Hellraiser (1987)

USA, UK, 1987
94m [USA], 89m [Sweden], 8,390 feet
35mm film, Technicolor, 1.85:1
Dolby Stereo, English
Reviewed at The EOFFTV Review

An American/British horror film directed by Clive Barker. It was Barker’s feature film directorial debut (he’d already made the short films Salome (1973) and The Forbidden (1978)) and started a franchise that, as of 2023, runs to ten films with a “reboot” released in 2022.

Plot Summary

American thrill seeker Frank Cotton buys a mystical puzzle box which, which solved, drags him into to a limbo world inhabited by the hellish Cenobites, leather clad angels of pain and misery. His physical remains, meanwhile, seem to be stashed beneath the floorboards of his north London home. When his brother Larry arrives to claim the house, accompanied by troubled wife Julia – who earlier indulged in a passionate and violent affair with Frank – and resourceful daughter Kirsty, an accident cuts Larry’s hand, and his blood reactivate Frank’s dismembered remains. As Julia falls under the spell of the deranged Frank, killing men she picks up in order to complete Frank’s physical restoration, the Cenobites come looking for their runaway victim – and only Kirsty, armed with the Lament Configuration, can stop them…

Credits

* = uncredited

Crew
Directed by: Clive Barker
© New World Pictures 1987
New World Pictures in association with Cinemarque Entertainment B.V. present a Film Futures production of… Made by Rivdel Ltd.
Executive Producers: David Saunders, Christopher Webster, Mark Armstrong
Produced by: Christopher Figg
Written by: Clive Barker [from his novella The Hellbound Heart]
Director of Photography: Robin Vidgeon
Edited by: Richard Marden; Tony Randel *
Music Composed by: Christopher Young
Sound Mixer: John Midgley
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
Cenobite Costume Designer: Jane Wildgoose
Make-up: Sally Sutton
Hairdresser: Aileen Seaton
Special Make-up Effects Designer: Bob Keen
Special Effects: Effects Associate Ltd *
Production Designer: Mike Buchanan

Cast
Andrew Robinson (Larry)
Clare Higgins (Julia)
Sean Chapman (Frank)
Robert Hines (Steve)
Ashley Laurence (Kirsty)
Oliver Smith (Frank the monster)
Antony Allen (1st victim)
Leon Davis (2nd victim)
Michael Cassidy (3rd victim)
Frank Baker (derelict)
Kenneth Nelson (Bill)
Gay Baynes (Evelyn)
Niall Buggy (dinner guest)
Dave Atkins (moving man 1)
Oliver Parker (moving man 2)
Pamela Sholto (complaining customer)
Doug Bradley (lead Cenobite)
Nicholas Vince (chattering Cenobite)
Simon Bamford (‘butterball’ Cenobite)
Grace Kirby (female Cenobite)
Sharon Bower (nurse)
Raul Newney (doctor)

Alternative Titles

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser I: The Original – Netherlands (DVD)
Fogo Maldito – Portugal
Hellraiser – Das Tor zur Hölle – West Germany
Hellraiser, los que traen el infierno – Spain
Le Pacte – France
Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave – working title
Shaitan Ka Beta – India (Hindi)
Wyslannik piekiel – Poland

Sequels
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2001)
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

Remake
Hellraiser (2022)

Extracts included in
Basic Instinct (1992)

