusting weirdness of her day catch up with her. Kirsty collapses on the street, and wakes up in a hospital room with a nurse watching over her.
The doctor comes in and hands her back the puzzle box, then they lock her in the room while they summon the police to try and sort out what's going on. Let me know how that goes.
So of course she decides to play with the box, and opens it up. Rather than being hooked like a halibut, the walls of her hospital room crack open. Kirsty peeks down the strange hallway and enters the otherworldly labyrinth. Before Jareth can show up with a dance number though, she encounters a...thing.
Kirsty escapes the wacky wall walker, and makes it back to her room. The walls are sealed up behind her, but she can still hear the creature's screeches as she fiddles with the puzzle box some more.
If she thought the broken walls were bad, I can only imagine what she thinks when they start to smoke.
That's when the Cenobites appear, one of them grabbing her. Pinhead tells her that she solved the box, and now she must come with them, and they will explore new kinds of pleasure and torture.
Worst. Prize. Ever, for solving a puzzle.
Kirsty is pretty smart though, and figures out this must be what happened to Frank. That's based on some VERY scant evidence, but hey. It's more evidence than half the clever people I've come across in reviews.
She tells Pinhead that Frank escaped, but they naturtally believe in their own infallability. So Kirsty makes a deal that she will lead them to Frank, and have him in exchange for herself. They're tempted by taking her instead, but they can't have anyone escaping their dungeon o' fun, so a bargain is struck.
While that's going on, Frank and Julia are realising they're probably boned as soon as Kirsty squeals. Whether that's to her father or the Cenobites, is of no difference to Frank. And it's not like he can run looking like a peeled grape.
So when Larry comes home, despite her earlier protests, they have no other choice but to sacrifice him to Frank's need for blood. Sadly, we get robbed and don't get to see his death. You would think building up that character would warrant an on-screen demise, but no.
They test out Frank's new body with some sex, and finish up just in time for Kirsty to show up and want to see her dad. Well, it's a good thing that Frank's new skin is Larry's old one, and he looks just like dead ol' dad now!
With a little jumping through hoops, they convince Kirsty that Frank is dead, and Larry is alive and well. They take her upstairs to his room and show him the skinned body of her father, which, yeah. Hard to tell the difference between any other body unless you're Bones.
But oops, that's when the Cenobites show up, and they're not too happy. Well, they're never happy. But they're also not easily fooled, and know the body at Pinhead's feet is not Frank.
The girl runs out of the attic, and right into the people who are in no way whatsoever her parents. When NotLarry echoes Frank's call of, "Come to Daddy," that's when Kirsty knows she's screwed up and that's not her dad standing there.
Kirsty scratches daddy deadest in the face, and gets away for all of two seconds when she's grabbed by Julia. Frank whips out his trusty switchblade, and when Kirsty worms away again, he stabs the stepmom instead. Well, blood is thicker than family, and it's all good, so he drains her instead.
Running upstairs, Kirsty starts to enter Frank's room, but remembers that the leather fetish gang is having their party in there. Instead, she slips into the often mentioned chamber of secrets and dead body storage.
Surprise! She actually finds one of the bodies while Frank is stalking her, and the barfing maggots spewing from its mouth almost ruin the game of hide and seek. But Kirsty keeps it together long enough to exit the room once her uncle leaves.
But he didn't go far and walks out of his own room, then chases Kirsty right back into it, where she is reuinted with her father.
Frank tells her it will be okay, her uncle is here now, and oops. That's all the confession the Cenobites needed to come and claim their wayward son.
So they chain him back up, which Frank kinda seems to be enjoying. At least, until he explodes into a thousand red, misty pieces. Again. Deja vu, Frank?
Kirsty tries to escape, but oh gasp! Shock! The Cenobites seem intent on claiming her to, despite making a deal! Who woulda known that leather clad, strangely pierced, S&M perverts from hell would be *liars*. I trusted you, Pinhead!!
She runs around until she finds her stepmom's remains clutching the puzzle box. Kirsty wisely grabs it and tries to use it, when Pinhead appears to put an end to this.
The box closes up, and the Cenobites go poof in crackly yellowy goodness, but the house doesn't seem like it's gonna live through the experience. Well, that's what you get when you don't make sure the place is built to withstand beings from extra angled space.
As if we needed more danger, that's when the plot point of a boyfriend shows up to become a handy target. Although, more for the crumbling house than the remaining Cenobites, as they disappear one by one.
That's when the box does some unexpected turning, and the wacky wall walker returns to fight her for the box. They get into a slap fight over the thing, but Kirsty eventually figures out the box and banishes that nightmare back to where it came from.
