Monday, December 26, 2011

Hellraiser



I present to you my fairy shelf.  (If you're wondering what this has to do with Hellraiser, be patient!)  It's a slight misnomer, as those of you with keen eyes can see there's a couple exceptions up there.  I'm going to focus on just one of them right now.

Back in high school and college, I spent a lot of time wandering around the mall, spending a lot of time in the movie, CD, and wacky gift stores.  One in particular frequently had a column that was nothing but action figures, and I used to spend a lot of time gazing at it.  I'm still upset I didn't pick up the Mad Hatter from American McGee's Alice when I had the chance.  One I did pick up, however, was this gorgeous lady:


I knew she was a Clive Barker design, so after a bit of research I discovered she's part of the Tortured Souls II series.  Her name is Camille Noire, though I've long since called her my Twisted Fairy, even though that buzzsaw through the head (which spins!) is clearly supposed to be a halo.  I saw her back then, and I couldn't look away, and after a few times I finally bought her and brought her home.  She's been superglued to her stand as those wobbly legs don't allow her to stand up properly on her own.

So I've been fascinated by Clive Barker's work for a long time now, but up until this point never watched any of his films.  Hellraiser is now available for instant viewing on Netflix, so it was time to give it a shot.

Wow.  I really liked this film.  It's certainly not for everyone, as the gore is extreme and the monsters are incredibly freaky.  I'm not bothered by the fact that I stayed away from this film for a long time, because I don't think I was ready for it until now.  Hatchet is a gore fest but it's also clearly a comedy (at least in my mind) where as this is largely there to frighten you.  Of course, it's also a fairy tale. 

That probably sounds strange to anyone who doesn't know much about the film, as I think popular culture has mostly absorbed Pinhead (who is the least scary cenobite, in my opinion) and the fact that this movie is full of gore.  But the fact is that this movie is as much a natural follow up to Labyrinth and Legend as it is to Evil Dead and Nightmare on Elm Street in terms of the progression of 80s films.   Kirsty feels like a meld between Sarah and Nancy to me: two strong characters who did what they had to do to escape a frightening world and save the day.  The fact that Kirsty literally has a wicked stepmother makes it all the more obvious.  I really liked her as a character.  We don't get to learn too much about her, but she balances the proper amount of being scared but also doing what she has to do to survive.

I don't think I could possibly gush enough on how incredible the special effects are in this film.  As Frank reforms, you find yourself simultaneously disgusted and amazed as you see every part of him slowly knit itself back together.  Even if you don't like gore, you really owe it to yourself to at least check out this scene.  It's an amazing accomplishment in film.  Frank is really quite scary in his first resurrected form, the way he moves and the sunken rotted nature of his skin.  He becomes a little less scary the more he heals, however around that time is when the cenobites start to show up.  The chattering cenobite was perhaps the scariest to me, though the creature with the piranha like mouth and pointed tail came a close second.

Many people told me that they felt like the gore in this movie is justified, and I'm inclined to agree.  This doesn't mean everyone can sit through it and be okay with it, it just means that it never feels like glorification.  It's brutal and it lingers,  but always to horrify you and make you uncomfortable.

While I may check out some of the other sequels, I think more than anything this has made me far more interested in seeing and reading more of Clive Barker's work.  That kind of dark fantasy really appeals to me.

3 comments:

  1. I've found this movie more and more fascinating throughout the years. You're right to say it's a fairy tale kind of film, because that's what Barker brings to the table in a lot of his movies.

    The Hellraiser sequels are a really bad bunch of films, The second film is watchable and expands upon the first's ideas, but it's also bat-stuff crazy and doesn't use logic. Inferno - which I think is the 5th movie - is pretty good too, but it's mostly just inspired by Barker's work.

    For more Barker flicks, I'd say your best bets are Nightbreed, which has a lot of flaws but has amazing monster design and a fun story, and Lord of Illusions, which is a little tamer and stars Scott Bakula but is kinda fun anyway.

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  2. Oh, I also wanted to comment on Pinhead. I think you're right in that his image is least frightening of the bunch, but some of the lines that are purely Barker magic are what makes him chilling to me. The way Bradley delivers 'We have such sights to show you!' still haunts me (with an assist from the awesome bell-infused musical score).

    Good stuff ma'am!

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  3. Thanks for the recommendations! I see Lord of Illusions is on Netflix too, so I can watch that one fairly soon. I've been a fan of Scott Bakula since Quantum Leap.

    Pinhead does have some good lines, but I was frequently distracted by everything else on the screen at the time. :) And you're right, that score is awesome!

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