Raise a Little Hell

Hellraiser used to seem like it had a confusing story to me. I’d seen it and immediately forgotten what happens. But now I might have a handle on it. Most of the movie takes place in one house, apart from bookend scenes about buying a magical device that won’t be confused with Rubic’s Cube. The cube kills a man who had been living in his brother’s home and having an affair with his brother’s wife. One day, the brother is helping movers do their job and accidentally gouges his hand on a nail that honestly should not have been missed. His blood drips into the floorboards and partially resurrects the dead sibling who then compels the cuckolding wife to lure men into the attic for would-be trysts so they can be sacrificed and their life’s blood can restore the flesh of the abomination. The teenage daughter is caught in the middle, as she witnesses the half-restored uncle and interacts with hellish creatures called Cenobites who want the cube that started the whole mess. The DVD has an excellent laconic audio commentary by Clive Barker and the actress Ashley Laurence who plays the teenager Kirsty.

Discussions involve the evolution of ideas as they are brought to life with a relatively limited budget of one million dollars 1987 money. They kept it simple enough and focused, often to a point where if the frame had moved a little to the left or right the illusion of location might be destroyed. A little is said without naming titles that some far more expensive movies in horror rely on jump scares but this movie is more about a sense of creepiness and sustained dread while still having a touch of organic humor. It has some of the Eighties look that you might expect, but it can draw the viewer in. I took these movies for granted in my own youth and have only seen the first Hellraiser. The iconic “Pinhead” mouthpiece of the Cenobites continues and As does Ashley Lawrence as Kirsty Cotton who appears in the second and third of the series. Barker is self deprecating about his “amateur status” as a director but what ends up on screen fools us well enough. At one point Barker had offered to write a script Pinhead Versus Michael Meyers if John Carpenter would have agreed to direct it but Carpenter wanted to leave his creation The Shape alone. Personally, I wish Carpenter had agreed. It would have given The Shape genuine demonic status, even if the “Versus” gimmick is inherently has a ring to it of pandering to the market.