Well, here we are, the Hellraiser remake. A film that has been a long time coming. I remember hearing of an up-and-coming Hellraiser remake around 10 years ago. It has been a long, long wait from then until now and the big question is, was it worth it?
Just for context, I kind of have to do this review because, a few years b?ck, I did an entire Hellraiser retrospective for the original film’s 30th anniversary as a Halloween special. So, I’m back with the latest film in the long-running franchise and on Halloween too. I just can not get away from these films, can I? Still, this can kind of be a Halloween special for this year, even though I already have something more substantial coming soon.
So then, synopsis time. Hellraiser (2022) begins with Joey (Kit Clarke) opening the famed puzzle box. He is stabbed in the hand by the box and is taken by the Cenobites. Several years later and Riley (Odessa A’zion), is a young woman struggling with drug addiction. She comes across the puzzle box and opens it but does not get stabbed, and so avoids the wrath of the Cenobites who tell her to find another to pass the box onto. Matt (Brandon Flynn), Riley’s brother, thinks that Riley is relapsing and using drugs again as she tries to tell her story about being visited by the Cenobites. Matt ends up cutting himself on the box and so, the Cenobites take him instead. Riley is offered a deal, solve more configurations of the box and use her own friends as bait, in exchange for getting her brother back. There is a bit more going on, but I don’t want to get into spoilers here, that is just the general gist of the plot.
I have been thinking about how best to sum this film up. It took me a while, but I eventually got it. This is the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake all over again. A really great and interesting take on a horror icon (hey, I enjoyed Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy) but put in a film devoid of anything worthy of note. The main characters in this are instantly forgettable. I watched Hellraiser three times for this review. I watched it once just to watch it, again to take notes for this review and a third time to refresh my noodle as I sat down to write the review proper. Even then, even after watching this three times, I still had to look up the characters’ names on IMDb. Everything about the main characters is just so ‘cookie-cutter’,bland and taken from just about every horror film made in the last 20 years. I had the exact same problem with the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake too.
Just going back to the original flick for a second. Those characters were memorable. Uncle Frank, Julia (one of the best villainesses ever), Larry and of course, the awesome Kirsty. Even the delivery men hoofing the bed up the stairs. They’re memorable because they were well-written and acted. Here though, nothing. Just very bland, very forgettable characters. What you have are just some really annoying people who scream and run a lot, with IQs lower than your average TikTok user.
Still, as I already said, I did like Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy in the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and I can say the same about Jamie Clayton as ‘Pinhead’ in this. Just to make this clear, she’s (if the Cenobites have a gender and is a she) not actually called Pinhead in the film, the character is credited as being The Priest, even though everyone is just going to call her Pinhead, if she is meant to be female. Anyway, I liked Clayton in the role and thought that the performance was good enough. Filling Doug Bradley’s shoes is impossible and not even worth trying (see the last two Hellraiser sequels for proof). Still, this new version of Pinhead (that’s not Pinhead) was good enough and one of the few things I actually enjoyed about the film.
The other Cenobites are used well too. They are kind of underused well in the first half of the film, but they begin to take centre stage as the film progresses and builds to its finale. There’s some great effects work here and it does get rather bloody and gruesome at times. That is, if you can see what is going on. This film is just too damn dark and I don’t mean for atmosphere or aesthetic reasons either. There is just poor lighting throughout the film. The opening scene with two characters talking, no horror, no Cenobites, etc. Just two people talking, it was really hard to make out what was going on. The entire film is like this too, just dark for no reason. Did the director not know that films can use lighting setups? Even so, this never feels as visceral or raw as the original film. It is bloody, but it is subdued gore.
I did kind of enjoy how the lore of the puzzle box was done here. It is different to the original films and admittedly, it does do something interesting with the mythology. It is just a shame that it was used in a film with really shitty characters that I didn’t care for. I would even say that there is actually too much going in here. There’s about two or three films worth of plot squeezed into 120 minutes and as a result, this film drags a lot because it gets weighed down by exposition. Then there are times when a whole lot of nothing happens. This is a Hellraiser flick it doesn’t need to be 2 hours long an doesn’t need to be this heavy with exposition. I don’t really understand why this is even a remake. Outside of its use of the box and the Cenobites, it has nothing to do with the original film. To the point where it could’ve just been another low-quality sequel that the franchise became known for. Seriously, slip this somewhere in between Hellraiser: Hellworld and Hellraiser: Judgment and it wouldn’t feel out of place at all.
