This film was supposedly Clive Barker’s breakout hit. I’ve enjoyed a number of his dark fantasy works so was less reluctant to see this horror flick.

Hellraiser is a gory film, with plenty of blood and flying body parts, people being gouged with hooks and torn to pieces. Fortunately the poor 80s-style special effects and oversaturated, over-the-top depictions take the edge of it. More disturbing are the more realistic scenes where characters trap victims and attack them with hammers. Not my kind of thing. On the plus side, the makeup for the partially reconstituted Frank is quite good.

Clive Barker’s favourite themes of sexuality find their way into this movie: the leather-clad self- (and others-) mutilating Cenobites are clearly inspired by an S&M subculture; one of the main villains is motivated by lust; and the villains make a process of picking up randoms in bars to kill.

Barker manages to create quite a bit of tension with the three main parties; even the villains fear discovery and are on a time limit to escape the Cenobites. There is a great scene when the main non-villainous character realises that something is not quite right with someone she knows.

I found Hellraiser entertaining, and imaginative enough to differentiate itself visually and thematically from other horror flicks (I have not seen any of its sequels). However many of the scenes are rather stomach-turning – to some that will be a positive.


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