• R, 1 hr. 34 min.
  • Horror
  • Directed By:
    Clive Barker
    In Theaters:
    Sep 18, 1987 Wide
    On DVD:
    Mar 3, 1998
  • New World Video


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Hellraiser Reviews

Page 1 of 182
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

August 8, 2010
People are pretty split on whether they find this film to be the start of the new frontier of horror, and the beginning of the horror porn manifestation we see today, or it's an easily forgotten flick that tries too hard. Whatever people say, Clive Barker is gross in the best kind of way, and this is definitely something never before seen. Fusing together sadomasochism and the limits of physical pleasure with the terrifying machinations of pain was never truly explored before in mainstream horror. In the indie market this was a palatable formula, but here there's also concern for gore, humiliation, and positing the female victim with the male monster. Frank (Chapman) is, by all accounts, a giant pervert, who travels the world, doing inappropriate things and people. He buys a mystical box from a market in Eastern Asia, which is supposed to bring him unbridled pleasure and pain. He figures out the mechanism, and opens it, experiencing the pain of meat hooks, demons, and Pinhead, the enduring figure for the many sequels spawned from this film. Frank's body reforms at his childhood home thanks to the blood of his brother being spilt. The transformation from blood and guts, to muscle and cartilage, was the most gruesome thing I have seen onscreen, and it has the most staying power of any scene throughout the film. There's more blood, more sexual tension, and sabotage sprinkled throughout, but most of the plot concerns Frank and Julia's (Higgins) relationship, as she kills people for the lothario to feast upon. It's a bit cut and dry with its story, but it packs on the gore and bloodlust with aplomb, and it's all you can do not to marvel at the effects, which are almost thirty years old. That and the bonds made between two pivotal humane experiences that are so often thought to be counterintuitive of one another, really make for an interesting and uncomfortable watch.
Market Man
Market Man

Super Reviewer

October 12, 2012
Another 80s horror classic ruined by many half-assed sequels. "Hellraiser" has an excellent concept and offers plenty of gore. Everything from the atmosphere, script, and characters are great. The story is disturbing and unpredictable. Some of the special-effects are cheesy but that is not surprising considering the time the film was made. If only Clive Barker could have directed some of the sequels.

Super Reviewer

January 6, 2009
A blood drenched fright fantasy from the brilliant but twisted mind of Clive Barker. As much as I enjoy a good scare, gore just isn't my cup of tea. I waited 25 years to see this film, it'll be at least that long before I want to see it again .

Super Reviewer

January 21, 2011
Clive Barker's ultimate masterpiece of on screen Horror. Based on his novella, the Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser is one cool film to watch. The film surrounds a mysterious puzzle box built by toy maker, Philippe Lemarchand, unlocked the box opens the gates of hell, and summons demons. Hellraiser is a very cool, and atmospheric horror film. The film is gory and solid. Hellraiser is a terrifying film. There's nothing that Clive Barker doesn't do to your senses. He successfully twists your imagination in ways that no other Horror master can. Barker's film has perverse elements of sexuality which add a certain twist to the overall plot of the film. I have read the book that Hellraiser is based on, and Clive Barker stays very faithful to his novella. The film as much as the book are excellent and this screen adaptation is very well done. After all the film is directed by the mastermind who conjured up this terrifying journey through hell. The acting is great, and the story has a melancholic Horror vibe to it, which makes Hellraiser a fine cinematic work in Horror, what else could you expect from Clive Barker? One thing that I love about Clive Barker, and the thing that he's able to do so well is obviously that he's able to reach beyond your imagination to truly terrify you. Enter the terrifying mind of Clive Barker.
michael e.
michael e.

Super Reviewer

October 26, 2011
Hellraiser is one of the most disturbing films made in the 80s, and when I say disturbing I mean sadomasochistic disturbing, mainly because of what the cenobites do to humans, but this is a very creative film when it comes to the plot and with the characters.

Super Reviewer

May 2, 2007
Genuinely creepy and rife with suspense. Great make-up and gore effects for its time. Some characters actions are a bit stupid and unnatural though (such as the scene where Andrew Robinson's character gets his hand all bloody in an accident and his wife barely reacts to it). I was also repeatedly distracted by Clare Higgins' ugly hairdo. What in God's name were they thinking back then? Just minor irritants, however, in an otherwise good and well-made horror film.