Look, I’m not saying that I expected a beat-for-beat recreation of the original. It is more a case of the fact that things are so vastly different here that it really does feel like one of the latter sequels over a remake (just wait for someone to tell me that it is not a remake and is a re-adaption of the novella). Good effects work, good make-up and they did the right thing by using the original Hellraiser music too. But the final product is a very bland and ‘meh’ experience. This film is okay, at best. Of course, it sequel-baits like crazy at the end (because a film can’t just be a film these days, it has to set up a franchise). But after this, I really don’t want another. Please stop making Hellraiser films for me to write about. At this point, my suffering is legendary, even in Hell.
At the end of my Hellraiser retrospective from last Halloween, I mentioned how a tenth film in the franchise – Hellraiser: Judgment had been completed but not yet released. Well now the flick has finally been released. But the big question is, what is worth the wait?
Well seeing as I covered every film in the franchise from start to end, I guess I have to sit thought this one as well, even if just for the sake of completion. What demons (aside from Americans not being able to spell ‘judgement’ correctly) does this film hold. Is it on par with the first two films, is it a worthy sequel…or am I about to return to the depths of hell that was Hellraiser: Revelations?
Well I can’t put this off any longer so here it is.
From writer/director/actor Gary J. Tunnicliffe comes the tenth film in the Hellraiser movie series. Tunnicliffe is a bit of a Hellraiser veteran as he started out as a make-up artist on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth through to Hellraiser: Hellworld – so he’s been a part of the franchise for many, many years. This flick marks his first time sitting in the director’s chair but not his first writing credit in the series as he wrote the previous film Hellraiser: Revelations. So with so such a deep pedigree within Hellraiser – he must know what he’s doing right?
Okay so its synopsis time. The film starts in Hell with Pinhead (Paul T Taylor) and The Auditor (Gary J. Tunnicliffe) discussing how they can update and evolve their soul harvesting methods. Technology on Earth has evolved over the last few decades or so and humans are no longer interested in solving the puzzle boxes that open gateways to Hell.
Meanwhile on Earth, two brothers Sean (Damon Carney) and David Carter (Randy Wayne) who are detectives are investigating a series of brutal murders based on the Ten Commandments by a killer known as “The Preceptor”. They are joined by Detective Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris) and they discover links to a known criminal, Karl Watkins (Jeff Fenter) who has gone missing. While they go searching Watkins’ last known location, Sean falls unconscious and wakes in Hell to be saved by the angel Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald). Sean escapes Hell but not before taking the infamous puzzle box with him. But the Cenobites are not going to let Sean escape quite so easily.
This film follows the same tradition of the last few Hellraiser sequels, that its one of those ‘straight to DVD’ pictures. So who this “The Preceptor”, the person going around killing people? Well its meant to be kept secret until an ‘unexpected’ reveal…but if you have an IQ over 4 than you’ll work it out pretty quickly – lets just say that Sean is depicted as being a detective with numerous problems…
Gary J. Tunnicliffe needs to stick to make-up effects – he’s amazing at those and this film does feature some truly stunning visuals as he was also the make-up effects designer for this one. There are some impressively disgusting moments that do feel very, very Hellraiser and I can not sing the praises of this film in that regard enough. But…he just can’t write or direct. The last flick, Hellraiser: Revelations was also written by Tunnicliffe and it is fucking terrible. The plot was bland and the characters were flat, just as they are here too. This is such a ‘meh’ film that I just can’t get either annoyed or excited about it.
I think the idea behind this one was to reboot the franchise and try to start anew, they even left it open for a sequel with one of those annoyingly popular posts credits scenes – but it fails on every level (aside from the effects work). I really enjoyed Paul T Taylor as the new Pinhead – he’s no Doug Bradley sure, but he’s certainly a hell of a lot better than Stephan Smith Collins from Hellraiser: Revelations. And that’s about it for anything good about this one. Its not the worst of the Hellraiser flick, not even close – but I can’t say its any good either. It’s Hellraiser: Hellworld quality, its a film that just exists when it doesn’t need to.
