Hellraiser (Clive Barker, 1987, UK)

While Hellraiser has often been viewed as a quintessential 80s horror franchise alongside Freddy, Jason, and Michael, many forget that the original film is something of a domestic drama where the iconic Pinhead (who is not even identified as Pinhead) plays a rather minor role. Still, Doug Bradley's portrayal of the now iconic character almost guaranteed that a franchise would be built upon him - who can forget such classic lines as "We'll tear your soul apart!" As Barker himself has stated, the original Hellraiser is something of a twisted love story. It was also the first film to bring BDSM and leather subculture to a wider audience, and Pinhead himself became something of a sexy underground icon.

Hellraiser starts with the notes of Christopher Young's excellent orchestral score (also worth visiting British experimental group Coil's rejected score for the film), a score that gives a twisted fairy tale vibe for the events that will follow. We are introduced to the character of Frank and the puzzle box, leading ultimately to the set piece involving Frank's resurrection. This set piece is one of the marvels of the film, representing the pinnacle of gross 80s practical effects along with such films as The ThingThe Fly, and American Werewolf in London

The star of the show here is not Pinhead (although he and the other Cenobites are very impressive) but Claire Higgins as the stepmother Julia Cotton. She originally rejected the offer to act in the film several times but eventually joined. She brings a gravitas to the film from her work in the theater, and we believe her impassioned lust for Frank is bringing her over the edge into the world of madness. Hellraiser is unique for films of the period in having a woman as a central figure who is also a villain.



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