Super Reviewer

September 10, 2007
God knows why they went on to make 2 others? but it was a very bad movie. Maybe i cant appreciate it because its an old moie and the graphics and the design of hellraiser himself was truly dreadful but i seriously wouldnt inflict this movie onto anyone.

Super Reviewer

May 31, 2011
Hellraiser is a cool and entertaining movie, but that's all it is. It's predictable and goes through long spells of horrible dialogue and even worse acting. All of that can be forgiven though because the story is really awesome. The greatest aspect of the movie is definitely the score which really sets the eerie atmosphere for the entire movie.
Dean !

Super Reviewer

January 2, 2007
A cult classic and for the time I can see why. However if watching it for the first time now, like I have, it looks very dated and the effects quite poor. Still it has its gory moments a rather simple story and could do with the cenobites being in the film a bit more. It did launch a whole load of sequels, 7 altogether?! and a remake of this is on the way soon!

Super Reviewer

September 6, 2010
A brilliantly crafted horror film. The story is creepy, realistic, ancient, and awesome, the actors are good, and the blood and gore is spectacular. If you're a true horror fan you must see this movie. I love it!

Super Reviewer

December 15, 2007
Cenobites as polyphonic embodiments of superego in Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart

"Outside, somewhere near, the world would soon be waking. He had watched it wake from the window of this very room, day after day, stirring itself to another round of fruitless pursuits, and he'd known, known, that there was nothing left out there to excite him. No heat, only sweat. No passion, only sudden lust, and just as sudden indifference. He had turned his back on such dissatisfaction. If in doing so he had to interpret the signs these creatures brought him, then that was the price of ambition. He was ready to pay it."
.....from Frank in The Hellbound Heart.

The Hellbound Heart is Clive Barker's gothic tale about the pursuit of unfathomable pleasure through Lamarchband's box going awry, and the deformed Cenobites, which are semi-human creatures mutilated by excessive body-piercings, would be emancipated once the puzzle-box is solved, to torment the trespasser with excruciating pains like Pandora's box in Greek Mythology. The trespasser Frank is a lecherous occultist whose life has descended into a state of abjection after tasting various perverse form of carnal pleasure, and his fleshes are torn into fragments and re-incarnated into a wretched figure with feeble human resemblance. Thus Frank seeks to resuscitate his human flesh by the aids of his brother's wife Julia, who uses her sex appeals to prey male wooers for Frank, whose secretive reincarnation are exposed to the Cenobites after the murder of his brother. Forever as ever, no one could ever make his escape from the Cenobites.

I shall interpret Hellbound from four perspectives:

1. Edge Allen Poe has brought up the idea of "spirit of perverseness" in his short story The Black Cat, and that is a potent force of morbidity propelling humans into brutal deeds. In other words, the spirit of perverseness is an archaic presentation of Lacanian jouissance. Abjection, according to Kristieva, is "the place where meaning collapse," and Goth is product of abjection which leads toward the reckless pursuit of jouissance. Here we have Frank and Julia, who're the abject figures who practice this extreme form of pleasure through violence. Contrary to the slasher genre, the victims here are all men who cannot resist the power of female sex, and Julia, as a jaded but beautiful housewife, protests the idea of female domesticity through her pursuit of jouissance. Julia even refers the doomed room where the uncanny Frank dwells as a "deadwoman's womb" in which she finds great soothing comfort of darkness. Julia here shall be Zizek's the dame who subjectifies her fate (Zizek's interpretation of femme fatale in Film Noir), and it is her decision of reviving Frank into human fleshes that enables the happenings of those tragic events because she wishes to have Frank as her kept lover. In a nutshell, woman here has a great personal agency.