Pinhead: “Obsolete. Irrelevant in an age when desire has become amplified but where lust can be sated electronically. We need something more than just a wooden box.”
The franchise has two options from this point. Either just let it die (please no more sequels), its been on its last legs for decades now and needs to be put down. Or just let Clive Barker back in. He wanted to remake his original a few years back but the studio didn’t think that was a good idea – but green-lit all the terrible sequels since then?
This film was bad and I feel a little depressed after going through the whole franchise. But I do have one big reason to celebrate…I have no more Hellraiser films to watch and my Hellraiser retrospective is complete!
As part of my Halloween/Hellraiser 30th anniversary celebrations, as well as doing a retrospective of every film in the franchise – I’m also taking a look at the unreleased Hellraiser game that never saw the light of day.
Now there is very little known about this game (and trust me, I’ve looked), but other sites have covered it… yet I found some rather large inaccuracies with the story – which I’ll cover later. There are no in game images to show as the game was nowhere near finished when the plug was pulled. The closest thing I found was a supposed title screen…
Please excuse the poor quality, but this was the best I could find. This image is said to be the title screen for the game which was to be released on the NES in 1990 – I have no idea if it is genuine or not, but there it is anyway. And in case you are wondering, the featured image at the very top is just a fan-made/home-brew project, not from the game itself.
Anyway, I guess I’d better cover what the Hellraiser NES game was all about first?
It was going to be a rather ambitious game that used an updated version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine to put the player into a first person viewpoint. You play a character stuck inside the infamous puzzle box, where you could manipulate it from the inside as you tried to solve the box and escape. However, solving the box would not only free you but also the Cenobites inside it. So when outside of the box, you’d then have to solve it again to defeat the Cenobites trapping them back inside.
It was being developed by a company called Color Dreams – who became quite (in)famous for creating unlicensed Nintendo games on the NES. You see, for a game to be released on a Nintendo console, the developers/publishers had to pay Nintendo a fee so the game could be officially licensed by Nintendo. But some companies didn’t want to pay that fee, so they created unlicensed Nintendo games that bypassed the 10NES lockout chip (or CIC) and released games without Nintendo’s ‘approval’… naughty, naughty.
Supposedly, Dan Lawton (one of the founders of Color Dreams) was a big Hellraiser fan and paid around $50,000 for the Hellraiser game rights. It has been reported that Lawton found that the NES could not handle the improved Wolfenstein 3D engine for the game so he asked engineer, Ron Risley to create a new type of cartridge. This ‘super cartridge’ could hold more RAM than a standard NES cartridge as well as feature a faster Z80 processor and all sorts of other gubbins that pushed its cost much higher than that of a normal NES cartridge. It would’ve been too expensive to manufacture and purchase back in 1990 (estimated around $100 for one game!), coupled with the fact it wouldn’t have been licensed by Nintendo as many retailers refused to stock those games. This is probably why the game never saw the light of day.
Of course it also could be that the game was never being developed at all and all this is just unsubstantiated rumour… But there is a problem with that theory and that problem is that there was a Hellraiser game advertised in gaming magazines of the day. Publications such as Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro, and even the mighty Nintendo Power featured ads like this…
This ad boasts about the previously mentioned ‘super cartridge’ with “our advanced technology that pushed the NES further than ever before”. In fact, if you can make it out – it says something like “16-bit performance on the 8-bit Nintendo system”. It also mentions basic gameplay features such as “opening doorways to the dark-realm”, “solve puzzles of the Lament Configuration” and even the “Cenobites”.
This ad is a bit more ‘in your face’ and easier to read. “Over one million worlds”, “The largest game yet for Nintendo” and “Over one hundred demons to escape from”. Sounds impressive for a NES game – but also note the mention of the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) and the Atari Lynx too? There was even a number you could’ve called to pre-order the game.
So there was most definitely a Hellraiser game being developed for the NES – but I have serious doubts that it is the game that was mentioned earlier in this very article or the same one other sites have been reporting on. This is where you guys ask “why?”. Well, I said earlier that there are some rather large inaccuracies with the whole thing and here they are.
