Hellraiser

Hellraiser_poster

Directed by Clive Barker

This was not my first foray into the Hellraiser universe and I did not approach this film as fairly as I may have say, every other film in this thread. This is because I have seen Hellraiser III, Hellraiser: Bloodline, and Hellraiser: Revelations. These entries ranged from boring, to silly, to nonsensical, to outright awful some of them being all of the above at the same time. Why would I watch these so out of order? Why, the glorious fun of picking out a bad horror movie and mocking it with your closest friends and how Netflix used to not contain the first two entries of this franchise, but times have changed!

So yes, I watched this with a friend that was ready (and on occasion did) to mock this film. However, we ended up not saying too much, or at least nothing overtly memorable.

I will start off with the positives of this film. It has a plot. As backhanded as that may seem of a compliment, it was something that first took me off guard. No other film in this franchise seems to have one so when this one started, even though almost all the reasons for every even it “Because evil magic, damn it!” things actually happen. There is build up, there are characters, and there is pacing. Every event seems to lead to another mostly smoothly, so good job at not being a mess in that regard.

Along with that, I admired the production design. There is a reason Pinhead is a horror icon and it has nothing to do with personality or depth. He just looks damn cool, though I’m partial to the eyeless teeth chattering cenobyte, if I’m being honest. The fat glasses cenobyte remains a glaring omission of creativity and is simply silly and stupid looking but hey, I said I’d stick with positives for now so give me some goddamn time.

There are actually themes that are followed throughout the film. The film supposes that the line between pleasure and pain is perhaps nonexistent for others and both inexorably linked to what it is to be human or inhuman. I don’t know if I particularly agree or find it interesting but it does seem to be trying to say something beyond “Sexy teens must die!”

Now the bad: It’s a formal nightmare. The cinematography is beyond awful. It would look bad for a made for TV film and Barker’s inexperience in this medium is obvious. Many of the gore effects are often ridiculous and silly looking, appearing shameful when compared to the great horror films of the 80’s like the Thing. This is likely due to budgetary reasons but the skin looks like silly puddy and… Wait a second I’ve lost my train of thought because one thing keeps pounding in my head…

Who the hell thinks chains and fish hooks are scary? Did Barker have a bad fishing accident? Perhaps while sitting on a swing set? Every entry in this series has practically one conclusion to every problem: Chains and hooks. It’s repetitive and never even once frightening. While this entry does it the least, I’m already soured on the notion and when it does do it, it isn’t accomplished with any surer of a cinematic hand. In fact, it’s representative of a far more problematic issue I’ve noticed in this film and it’s subsequent entries; it tries very, very hard to be shocking. When watching this, I can’t shake the feeling that this series is cut from the same cloth as the eventual Saw and Hostel franchises.

Oh and the acting was bad. Crazy mom was not pretty. Why only show me her breasts if you’re going to attempt to be titillating and force me to draw comparisons as a viewer by the violence and the sex? It muddles your message, at least for me. I didn’t precisely derive any pleasure from anything shown in the film, I just found it to be at least original among it’s peers at the time and think that counts for something.

So, I was mostly entertained. It’s sloppy, muddled, poorly crafted, but has some interesting ideas. I particularly liked how Pinhead was relegated to a few scenes and wasn’t the focal point of this entry. It made me wonder how the franchise turned into nothing but chains, hooks, and Pinhead… Which brings me to my next review…

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