Movie Debaters 2013 Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular! #18: Hellraiser

We’re presenting a special series of articles this October on Movie Debaters. Every week day we’ll give you a write up of a movie that evokes fear into the viewer and sends chills down the spine. (Or, just, you know movies in the horror/thriller genre.)

We call it The Movie Debaters 2013 Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular!

You know, I’ve always wondered why I never saw any of the Hellraiser movies. When I was a kid I watched a bunch of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween movies super late at night on cable. (Seriously, in the late 90s/early 2000s the USA Network seemed to love showing horror movies at 3am.)

After watching Hellraiser I now know why they were never shown. It’s a sadomasochistic S&M body horror movie. It’s very reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s work. There’s no way it could ever be shown on any form of tv.

The story is a bit clunky. It’s not bad by any means. It’s just not refined. I wish Clive Barker went a little more in depth with a lot of it. He could have really examined the psychology of the Julia character and how she ultimately decided to kill for love. Or he could have given a little more back story to Pinhead et al. I can’t totally blame him though. It’s an ambitious horror movie. From the sounds of it they didn’t have a lot of money to work with. (Very evident in the fact that most of the movie takes place in an attic and a stairwell.) I also thought it was a little out of place that the last act turned into a more traditional scream-and-run-away-from-the-monsters plot. The rest of the movie was this creepy, slightly understated horror movie about the dangers of lust as manifested through the extreme S&M.

What I really loved is the special effects. They weren’t quite as good as the monster effects in John Carpenter’s The Thing, but they were close. There were many moments that made me tense up in fear and disgust — high praise for a horror movie. The shot when the character Frank first starts to reform into his zombie body was particularly gruesome. Pinhead’s crew (the Cenobites) looked pretty great too.

Hellraiser definitely ranks in the second or maybe third tier of 80s horror franchises. I can’t say I’m psyched to see the rest of the series, but this first outing was pretty good all things considered.

-Harrison

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