First, who the hell (no pun intended) would honestly think that the 8-bit NES could handle the Wolfenstein 3D engine in 1990? I don’t care how ‘super’ your cartridge is. I’m no game developer, but even I could tell you that the NES just didn’t have the processing power to do FPS/3D graphics like that in 1990. When Wolfenstein 3D was released, it changed gaming, it was revolutionary and all of that was down to the game engine and just how magically impressive it was. Seriously, go and read up on just how game changing the Wolfenstein 3D engine was for the time – that’s an interesting read in itself.
One of the most advanced NES games in 1990 was Super Mario Bros. 3 and it looked like this…
That was cutting edge for the NES in 1990 and Wolfenstein 3D looked like this…
Yeah, quite a visual difference. And remember, its claimed that the Hellraiser game was using an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine too, so it would’ve looked even better!
Then there is an even bigger problem with this story. The Hellraiser game was said to be released in 1990 using an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine… Wolfenstein 3D wasn’t released until 1992. So how could the 1990 Hellraiser game be using a game engine that simply did not yet exist, never mind a more advanced version of it? Something just does not add up here does it?
There’s got to be some confusion with this whole story. There was a Hellraiser game being developed by Color Dreams – the magazine ads prove as much, but there is no way it was one using the Wolfenstein 3D engine because it didn’t exist in 1990 when the game was said to be released. Unless developer Color Dreams had access to a time machine – its just not possible.
Now there are various Hellraiser NES roms that can be found on the interwebs and even YouTube videos claiming to be this unreleased NES game, but none of them are genuine and are most probably fan-made efforts and mods. That is because the Hellraiser game being developed by Color Dreams was not even close to being completed when it was dropped. You see, I found a more accurate quote from Dan Lawton about the game.
“The hardware was done, and the artwork was 20% done, there was no programming. It was a 45 degree down angle view, with a maze of stone and walls and pits”.
There was no programming for the game itself, just some artwork for the graphics (maybe that previous title screen?) and the hardware for the ‘super cartridge’… there was no actual Hellraiser game as there was no programming done. So all the roms you may find and the YouTube videos of the game are not genuine at all. Also note Lawton’s description of the game, particularly the viewpoint? “A 45 degree down angle view” or to put it more simply, an isometric view… which is something the NES could definitely handle.
If you were to do an interwebs search for ‘unreleased Hellraiser NES game’, you’ll find several articles and even YouTube videos reporting exactly what I stated above. That there was a NES Hellraiser game being developed by Color Dreams for a 1990 release that used an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine. So to finish up, where did this whole Wolfenstein 3D engine powered Hellraiser game for the NES in 1990 come from?
Well I think I can answer that too. You see, developer Color Dreams went through various name changes through the 90s. From being named Color Dreams, they then formed Bunch Games and in 1991, they changed their name to Wisdom Tree and under this name, they developed and published numerous religious/bible based games. They even hold the distinction of making the only unlicensed SNES game to ever be released. And it is this game where I think the rumour of a Wolfenstein 3D engine powered Hellraiser game started…
Super Noah’s Ark 3D – or Super 3D Noah’s Ark as many places erroneously call it was that unlicensed SNES game I mentioned before and for those not in the know, it was basically a Wolfenstein 3D rip-off given a biblical graphical makeover…
Just like Wolfenstein 3D, Super Noah’s Ark 3D was also a FPS game, they both had a similar ‘chapter’ level set up, they both have the same/similar HUD design just with different graphics. For all intents and purposes – they are the exact same game just with different graphics and story, they even feature some of the exact same map designs. Oh yeah, and they are both powered by an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine.
Rumour has it that id Software who developed Wolfenstein 3D were so annoyed at the censorship Nintendo forced on the SNES version of the game that they willingly gave Wisdom Tree the source code for Wolfenstein 3D for them to purposely make an unofficial/unlicensed clone to mock Nintendo. But then I’ve also found articles that state Wisdom Tree simply purchased the license to use the Wolfenstein 3D engine from id Software. I’ll let you chose which of those two you believe.
