Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser came at a time when horror movies were so stale that if we saw one more drunk teenager getting slaughtered at a summer camp we would’ve thrown in the bloody towel. This unique movie gave us a new sub-genre that could allow us to be scared again. A mainstream movie dealing with S&M (because frankly that’s what it was — sex, pleasure and pain — was new. And people loved it.

“Hellraiser” tells the story of Larry and Julia. They’re married. They’re happy (well, not really; content, maybe). Everything is great (OK, not really). But then one little accidental cut changes everything. Larry is in the attic when he cuts himself and some blood drips onto the floor. Rewind: earlier, Larry’s brother Frank was playing with a puzzle box and when he opened it a group of ghastly creatures known as Cenobites, including Pinhead,  came along and took him to eternal damnation.

Larry’s blood summons Frank. Apparently blood will return Frank to human form. Julia soon learns that she can help resurrect Frank (which is the brother she preferred all along), so she starts luring victims home to help her true love. Things don’t go completely as planned, of course.

The movie gets confusing at times and there are holes. But it touches on so many areas of taboo while remaining a class act that it deserves respect. And what a relief it is to have a film around that thinks outside the box. The bad guys aren’t just masked lunatics. They’re what nightmares are made of. Scary stuff.

Hellraiser” 1987

Memorable Quote: “Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.”

Best Scene: The chains. The hooks. The blood. This scene is a die-hard horror fan’s wet dream.

Did you know? Doug Bradley’s character’s name wasn’t “Pinhead”; this was a fan nickname that began circulating after the release of the film. The script originally identified his character as ‘The First Cenobite’. In the sequel films, ‘Pinhead’ became the character’s “official” name, and Bradley is credited as “Pinhead” after that point.

See the rest of the 31 Great Horror Movies.

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