With that done, they leave the house and toss the puzzle box into a handy fire I'm gonna assume they started or came from the exploding house. But before they can walk off into the sunset and live happily ever after, except for everyone who died, Alan Moore stumbles in to get the box and burns up.
So, that worked out well for him.
Actually, it did, as he turns into a giant bone dragon and flies off with the box. So. That happened. Which has the box returning right back to the man Frank got it from in the first place, waiting for a new owner and sequel.
Boy, there can't be too many of those from this movie, and if there are, I am sure they are all as great as the original!
Video: Anchor Bay usually does solid releases, and they did a good job on this 20th anniversary disc from awhile back. The blacks are NICE and black, but you can still see if something is there, and the colours are really good.
Audio: While it's maybe a bit quieter than I like, the 5.1 surround is a great addition to this movie, and they use the space well, especially when the weird hits the fan.
Sound Bite: "No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering." Almost anything Pinhead says is quotable. And not in the "Hahaha funny!" way.
Body Count: A very solid showing for dead people in this, and they're all pretty good, if admittedly repetative once we're in the thick of it.
1 - Frank gets sliced to ground beef a few minutes into the movie.
2 - A hapless guy just looking for a good time gets his head bashed in and devoured by Frank.
3 - Hapless victim #2 meets the same fate.
4 - And a third one walks in the door and never walks out.
5 - Larry's next on Frank's dinner table.
6 - Frank accidentally kills Julia, but that still works for him.
7 - Frank dies once more, being torn apart.
Best Corpse: They all look SOO GOOD after Frank gets done with them... But Frank himself, his final death, while wearing Larry's face, as he is torn apart into tiny little bits, and saying, "Jesus wept," and looking like he's enjoying it? Yeah, that isn't just a great death, that sums up the entire movie and its philosophy.
Blood Type - A+: Seriously. You've seen the caps. There's blood all over the place. Frank is a walking pile of blood and bone for 2/3rds of the film. There's body parts everywhere. There's blood soaked skeletons. There is AMAZING effects all over the place. And I absolutely stand by them and say they hold up today.
Sex Appeal: You would think that a movie with the fetishy tones this one has, with the leather, and sex, and sadomasochim, and chains, and pain, and torture, and pleasure would have more of this. But they manage to not be a softcore porn. Save for the early flashback sex with Julia and Frank, the movie is more gruesome than sexy.
Drink Up! Every time Frank appears and he's better than the last time you saw him. Or every time a Cenobite appears.
Sights and Sounds: Like I said, I failed at sharing Frank's restoration, but I will give you this. If you were wondering what the HELL those captions were all about? Here's an explanation of sorts.
Movie Review: Okay, I love me some Hellraiser. Clive Barker is a dark, twisted genius, in all the right ways. He delves into places we didn't normally go in the light of acceptable society in the 80s. This may seem a bit tame today, but back then, and even into the 90s, this was such a unique vision. And it's almost a simple movie in its uniqueness. The details are complex, but the basic story is about a man who comes back from hell, and is trying to pull himself together before he is discovered; by authorities from this world or the next. The movie takes place almost entirely within the Cotton house. It's very well paced, keeping most of the actual Hell stuff away after the setup, until almost the final act. Things never drag, they drop a body at just about the perfect moment each time, and they even manage to spend time making us care about the characters. Kirsty gets short shrift in that department, but it's also not completely lacking or terrible. Barker is a solid director on top of writing, and given the limitations of working in an actual, physical house and not a set, he got very creative, and worked in many counterpoints and effective imagery. Five out of five Lament Configuration puzzle boxes. Well, that's my totally biased opinion. A saner person would probably go for four, since the movie isn't perfect.
Entertainment Value: Frank is a blast to watch, since you're sitting there going "EWWW' half the time, but he's not your typical monster, he actually sits there like a real person, talking, and you get to know this guy who sits there as a mass of muscle, in a button down shirt, smoking. He's a *person* not a creature. That falls on the Cenobites. And they're a treat in their own right. If you step back, their designs are freaking *absurd* in every way, and yet somehow they are just strange and creepy and SOMEhow full of terror in a way. And I love that Barker rarely hides them, and instead blasts them with light to showcase them. And I've gotten away from the enertainment portion. Some of the acting is wince worthy, but most everyone brings a solid presence, and it's really hard to point at this movie and laugh, because you're just so enthralled. You can almost point directly at this movie as a maturation of the horror genre on several levels. Sadly, some other movies didn't get the memo. Four out of five wacky wall walkers, for being a solid piece of entertainment that holds your attention like a puzzle box calling to you to be solved.