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Hellraiser (1987)

HellrHellraiser-Posteraiser is the directorial debut for Clive Barker, it focuses on Frank who having found a bunch of BDSM alien/demons decides that being torn to literal pieces isn’t for him so he escapes and gets his ex-lover, who is now living with his brother, to kill people so that their blood will rejuvenate him.  This plan is ruined when the Kirsty (The brothers daughter) finds the cube that opens the gateway between worlds and alerts the Kinky-Pain-Alien-Demons that Frank has escaped and she can lead them to him if they’ll let her go.  The final third of the film is the resolution between Frank, the daughter and the aliens which ended up seeming a little cheesy at the end.

The scope of the film is quite limited, it is just Frank trying to escape his own personal hell and Kirsty trying to not end up in the same place.  Sure some people get killed but the film never veers into telling us that the world is danger or that if Frank isn’t sent back to his “Kinky-Kage” he will cause Earth to be invaded.  This contained plot is refreshing in a world where every film has such grand scope, by focusing on a small group of characters we get a chance see them develop.  Julia for example goes from reluctant helper to willing accomplice, which does earn her some comeuppance near the end of the film, its the kind of growth that is lost in a film with a cast of dozens.

Probably the most notable or memorable part is the special effects, the make-up on the Cenobites (the correct name for the Bondage-alien-things) is fantastic, their deathly pale skin contrasts strongly with the red of their gaping wounds, the make-up on Frank, who spends most of the film as a skinless man is similarly brilliant.  The whole asthetic of the delapidated house and bleak background scenery really does help strengthen the idea that the Cenobites and their pain/pleasure is an escape or release from the mundane and ordinary world.

Near the end of the film Kirsty discovers that the puzzle box can send the Cenobites back to their own world or at the very least away from this plane in what feels like an heavy handed way to have a happy ending, a door lintel falling on one of the antagonists further adds to this feeling which mars the end of the film.  Perhaps I’m overly cynical or just don’t like happy endings, but if Kirsty and her male friend had been taken I’d of been just as happy as if they stayed alive.  The film closing with a scene similar to the opening one however is much appreciated as it allows you to think that the cycle will continue, and seeing as they made several movies it’s safe to say that they did.

I’d suggest watching this if you’re filling in some horror genre blanks or want to see some neat make up effects but the script and acting didn’t stand out as amazing to me, though both served as good enough vehicles to advance the plot.  By not explaining much about the Cenobites or showing them to a great amount we aren’t bored of them by the time the movie ends, instead we are intrigued and want to know more about them, something that modern films could do a little more.

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