It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon, 18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London, 14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now, 12, Event Horizon , 11, Cannibal Holocaust, 10, The Wicker Man, 9, Halloween and 8, The Blair Witch Project.
Number seven on my list is Clive Barker’s insanely brilliant Hellraiser, which gives me an excuse to share one of my favourite film posters ever….
This poster was actually banned by some cinemas which is a pity as it’s a brilliant poster.
Anyhow, the synopsis from IMDB gets it wrong.
An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover, who’s being chased by demons after he escaped from their sado-masochistic Hell.
There’s no zombies in this. There are however reanimated bodies after they’ve been torn to pieces, demons and monsters, and in fact this lot in particular.
These are the Cenobites, the angels of Hell that the writer/director Clive Barker uses as little as possible in the film to great effect. Looking at them now it’s amazing how fresh the designs look, especially Pinhead is still an astonishing image as they don’t look like any monsters we’d seen in cinema up until then and although these designs have been used to ‘inspire’ a number of lesser monsters (including in the multiple and mainly shite sequels to Hellraiser itself) it still doesn’t diminish how great these creatures look.
They aren’t the main villains though. That would be Uncle Frank, the filthy auld pervert, and Julia, an equally filthy auld pervert who take advantage of Frank’s brother Larry’s good nature to rebuild Frank after his disastrous encounter with the Cenobites by hiding in his attic killing men that Julia has lured there on the promise of sex. This is not a nice easy horror film, it’s seedy, dark, twisted and hugely fun as Barker lets the film crack along at a storming pace.
Unfortunately Barker couldn’t film in New York, so the film is shot in London which is bloody obvious, especially in the scene with Kirsty walking along the disused London docks, and pretty much every external shot in the film. This adds a weird atmosphere as people speak with American accents but we can see it’s clearly London. It’s amazingly confusing but adds to the weirdness of the film.
I first saw the film at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1987 with a crowd of people buzzed up to the hilt and it didn’t disappoint. I remember shaking the hand of an exceptionally relieved Barker after the film. Barker was someone I’d met a year or so earlier at a SF convention in Glasgow but that’s a story for another time…
Hellraiser is a fantastic film. Forget it’s sequels apart from the brilliantly mental Hellraiser 2, and the third one is watchable. After that it’s rubbish. The original is the best.
Next time it gets groovy…