2. Gothic fiction is usually a representation of the demons within human unconscious, and it liberates taints within the unconscious where "meaning collapses." In Hellbound, Cenobites are the embodiments of the subconscious inversion of Christian theology on crime and punishments. In Christianity, there're two attitudes toward sinners: rehabilitation and retribution. Rehabilitation is for the morally redeemable in the superstructure of moral hierarchy. On the contrary, retribution is for the unrepentant in the infrastructure. Retribution is what Cenobites inflicts upon those despicable sinners: Frank and Julia, who are punished in a series of sadomasochistic manners. Frank's slaughter of his own straight-laced brother is an implication of Biblical story of Cain and Abel, and Frank is seized again by the Cenobites after his murder of his good-natured brother.

3. The story of Barker's Hellbound is rendered through a "polyphonic" perspective, and it applies the visages from various protagonists in each chapter. Simultaneously the presences of various Cenobites in different gruesome forms shall formulate a Bakhtinian Carnival. According to Bakhtin's idea on "the carnival of polyphonic truth" in Problems of Dostoevsky's Art, the carnival invents "thresholds" where genuine dialogue becomes possible after the monophony gets shattered. Goth in postmodern stage is an apolitical aesthetic expression, "abandoning any credible historical grasp upon its object " (Baldick and Mighall). The grotesque Cenobites, rendered through polyphonic narrations, shall perform a post-gothic carnival for the reader with great relish, and audience would side with Cenobites to practice their duties of Superego and punishes the un-just with gratifying gore in an apolitical postmodern way, which rejoices pain as pleasure!

4. After The Hellbound Heart being adapted into the movie Hellraiser, the engineer Cenobite's become the figure of Pinhead, which has been highly fetishized into the Gothic Habitus(idea barrowed from Bourdieu's Habitus), which is a collective conceptualization of the images we see and the things we do as Gothic in the discourses of American Popular Culture.
The Gandiman
The Gandiman

Super Reviewer

July 18, 2010
Horror films tend to just scratch the surface when it comes to the exploration of human's flirtations with evil. With "Hellraiser", Clive Barker's agents of evil - embodied by creatures called Cenobites - are called upon by a human looking to experience pleasure at any cost - even if the cost is eternal pain.

"Hellraiser"'s low budget does not prevent it from becoming a truly scary and horrific voyage to the Gates of Hell.
Chris G

Super Reviewer

March 13, 2008
Hellraiser is really the story of how being kinky can get you into trouble. The film opens with Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) playing with a puzzle box surrounded by candles. We don't know what he's doing, only that it's probably not going to be pretty because the title of this film is Hellraiser, right? So he proceeds to open the box and begins his journey of experience the pains and pleasures of hell, brought to you by a band of tour guides called the Cenobites. Of course, all good things come to an end and the Cenobites think they have gained Frank's soul for their collection.

Enter Frank's brother Larry (Andrew "Scorpio" Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) who decide to move into the house that Frank completed his ritual and is virtually a disaster with each floor needing more work than the next. If Larry is really this cheap then it's no wonder his marriage is going down the toilet. I don't know if he was going to have Norm and the This Old House team come over and fix the joint up or what. So in the process of moving in, Larry cuts himself and drips blood on the floor of Frank's kinky room, fertilizing the little that is left of Frank's physical being that is hiding in the floor boards. Frank is back and so is the lust that Julia had for him (yep, they Tigered). The problem is that for Frank to be whole again he needs more blood and more bodies to make him a man again. That's when Julia agrees to help him by leading unsuspecting men to the kinky room and use them for spare parts while being discrete as not to arouse the suspicion of Larry or his daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence).

When people think of Hellraiser they think of Pinhead, all decked out in his Judas Priest gear,ready to give it to the hapless puzzle fan that played with his box. This first film is actually more about the human characters and how they interact in the situation they've fallen into. The Cenobites, poster children for this films, only appear in three sequences so be warned going into this if you're looking for some Pinhead action.

The thing about Hellraiser is not that's it's gory or even really that scary. It's just creepy as hell. The atmosphere reminds me of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I feel the same way about. It's the atmospherics that get to you, not the actually action on the screen. Clive Barker creates this haunted house feeling, even though it's only haunted by the guy without skin in the spare bedroom.

