Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Series Review: Hellraiser Part 1

Review by Disgruntled Monkey

Oh Hellraiser, you were so integral to the development of my love for horror cinema. While Phantasm (I will get to that series review) is the horror series that I hold above all else, Hellraiser is probably a close second. I’ve always been into the darker more cerebral horror offerings although that’s not to say I’m not a fan of good hack and slash fun. With Hellraiser, or at least the first two movies, we are given a very dark story of desire, pain, pleasure, flesh and hell which come all wrapped up in some very gory and impressive visuals. Greater still we have a wonderful female character in the personage of Kirsty Cotton whose character really develops over the course of the two films.

Things deteriorate quickly after the second movie but there are still moments to enjoy - especially Doug Bradley as Pinhead. Honestly, the foundation and themes were so strong that eventually a comic series that continued Kristy’s story was created and is fantastic. On to the reviews!

Hellraiser (1987)

The series starts of relatively small with the audience being introduced to the Cotton family. We come at a time were things are very strained between all but there is effort to try and mend bridges. Unfortunately an accident wakes up the dead and a twisted tale of desire unfolds. Featuring copious amounts of blood, the movie is wise in trying to keep things small and taking time to introduce us to all the players.

While a great horror movie, Hellraisers’ greatest asset is also it’s one weakness. In all of his work Clive Barker has a fantastically dark imagination that allows him to touch upon some intriguing themes and ideas all set in this massive world that seems endless. This is why Hellraiser is brilliant. Under its simple story is a world that is massive in its complexity, and yet this leads to the weakness of not being focused.

So many things are introduced but never truly fleshed out and this leaves the movie feeling incomplete. Who is the insect eating vagabond that turns into a bone dragon? What role does the wall monster play? How does the box truly find its next owner? It’s also suggested in this movie that the box can lead to other realms, this is dumped by the later movies, but it’s an interesting ideas.

Despite the world, themes and ideas being unfocused Hellraiser is a brilliant start to the franchise.

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)

My personal favourite in the series - mainly due to it taking things to the next level. Bigger, bolder, more epic in scope, it shines a lot brighter than the original; unfortunately it also exposes its’ flaws to more open scrutiny. Following on from the first film Kirsty is now institutionalized but the danger is far from over. Besides Uncle Frank and the Cenobites we have step mom Julia moving up as a major villain and Dr Channard as a new unknown. With all these villains it does seem like an uphill battle for Kirsty, thankfully it really gives us a sense of the stakes involved.

On top of that we get to see the home of the Cenobites in all its gory glory. With both the mental institution and the Cenobite home world we are given some exceptionally dreamy visuals and great personal interpretations of individualistic hells. Thrown all together what dominates is a sense of things coming to a head, and that you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole well and truly.

Unfortunately some of the effects are a little bit cheesy, especially the Cenobite baby. It’s the case of being too ambitious for the budget that was available. The ending is also a little abrupt in some regards and the final shot of the movie is clearly desperate to set up the next instalment but all in all is pretty hilarious in execution.

Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992)

With memories of ‘Video Camera Cenobite’ and ‘Disc Player Cenobite’ this marks the point for many when the Hellraiser series took a dive. Well, evidently they forgot ‘Molotov Cocktail Cenobite’, ‘Chain Smoking Cenobite’ and of course ‘Pneumatic Engine Cenobite’. Yes the cenobites’ may get a little silly, but personally the worst change is Pinhead becoming a full on moustache twirling villain.

 In the previous two films Pinhead was a demon, but he did follow rules and was never after the purely innocent. While this instalment does explain the personality change it unfortunately opens the door for the other movies in the series. Pinhead’s personality isn’t the only thing changing here either. The tone of the film becomes very bombastic and over the top. It reminds me more of a slasher flick than a cerebral journey into hell.

The cast of Cenobites that drove some fans insane. And yes that
is Pinhead trapped in a wall.
There are still things to like here though. Terry Farrell is great as the new protagonist and Doug Bradley is just having a ball as evil Pinhead. Every scene he’s in, he laps it all up with relish. Also yes, while the tone is different there is a certain joy to be had in the cheesy slasher vibe, especially the dance club massacre scene.

Hellraiser: Bloodlines (1996)

With Bloodlines we really get the end chapter of the first Hellraiser saga. Like any good ending we discover more of the origin through the film playing out in three different time periods. The past section is during the creation of the puzzle box that summons the Cenobites. The modern day is where we have a story that almost ties the third movie into the preceding history and offers us more about the Merchant family and their cursed bloodline. Finally we go into SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE. Here the last of the Merchant line tries to defeat Pinhead once and for all.

There are some really goofy ideas in this movie, the major one being having Cenobites in space. There is a genuine attempt to tie all four movies together in a way and end what was started. Apart from the goofy ideas, Pinhead really starts to unravel. Without actual plot points to back up the personality change, Pinhead becomes the ultimate villain, trying to TAKE OVER THE WORLD. *facepalm*

He even speaks about there being rules and yet his plan involves not really following anything set up in the first two films. Yet despite all this Bloodlines isn’t actually as bad a movie as some people think. It ends the franchise in a somewhat satisfying way and for all its faults I was at least entertained.

Come back in two days for the epic
conclusion to the Hellraiser Series Review!

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