Press

1987
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.54 no.644 (September 1987) pp.276-277
The most immediately striking aspect of the movie is its seriousness of tone in an era when horror films (the Nightmare on Elm Street or Evil Dead films in particular) tend to be broadly comic. Although one slimy monster – identified in the story as The Engineer, but unnamed here – could have strayed in from New World’s House movies, the overall approach is straight, not to say relentlessly grim. As with the seminal early films of Romero, Cronenberg, Hooper and Cohen, the explicitly physical horrors of Hellraiser are rooted in twisted family relationships. […] Although a resonant and unnerving film, Hellraiser suffers from a few minor compromises: notably, a decision made fairly late in shooting to change the specifically English setting for an ambiguous (and unbelievable) mid-Atlantic one. This results not only in the loss of some of the atmosphere and the mangling of a few of the smaller parts, but in such sillinesses as a conversation between Steve and Kirsty about the former’s typically British reserve that makes no sense since he has an American accent and is bizarrely out of key with the extremely English railway station in which the scene takes place. And while the Cenobites – who boast such unsettling features as sewn-shut eyelids behind dark glasses, a throat wound held open by a collar of surgical clamps, and traceries of pins hammered into a face – are well-used and suggestive figures, their monster companion is a more blunderingly obvious concession to the gross-out tastes of the teenage drive-in audience. However, the film is for the most part a return to the cutting edge of horror cinema, and in its inventively gruesome moments – Frank being turned inside-out by creaking millworks, his face being put together on the floor like a jigsaw puzzle – a reminder of the Grand Guignol intensity that has recently tended to disintegrate into lazy splatter. – from a review by Kim Newman

All text in this section © the relevant copyright holders

References

Periodicals

  • City Limits 10 September 1987 pp.22, 25 – review
  • Écran Fantastique no.76 pp.58-61 – illustrated article
  • Empire June/July 1989 p.99 – review
  • Empire December 1998 p.150 – review
  • Fear July 1990 p.72 – review
  • Fear February 1991 pp.18-21 – interview
  • Films and Filming February 1987 pp.22-23 – article
  • Films and Filming September 1987 p.36 – review
  • The Hollywood Reporter 6 August 1987 pp.3, 17 – review
  • Mad Movies no.52 pp.31-33 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin September 1987 pp.276-277 – credits, synopsis, review (by Kim Newman)
  • Première March 1988 p.21 – review (by Stella Molitor)
  • Screen International 27 September 1986 p.14 – credits
  • Screen International 4 October 1986 p.17 – credits
  • Screen International 13 June 1987 – review
  • Sight & Sound March 1993 p.61 – review
  • Sight & Sound Autumn 1987 pp.233-234 – review
  • Starburst no.100 pp.16-19 – review
  • Starburst no.101 pp.36-37 – interview
  • Starburst no.108 (August 1987) p.21 – review
  • Starburst no.110 (October 1987) pp.12-14 – interview
  • Starburst no.268 (December 2000) p.86 – illustrated review (DVD file)
  • Stills no.29 pp.20-22 (February 1987) – illustrated article (Serious maggots by Bill Pannifer)
  • Strange Adventures Summer Special 1989 p.9 – review
  • Time Out 2 September 1987 pp.18-20 – interview
  • Time Out 9 September 1987 p.33 – review
  • Variety 20 May 1987 p.42 – review
  • Video Business 24 November 1986 p.21 – note
  • Video Watchdog no.183 (May/June 2016) pp.56-62 – illustrated review (by Chris Herzog)

Books

  • 100 Cult Films by Ernest Mathijs & Xavier Mendik pp.110-111 – illustrated review by XM [Xavier Mendik]
  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.419
  • Educational Institutions in Horror Film: A History of Mad Professors, Student Bodies, and Final Exams by Andrew L. Grunzke p.163
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.6, 264, 282-83, 282, 297, 303, 325,
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby p.397
  • The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.252
  • The Hellraiser Chronicles – illustrated production notes
  • Hoffman’s Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.170 – credits, review
  • Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death by James Marriott & Kim Newman p.260
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.228
  • Horror Films of the 1980s by John Kenneth Muir pp.580-583 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies: An A-Z Guide to Over Sixty Years of Blood and Guts by Peter Normanton pp.243-245
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester pp.254-255
  • Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema by Philip Hayward (ed) pp.198, 211
  • Top 100 Horror Movies by Gary Gerani pp.58-59 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review

Other sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide October-November 2017 p.25 – illustrated listing