Hell Week: Clive Barker’s Hellraiser

Today’s post is about the Hellraiser series and unfortunately is NSFW – mostly because it’s damn near impossible to show work-safe images from the movies. Also S&M, torture, physical, mental, and sexual abuse…

….Man, you start listing all the disturbing things in this series and wonder what you’re doing with your time…


October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE! 

This week is Hell Week, where we’ll be focusing the Hellraiser series. Unfortunately these posts are NSFW – mostly because it’s damn near impossible to show work-safe images from the movies. Also LOTS OF gore, S&M, torture, physical, mental, and sexual abuse…

….Man… you start listing all the disturbing things in this series and wonder what you’re doing with your time…

ANYWAY! On to the review!

Here we go, folks!
Here we go, folks!

[DISCLAIMER: I recently watched the first 3 movies, and although I think I saw the “Hellraiser in Space” one, I don’t remember anything from it. I might watch the rest of the series over the month, we will see! Also, brace yourself for bad puns.]


Fun fact: Pinhead’s real name is ‘Hell Priest’ or ‘Priest,’ and Clive Barker never liked him being called Pinhead. The crew began calling him that during the makeup process and the name stuck (HA!)

Clive Barker wrote and directed the first Hellraiser movie, which is based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. You can’t get much closer to the source material when it comes to realizing an artist’s vision, and that is probably why the first movie is one of the most respected horror films of the genre. When Barker’s good, he’s REALLY good. His characters are fleshed-out (HA!) and believable: boring, staid Larry is trying to rekindle romance with his second wife, Julia, who had an affair years ago with Larry’s hot, globetrotting scumbag brother Frank, who we saw murdered in the film’s opening after he solved a mysterious puzzle box– as one does. Larry and Julia move into Larry’s old childhood home, a BEAUTIFUL old house that Frank has been hiding out in. Thrown into the mix is Kirsty, Larry’s daughter from his first marriage, who doesn’t get along with Julia and has a place of her own. This pic below accurately summarizes Julia’s excitement about moving into the house.

Not Pictured: Thrills. In fact Julia's face tells you how excited she is to be moving into her husband's childhood home
Not Pictured: Thrills.

But surprise! After Larry has an accident that spills blood on the floor, Frank is reborn in possibly the most intense, gross, and visceral rebirthing scene in the history of cinema. The day that CG graphics manage to reproduce anything that stomach-churning, we’ll know it has finally arrived. Practical effects ALWAYS win when it comes to slime, blood, pus, and anything else the body can produce.

Although Frank’s back, he’s missing a few key accessories, like fat and skin, so Julia decides to help him by bringing home dudes she meets in bars and killing them. Frank absorbs their lifeforce and grows less-juicy by the day. She does this because Frank makes her feel alive in ways Larry never did, which is code for ‘he gave her orgasms.’ Fun fact: When the film was being made the name was still undecided, as The Hellbound Heart sounded like a romance. An older woman working on the crew suggested ‘What a Woman Will Do for a Good Fuck,’ which is actually pretty apt.

Aren't you going to invite me into your house and body? I've got exciting, sexy places to be and none of them involve dinner parties
Aren’t you going to invite me into your house and body? I’ve got exciting, sexy places to be and none of them involve dinner parties with my dud of a brother.

There are hints during their interaction at the dinner party that Julia and Larry used to be happy, but considering she hooked up (HA!) with Frank before she even married Larry I wondered what brought them together in the first place. Larry’s just so earnest and eager-to-please… I picture Julia, early in the relationship, having that moment of ‘Well, he’s got a good job and he’s a nice guy, I guess he’s the best I could do.’ Maybe this is clearer in the novella, it’s been 20 years since I read it. Anyway, she meets Frank and is instantly fascinated.

Kirsty makes a deal with the cenobites and manages to save herself and send Frank and Julia to hell, but unfortunately can’t save her father. I’ve always appreciated Barker’s embrace of the theme that people make the best monsters; sure, Pinhead will peel your skin off and nail your eyeballs to his big revolving flesh cabinet, but you EARNED it. Frank and Julia murder Larry for no reason other than they are assholes. The Hellraiser universe (or at least the first film) understands and embraces S&M better than the 50 Shades of Gray films, and I would expand on that idea in another blog post if I weren’t so lazy. Also, I’ve never read 50 Shades of Gray. 

They can come in my house, but they're not sitting on my couch. Not without towels.
They can come in my house, but they’re not sitting on my couch. Not without towels.

Last Thoughts: Normally I can see actor’s faces under anything, or recognize them by their eyes and voices. Doug Bradley is the ONE exception to this. I have never been able to recognize him under the Pinhead makeup. Bravo on both makeup and acting! Fun fact: during the movie’s wrap party, Doug Bradley wondered why no one was talking to him, since he thought he got on well with the crew. Turns out they didn’t recognize him without the makeup.

I STILL don't see it! No idea why!
I STILL don’t see it! No idea why!

So that’s Hellraiser! Thanks for reading, and join us again on Wednesday when we discuss Hellbound: Hellraiser 2!

Author: jennnanigans

Orlando-area writerly person.

7 thoughts on “Hell Week: Clive Barker’s Hellraiser”

  1. Fun fact, Doug Bradley was an aspiring comedian who wanted to do comedies and took the roll pin head because he wanted to work and figured it would be a low budget deal that would be forgotten so he could move on to the yuk yuks. I’ve heard interviews with him where the poor guy just wants to tell jokes and he keeps getting hit with questions about torture, gore, etc. He has accepted his role in life as a terrifying cenobyte, but I think there’s a small part of him that longs to be cast as the quirky neighbor with a sense of humor.

    1. Interesting! I would love to see him in something else. Maybe someone in the new crop of horror filmmakers nowadays will hear about that and cast him as ‘The Dad’ or something.
      Also – Adam Scott, Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec, is in Hellraiser 4. I almost fell out of my chair!

      1. Oh, my god! There are nine, count ’em NINE, Hellraiser movies on Netflix!!

  2. RIGHT? Apparently IV (Pinhead in Space) was the last released in theaters. It’s… it’s not great. I’ve seen worse, and it had a really interesting premise. Give it a whirl if you’re bored! 😀

  3. I saw the first three in theaters, I missed Pinhead in space, though. Is there a Hellraiser in the 18th century? If not, why…?

    1. Pinhead in Space (aka Hellraiser: Bloodline) takes place NOT JUST in space, but also in 18th century France AND the modern era. They were tripling-down! Adam Scott plays an 18th century libertine.

      1. I KNEW there was something like that!! My recollection of these movies is vague at best. I may start with Pinhead in space…

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