Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)

Film: I may be a little old and set in my ways, but I am willing to listen to alternate opinions and think about stuff that I may not agree with, and can sometimes even be swayed. There is a caveat though: one thing I have to assure you about is I will never EVER be convinced that the 80s WASN’T The best time for horror!

Because it was.

100%.

Truly the 80s were one of the generations of horror when legends were built, not just in film, but also in literature. Clive Barker is certainly one of those legends. Not just with his selection of six volumes of horror short stories The Books of Blood, but also with his debut directorial effort (also based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, first published in volume 3 of the Dark Visions anthology series of books) Hellraiser, described by the reviewer for Melody Maker magazine as the greatest British horror film ever made.

Hellraiser tells of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) who are moving into his abandoned parents house after his mother’s passing. They find that his brother Frank (Sean Chapman) a ne’er-do-well who is also Julia’s adulterous partner, unbeknownst to Larry, has been staying there but now appears to be missing… and seemingly in a hurry…

What they don’t realise is that Frank was the recipient of a mystical puzzle box called The Lament Configuration, which opens a door to Hell and drags you in. When Larry cuts his hand whilst moving in, his blood dripping onto the floor allows Frank (now a skinless monster, played by Oliver Smith) a door to escape from Hell, but he requires more blood to regain his full human appearance, and Clare is more than happy to spend her days luring men back to the house for him to consume from his hideout in the house’s attic.

He does eventually reveal himself to Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence) who escapes his clutches and steals the puzzle box, accidentally activating it and releasing Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and fellow Cenobites, creatures who collect the souls of people, offering them an opportunity to feel the ultimate ecstasy. Instead of taking her though, Kirsty offers them Frank, whom they don’t believe managed to escape Hell… so it’s up to Kirsty to prove to them who he is.

I still remember seeing the trailer for this at a Village cinema in Sydney, and even that creeping me out, so when it finally arrived I couldn’t wait to see it, and I was thrilled by what I saw. For me, horror before this has been either monsters or slashers, and this film certainly opened my eyes to a different form of horror, and how in the right hands, a low-budget film could be just as, if not more thrilling than the biggest of blockbusters.

This film has quality thrills, great acting and a solid storyline that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Of all the big guns of 80s horror, Hellraiser is certainly one of the biggest, and shouldn’t be missed. The sequels, of course, get lesser as they go on and honestly, if you must watch any of the 9-odd films, you should watch the first three, and then stop.

Score: *****

Format: The quality of the feature seems to be only slightly above that of a DVD release, but it’s 1.77:1 image and Dolby HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1 sound do the job.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Whilst Umbrella used to be the legends of extras, they seem to care less about it now.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a classic and deserves to be rewatched regularly. Mind you it also deserves a more complete package of extras so THIS release might not be the one to get!

Rawhead Rex (1986)

One from the to watch pile…

Rawhead Rex (1986)

Film: I don’t wish to sound pretentious or elitist, but if you are a horror fan who has never heard of Clive Barker, you should perhaps stop, re-assess and use a different term other than ‘horror fan’ to describe yourself.

Seriously. It’s like saying you don’t know who Stephen King or Richard Laymon are… ok, I’ll forgive it if you don’t know who Laymon is (he is the writer of several books that would be a FAR better source of new horror films rather than remakes and sequels: The Beasthouse trilogy would be an amazing franchise).

My first exposure to Barker though, was with the first Hellraiser film, and I became an avid reader of his works though that fandom did wind down the less horror and more fantasy entered his novels. So of course I watched the Hellraiser films and his other works but somehow, Rawhead Rex completely bypassed me. I knew it existed, as Fangoria back in the day had an epic front cover from the film, but I never had the opportunity to see it, and never actively sought it out either.

Thankfully though, Arrow films have presented us with an apparently uncut version of the film! Packed full, typically from Arrow, of supplemental features!

