Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hellraiser (1987) Review:

Horror novelist Clive Barker is known for making some outrageously gross stories. And after two unsuccessful short films, Barker decided to direct his first theatrical film. Little did he know that it would not only be his most memorable film to date, but it would also become very popular. However, what amazes me is just how effective each component of the whole movie is. It is truly one of the great masterpieces in the horror genre of its time.

Hellraiser (1987) is a film adaptation of Clive Barker's self-written novel, The Hellbound Heart. The story is about a remarried man, Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) being caught in a web of terror. Larry's new woman, Julia (Clare Higgins), happens to be a secret lover of her husband's brother, Frank (Sean Chapman). Frank is a sexually deprived man who bought a mystical puzzle box called the "Lament Configuration". When this puzzle is solved, it opens a dimensional portal to hell, where a group of terrifying individuals called the Cenobites, literally tear Frank's soul apart, limb from limb, layer by layer.

The beautiful Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton
To start off, all the actors do a great job portraying their characters. Robinson makes himself seem like the most humble farther a child could ask for. Higgins and Chapman show good chemistry on screen as well. Slowly over the running time, viewers will see the transition that takes over Higgins' character, as she goes from lonely, to shocked, to lustful. On the other hand, Sean Chapman as Frank gives a very good performance as the battered soul that he is. He too carries great lust for Julia and shows how desperate he is to have her again. It is amazing that Julia would even want to join him again!

By far though, the character with the most guts in this whole film is Kirsty Cotton played by Ashley Laurence. For all the horror films that have been released, it is rare that audiences come across a strong female protagonist. For Laurence's first starring role, there's a lot of credit to be given to her for conveying her character so well. Not to mention the fact that Laurence is very attractive in this picture. And she's not a "scream queen" all the time either. Her brazenness by far surpasses many other female characters in other horror franchises. I did find her boyfriend to be rather unnecessary though. He didn't do anything the whole time during the film. He was always a step behind everyone else, so why bother even have him in the movie?

What was definitely effective here were the atmosphere; credited to the music and the special effects used throughout the film which created hair-raising, skin crawling imagery. The musical score provided by composer Christopher Young did an outstanding job. Not only was his score creepy and engrossing but it also created a sense of tragedy. The tragedy was cued by the constant waltz time each tune had. Adding to that is Young's constant theme that the audience is reminded of when the camera is focused on the Frank and Julia. A memorable tune indeed.

If your ok seeing the lead Cenobite (above),...you should
be ok watching the rest of the film
Lastly, the special effects is one the components prominently noted in Clive Barker's Hellraiser franchise. There is some stop motion animation but the real movie magic lies in the make-up department headed by Geoffrey Portass. Everything from the gore, to the Frank's resurrection, to the Cenobite make-up themselves is executed terrifically. The Lead Cenobite played by Doug Bradley is done so well, many people would say he was born for that role, which I agree. I also liked the look of the other cenobites; The Female, The Chatterer and Butterball. I would've preferred though if The Lead Cenobite introduced them in the film. Some newcomers may be confused to what their names are.

Along with these characters are some of the most disturbing imagery used throughout any film. Some of it really is just bloodcurdling. Tearing skin off a human body may not be some people’s cup of tea. There was also another scene that I found quite eerie but it was never explained to what it meant. This scene involves Kirsty with a background noise of a baby crying. It definitely made me feel uncomfortable, which was good, but I wanted to understand the significance of it and it never was explained. Along with that flaw was Kirsty's useless boyfriend which leaves me liking the rest of this movie a lot.

Clive Barker's first film is a classic that should not be passed up. The actors, special effects and music work together to create a tragic cohesive story that is a fresh look at the horror genre.

Points Earned --> 9:10

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