Facts and Figures
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th September 1987
Box Office Worldwide: $14.6M
Budget: $1000 thousand
Distributed by: New World Video
Production compaines: Cinemarque Entertainment BV, Film Futures, Rivdel Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Today, the plotline has been largely forgotten as side characters -- essentially, demons from Hell called Cenobites -- are the what have settled in people's minds and which have become increasingly the basis for the following films. But the original Hellraiser really isn't about Pinhead and his ilk. In fact, it's almost a love story.
The gist involves a guy named Larry (Andrew Robinson), his second wife Julia (Clare Higgins), and Larry's brother Frank (Sean Chapman), who's gone missing after some freaky escapades in Larry's long-abandoned house. Larry doesn't know Julia had been having an affair with Frank, nor does he know that Frank found a puzzle box (the iconic emblem of Hellraiser) which basically sucked him into Hell. Nor could he know that dripping blood on the floor of a room in that house will cause Frank to start being reincorporated into flesh, from the inside out. This leads Julia, and later Frank himself, on a killing spree of grotesque proportions.
Wrapped up in all of this is Larry's fragile daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence, who became a series regular). When she opens the puzzle box herself, she's sucked into the world of the Cenobites, with clearly detrimental mental effects. Somehow it'll all get resolved in the end... but the puzzle box will survive to torment another.
Shot on the cheap, the only special effects that work are the mechanical box and the Cenobite makeup, both impressive for the era and far outclassing the cheapo gore and "electrical" effects that look like director Clive Barker simply drew on the negative with a marker.
But those Cenobites are creepy, and Laurence is such an effective scream queen that the movie endures. It's long been a Halloween dream of mine to go out in a Pinhead getup, but I have no idea how I'd pull something like that off. Plus, my wife and kids would never sleep again.
Now available on a 20th Anniversary Edition DVD, the movie includes new interviews with much of the cast and crew, a commentayr track with Barker and Laurence, and a storyboard gallery, among other extras.