Rawhead Rex tells of a small Irish town that has a horrible secret, and when a farmer moves an obelisk from his property, it gets released back upon the town! It is the ancient beast Rawhead Rex (Heinrich Von Schellendorf), a pagan thing that wants nothing but carnage and to kill!

American historian Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes), his wife Elaine (Kelly Piper) and their two children (Hugh O’Conner and Cora Venus Lunney) happen to be in the town taking in the sights when Rawhead is released, and get caught up in the hullabaloo that follows, especially when one of them is taken by the beast…

It is common knowledge that Clive Barker wasn’t a fan of this film (apparently a myth according to the director, George Pavlou on one of the extras), which caused him to take more of a role in the making of Hellraiser, based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart, and there is plenty not to like about it.

The costume of the creature is a pretty solid, big monster costume… for a Corman film from the 60s. It appears to be quite firm and fake, and the performers mouth can be quite obviously seen within the creatures own mouth on several close-ups. For a creature with such an impressive head design, the articulation is quite minimal. The noise that emanates from the creature is quite daft too.

Interesting, for a film which contains two kids, the children are not the source of unpleasant characterisation:Kelly Piper’s portrayal of Elaine makes her come across as the most bitchiest of bitches and you honestly pray that she’ll be taken next. Imagine Christine Baranski’s portrayal of Leonard’s mother in Big Bang Theory being played as a ‘real’ serious character in a horror film that is taking itself quite seriously.

The worst thing is the sloppy screenplay. Within the confines of the scene of the first murder, it is quite obvious why one of the potential victims isn’t taken (which obviously gives a massive hint as to how to kill the monster), and it is projected quite hamfistedly. Some of the dialogue has a set-up with no pay-off. Now seeing how Barker himself wrote the screenplay, I assume the direction is at fault, or their was a little bit of freestyling amongst the actors.

For the most part the film LOOKS quite solid, but tends to fall apart a bit under even the slightest scrutiny. It’s identity suffers because it looks like it was trying to be a bit gothic like a Hammer Film, but it’s a little too bloody to successfully do it.

Score: **

Format: Rawhead Rex was reviewed on the Arrow UK release Bluray which runs for approximately 89 minutes and is presented in a fairly clean 1.85:1 image with a decent 2.0 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: It’s an Arrow Bluray, so sure enough that means heaps of extras!

Call Me Rawhead is an interview with actor Heinrich von Bünau, and by actor, he’s been in this interview and Rawhead Rex. It’s a pretty long interview for someone who keeps claiming to have forgotten so much.

What the Devil Hath Wrought is an interview with Roman Wilmot, who is charming and has some amusing anecdotes.

Rawhead FX: A Cock and Bull Story sees Peter MacKenzie Litten, John Schroonraad, Gerry Johnson, Sean Corcoran and Rosie Blackmore talk about the effects of the film.

Growing Pains; the Children Of Rawhead is a brand new Interview with Hugh O’Conor and Cora Lundy who played the kids in the film.

Rawk ‘n’ Roll is an Interview with score composer Colin Towns, and what an intimidating score it is too!

Rawhead Rising is an interview with comics legend from Death Rattle, Taboo and The Saga Of The Swamp Thing, Steven R. Bissette talk about Barker’s work, and The never published Rawhead Rex comic.

Audio Interview with George Pavlou is, as the name suggests, an newly recorded audio interview with George Pavlou, played over a series of stills from the film, behind the scenes pics and merchandise from the film.

The is an image gallery which features monster design sketch art and behind the scenes pictures, played as a slideshow with the score playing over the top.

The is the original trailer.

There are two commentaries on the disc, one with George Pavlou, moderated by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower, and with with podcast favourites The Hysteria Continues.

The disc itself has a pretty cool reversible cover, one drawn by lowbrow artist Wes Benscoter and the other ordinal artwork, and a booklet featuring an essay about the film by Kat Ellinger.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’m glad I’ve seen it as it fills a hole in my watch-history, but I won’t see it again.