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Hellraiser (1987)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Hellraiser (1987) Anyone remember when Clive Barker was the "future of horror", as crowned by Stephen King? Oh man, in 1985, '86, I found his BOOKS OF BLOOD and they were ENTHRALLING, DIFFERENT, WILD and NEW. THE HELLBOUND HEART, the novella this film is based on, was also out of this world. I was in the theater opening day when HELLRAISER was released, and wow, it was an astounding experience on the silver screen! The story of Larry and Julia, a couple who move into an old family home, only for Julia to discover her old lover Frank (Larry's brother) in the attic, slowly coming back from the dead due to spilled blood on the floor---just blew my mind! Of course, once Frank is fed more blood (from victims Julia provides) to "become human", the demons known as Cenobites come looking for him---straight out of hell. The movie felt so powerful and original back in '87, and despite some really bad optical effects at the end, the movie still packs a wallop today. What a wickedly delicious move putting Andrew Robinson, the Scorpio killer from DIRTY HARRY, in the lead role! Here he plays the sympathetic good guy...until the end, where he gets to go psycho again in some brilliant sequences. This was Barker's directorial debut and he DID seem like the future of horror at the time---the Cenobites were so terrifying and freakish, especially Pinhead and Butterball and that weird creature that chases Larry's daughter Kirsty down a hallway---what the hell was that thing?!? Bob Keen practical effect nightmares, pure and simple! Barker started on such a high note with such a fantastic debut that I guess he had nowhere to go but downhill from here, sadly. I mean, while NIGHTBREED was "okay" it was definitely a disappointment, Cronenberg aside. And LORD OF ILLUSIONS is sadly drab and boring, such missed potential, and I guess that was it for Barker's directing attempts! But what promise he showed with his first masterpiece here-it's dark, full of wonder and humor, an incredible score, great acting, outrageously unforgettable boogey men and some truly sickening sequences having to do with the human body and how Frank comes back. Laced with punishing sexual imagery and Clare Higgins as the leading lady strutting her sultry stuff around, HELLRAISER remains an epic classic for me. I just don't understand what happened to Barker as a director, he had such cinematic sights to show us and started out so pure and original and by movie number three, he just wasn't able to deliver anything of interest (or profit) anymore and had to stop. A travesty. But wow, what a great film HELLRAISER is! And at least Barker has continued horror output here and there over the years, in between his lame children's fantasies. (Sigh.) Ah well, we can't have it all as horror fans, but HELLRAISER is a trip worth taking, again and again.

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