Well acted, though there are some cringeworthy moments, Hellraiser is yet another first chapter in a horror series that has gone straight into the toilet during the last twenty years. Don't even bother with the others. This film isn't a masterpiece, but it is a very good horror film that leaves you with a ominous feeling throughout the picture. No, it won't tear your soul apart, but it will entertain you with it's extremely dark subject matter and good story.
Daniel J D

Super Reviewer

July 24, 2007
If it had been any longer, I'd have probably started sticking pins in my face, but it was fun to make fun of.

Super Reviewer

December 5, 2009
Timeless Horror.
Fav bit
After cutting his hand on a nail (while moving a mattress), Larry goes upstairs to the room where Frank was killed and his blood falls on the floor. It mysteriously disappears through the floorboards, and Frank's soul uses this blood as nourishment to partially regenerate his body. Later, Frank convinces Julia to help restore him to his full physical form. Julia succumbs to Frank's entreaties and agrees to help him by seducing men and luring them up to the empty attic where Frank hides. After having Julia incapacitate them, Frank drains them of their blood, which allows him to further regenerate his body.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

November 17, 2009
Great classic horror story that concerns nothing but torture. I love how over the top Uncle Frank was and just how completely nuts the story was. I think the idea of a torture box was great and the fact that it unleashed a pack of Cenobites. The visual effects were great, some of the best i've seen. Especially when it came to the rebirth of Uncle Frank. Clive Barker is the king of torture and he defitiely proved it here, even now it's still pretty abitious in terms of content. Its an amazing horror tale too, there's method to the madness. It shows the descent into evil and what certain people will do for ultimate power.
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

January 4, 2008
Pretty lame, even for an 80's horror. Not that I expected otherwise!
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

November 14, 2006
Kirsty Cotton: Who are you?
Lead Cenobite: Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.

From Clive Barker, this is a very sick and twisted horror film that brings nightmares to life. That is a fairly generous opening sentence, which makes the film sound better than it is. While certainly gorey, the film is not too scary. The story is ludicrous, however the redeeming factor comes from some of the ingenious work made possible by cool looking practical effects.

Lead Cenobite: No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering.

A couple has moved into a house in New York. The couple consists of Larry and Julia. Julia is Larry's second wife. Julia once had an affair with Larry's dead brother Frank. Larry also has a daughter, Kirsty, from his first marriage, who lives in the city. How do all these things connect you ask?

Well, a mysterious cube, said to be the source of unbearable pain as well as unbearable pleasure was responsible for Frank's death. Of course, Frank died none other than in the very house Larry and Julia (who remember slept with Frank) have moved into. Soon, after an accident, blood is spilled in the attic, where Frank died I guess, which somehow brings him back to life. However, not completely, he sort of forms just enough bone and tissue to be around, but not whole.

Soon, Frank comes into contact with Julia and because of her undying attraction to Frank, she agrees to help Frank collect victims to help him reform his body, as long as the evil spirits behind "the box" don't find out about this.

Lead Cenobite: We'll tear your soul apart!

I hope this plot synopsis was helpful, because beyond the iconic Pinhead character, I had no idea what this movie was about and certainly did not expect what came out of it. The story is ludicrous. The actors get by, some better than others. Its really the production value that lets this movie get by.

While I don't follow Clive Barker's work very closely, what I know about him is his obsession with the dream/nightmare world. He does a lot here, on a fairly low budget, to try and bring theses aspects to life. Bringing forth a lot of abstract character and gore designs to make some memorably gruesome images.

So with all the ups and downs, I still found entertainment value in this film. The use of practical effects was a big plus. There are some fairly ingenious gore sequences in this film, particularly the resurrection of Frank towards the beginning. The very cheesy 80s feel of the film was certainly a plus as well. Christopher Young's orchestral horror soundtrack was also welcome.

By no means a classic to revisit, this is still a film made to be viewed nowadays with friends to celebrate its combination of gore effects and cheesiness.

Kirsty Cotton: You can go to Hell!
Female Cenobite: We can't. Not alone.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

September 29, 2009
An indulgent film by Clive Barker who didn't have much experience in directing and sadly at times it shows. Still, the story is strong and the gore and sadistic horror plentiful, even the worst acting ever has not prevented it from becoming one of the best horror films of all time.
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