Plot: You expect something to happen when you solve a puzzle, such as the pieces forming an image or some type of payoff for your hard work. But when this particular puzzle was solved, the reward was a portal to Hell and that’s the kind of situation where you wish you could trade your prize for what’s behind the curtain, you know? So the man who solves the puzzle is taken into this hellish realm and terrorized by these strange sadistic creatures, but there is a potential light at the end of this tunnel. His former lover has returned and she discovers a way to bring him back, but it won’t be pretty and it won’t be easy. The sadistic little devils, the cenobites are ready to dish out pain & suffering like there’s tomorrow and that is bad news for all parties involved. Now everyone in the house seems to have their own agendas, but who will survive and who will be claimed by the cenobites?
Entertainment Value: The genesis of one of horror’s most enduring franchises and one of the genre’s most iconic characters, Hellraiser is a horror classic that hasn’t lost even a little of its impact in the decades since it was released. Although Pinhead would be the front man for the entire series, this first installment uses both Pinhead and his fellow cenobites in measured doses. This ensures their presence always commands attention, but it is also because the main narrative is quite strong, so the movie doesn’t suffer when the cenobites aren’t around. I love how unique Hellraiser looks and feels, as it is so far removed from the usual slash & stalk elements of its 80s horror peers, it is such a welcome change of pace. The cenobites are beyond bad ass and creepy, much more intense and otherworldly than a masked maniac, again helping the movie stand out and burn some images into the viewers’ brains. The atmosphere is tense and unsettling, leaning on tension and mood to drive the horror elements, rather than cheap jump scares. The cast is also terrific, with Doug Bradley shining as Pinhead, while Ashley Laurence is fantastic and conveys fear so well. But man, Andrew Robinson steals the show at times and is simply masterful in the wild finale, with one of the movie’s most memorable moments. Hellraiser has endured as a horror classic for a reason, it is a must see even for the most casual of genre fans.
The movie has some obvious sexual overtones, but aside from a couple of brief, non graphic sex scenes, the sleaze is minimal. This includes some bare breasts and a naked ass, but again not graphic or frequent. There is a naked guy at times, but as his insides are exposed, his penis isn’t visible since he hasn’t acquired enough blood to regenerate his genitals. But the violence is frequent and it is glorious, including one of the best finales around, complete with a nasty series of events that caps off Hellraiser in grand style. That hook based rendering is the highlight in terms of blood and gore, but there’s more bloodshed to be witnessed as well. You can also see various rat trauma, stab wounds, a wild regeneration process, a cringe inducing nail accident, and of course, stop…hammer time. While not gore related, the cenobites are creative and remarkable special effects work as well, not to mention the various stages of the regeneration, which also look quite good. The dialogue is great here, with Pinhead’s classic, ominous lines, assorted family melodrama, and the wonderful final line from Andrew Robinson, who also supplies a number of other wild moments. As for craziness, the family drama, creepy cenobites, and just unsettling, fetishistic atmosphere ensure that Hellraiser puts up a few points here.
Overall Insanity: 5/10