The Halloween Top 13: Number 6: Hellraiser

The Halloween Top 13 keeps on moving along. We're about to enter the home stretch here, but before we get there we need to take a minute to talk about Clive Barker. If you haven't had the pants scared off you by Clive, then you haven't been reading him. Go out right now and get the books of blood, come back, finish reading this, and then read them all. (With bathroom breaks and time to come back and check on the next five movies allotted of course. ) We'll all wait here for you. I'll even give you a convenient section break so you know where we left off.

Right then now that you're back with us. Let's talk a bit about Clive's movies. There have been scattered successes in translating his work. I rather like Candyman, Nightbreed, and the Barker penned Rawhide Rex, but when it comes down to it for a real cinematic Clive fix, you've got to go to the source. You've got to go straight to hell.

Hellraiser (1987) starring Doug Bradley, Andrew Robinson, Sean Chapman, Claire Higgins, Oliver Smith, and Ashley Laurence. Directed by Clive Barker.

Ah Morocco, a land of mystery and intrigue. No better place to wear a fez or buy an unholy demon box full of pain and torment. As it would happen, Frank Cotton (played skinned by Chapman) is there to do the latter. He plops down a big wad of cash and goes back to his place. Naturally the best thing to do it start right in playing with Satan's Rubiks cube. This does not turn out as well as Frank planned. Pinhead and his gang of sinnin' Cenobites show up and pop old Frankie's skin right off.

So when Larry (Robinson) and Julia (Higgins) move in to Larry's childhood home, they find signs that his brother Frank had been there, but has cleared out of the ill used home. Larry's daughter Kristy (Laurence) moves into town as well, but she takes an apartment elsewhere to keep away from her new stepmother. Everything is not well between Larry and Julia even before they moved in, but once Larry gashes his hand and bleeds on the attic room floor, things get really interesting. Frank reanimates from the floor, alive but skinless. Frank eventually corners Julia and rekindles an old affair they once have. I have to say it must have been good to still want a guy with no skin.

Frank (in new sans skin form played by Oliver Smith) convinces Julia to seduce men and bring them back to the house. Once she incapacitates them; Frank snacks on their blood which makes him stronger and begin to develop skin. Frank eventually tells Julia about the box and his broken pact with the Cenobites. When their scheme finally gets busted by Kristy, she steals the box and summons Pinhead and crew herself, but manages to make a deal with them not to take her to hell. She agrees to lead them to Frank, and Pinhead warns, as he's reasonably pissed and surely his boss is on his ass for this one, "We'll tear your soul apart." Kristy stays true to her word, but can she trust the demons to do the same with theirs.

Film Facts
--Hellraiser's working title was "Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave".

--The address to the house is 55 Ludovico Place. Ludovico Institute was the name of the institute Alex was taken to in A Clockwork Orange.

--Nintendo developed a game based on the movie, but when it was found to not work with their controllers, the game was scrapped. Naturally it is theorized that the game was halted because it too would tear your soul apart.

--Quentin Tarantino described Clive in his own unique was by saying "To call Clive Barker a 'horror novelist' would be like calling the Beatles a 'garage band'... He is the great imaginer of our time. He knows not only our greatest fears, but also what delights us, what turns us on, and what is truly holy in the world. Haunting, bizarre, beautiful. These are words we can use to describe Clive Barker only until we invent new, more fitting adjectives."

Why Do I Love It?
Let me take you back to somewhere in 1988 or 1989. I was eleven or twelve at the time and my folks were watching this movie. I had seen my fare share of what I considered scary movies. While other kids were conflicted about their favorite Transformer, I had an internal conflict over Lugosi vs. Karloff. So when my parents called me in to see the scene of Frank reconstituting from the floor up, let's just say that I remember it vividly. It was a couple more years before I got into real hard R rated horror films, and I gravitated quickly to Hellraiser. Let's face it to a 13 year old boy you've got boobs, blood, and Pinhead. It didn't get much better than that. Maybe Jason couldn't be stopped and Freddy could get in your dreams, but it was so easy to imagine that Doug Bradley's Pinhead might just tear your soul right out and filet it. Yet it's more than that. The film taught me important lessons. Never get involved with a crazy ass box. I've known a few fellows in my time that have, and they always come out at least feeling like someone popped their skin right off. This is a great movie for a dark night with the lights off to kick back and worry for the health of your immortal soul. Personally I don't have one I lost it in a game of The Devil's Jenga a few years back.

Bug Rating
Today's Top 5 list comes to us from Chuck Williams. Chuck of course appeared in Bubba Ho-Tep as well as many other films. He was also the director of Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America which we looked at a couple of weeks ago. You can check him out and find out whats up with Chuck at his site. Chuck writes in:

1) Exorcist
2) Halloween
3) The Omen
4) The Changeling
5) Wizard of Oz

Did not see that last one coming there Chuck, but flying monkeys kind of freaks me out too. Thanks for the list, and thank you folks for coming back today. See you back here when we go on adventure with one of the icons of horror, Mr. Vincent Price, in the diabolical number five!


  1. Hey, wow, somebody else has seen The Changeling and liked it! Thought I was alone out here.

  2. 1st, I have been enjoying reading your list... :-)

    I just thought that I would add a comment to this one by saying that I attended a 24-hour horror movie marathon this past weekend, and Clive was one of the featured guests.
    During the Q & A, after The Midnight Meat Train, someone asked his thoughts on all of the Hellraiser movies.

    From Clive's mouth - he said that he is looking forward to the re-make - that he is excited about the choices that have been made (I am assuming this means director, etc)
    If he is looking forward to the re-make, then you can bet that I will be. :-)

  3. I'd be interested in seeing the remake. If Clive is totally behind it I would have faith.

  4. I remember watching this one back in 88 [I'm 7 at this point] and being totally grossed out by this movie to the point where the images have been stuck in my head since. This film was one of my first tastes of true horror gore and I loved it. I do think HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II is a better film but you can't knock HELLRAISER. Great review.


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