Anyway, I think what we have here is a case of crossed wires and unsubstantiated rumours. There was a Hellraiser game being developed for the NES in 1990 – but there is no way it was being built around the then non-existent Wolfenstein 3D engine. The Hellraiser game from 1990 was going to be an isometric puzzle game and not a 3D FPS. I also think the whole Hellraiser game using the Wolfenstein 3D engine came from some misinformation given out by a rather famous and popular internet reviewer, who – when they covered Super Noah’s Ark 3D stated that the game started out as a Hellraiser game, then things just escalated from there.
At least let me put it this way: I have only found slight information that the game was going to be an isometric puzzle game to be released in 1990. Yet I found nothing suggesting that a Hellraiser game using the Wolfenstein 3D engine was ever in development.
So there you have it, the unreleased/unfinished Hellraiser game. Hopefully, I’ve cleared the air a little over exactly what this game was going to be and what it never was.
Well its that time of year again. Get the jack-o’-lanterns carved, dress up as a recognisable horror icon… or just dress up as anything not connected to the celebrations at all, stock up on candy to give to annoying beggars… sorry I mean trick or treaters. And best of all, lock yourself away in front of the TV in a darkened room and watch some horror movies because… its Halloween season!
I wasn’t sure what to do this Halloween, I suppose a profile on Harvey Weinstein could have worked as that would’ve been scary enough. The twisted sick fucker.
After last year’s humongous, seven part An Incomplete History of Horror bonanza write up. I thought I’d dial things back a little this time around and instead of covering dozens and dozens and dozens of movies, over a century of horror films – this year, I’ll just do ten. Also seeing as its the 30th anniversary since the release of the original Hellraiser this year too – seems like a great time to do a Hellraiser retrospective.
Can you believe they’ve made ten of these things? I stopped watching after number three. But I have recently put myself through the extreme torture of the other films and watched all of them over the last week or so just to write this article for you lucky folks. I hope you appreciate the abuse I’ve had to endure. Jesus wept – being ripped apart by rusty hooks on chains would’ve been less painful. There will be mild spoilers ahead, but I will try to avoid any major plot points. Also – this is gonna be a long one.
There’s a lot to cover with ten films in total. So I’ll just be doing a brief synopsis of each flick dotted with a few other details and I’ll offer my own views/opinions on each of the films. Well let’s not waste anymore time, so…
From the twisted and yet strangely alluring and sedcutive mind of Clive Barker comes this tale of love, passion, betrayal and rat skinning. Hellraiser was written and directed by Barker, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart and released in 1987… happy 30th Hellraiser.
So the film starts with a guy called Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who purchases a mysterious puzzle box (A.K.A: The Lament Configuration) from an even more mysterious seller. Frank retreats to his family home and opens the box in an unused room on the top floor – the puzzle box is said to give the solver unknown pleasures… only these ‘pleasures’ turn out to be rusty hooks attached to chains which end up quite literally tearing Frank apart. So Frank is dead before the film really gets started.
Cut to sometime later and Frank’s brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into the house with his new wife – Julia (Clare Higgins). Its shown in flashbacks that Frank and Julia had themselves a cheeky little affair shortly before Larry and Julia were wed… there’s history there. As Larry is moving their belongings into the house, he cuts his hand and heads up to the same room where Frank was killed and also where Julia is reminiscing about her torrid affair with her husband’s brother. The blood drops from Larry’s wound kick-starts a series of events that leads to the re-birth of Frank and brings with it something much, much worse… Cenobites. These are creatures from hell or as the leader himself describes themselves: “Demons to some, angels to others.”
The slowly regenerating Frank recruits his ex-lover Julia to get him more blood so he can be fully free form his hellish torture and the Cenobites. But the leader of the Cenobites wants Frank back and he enters a bargain with Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) to take Frank back to hell at all costs.
This film was awesome back in 87 but 30 year later? Yeah, its still awesome. There is a weird ‘timeless’ feel to the picture that, at the same time, comes across as very fresh too. Yeah it has some of that ’80s cheese’, but its also reminiscent of some kind of haunted house film from the 1940s but made for today. Hellraiser was a bold and visceral flick that still packs a punch now and features one of the greatest practical effects I’ve seen in a horror film.
The re-birth of Frank is right up there with the likes of the werewolf transformation scene from An American Werewolf in London or THAT dog scene from Carpenter’s The Thing. Its grotesquely gorgeous to look at and brilliantly shot with wonderful music from Christopher Young paying in the background. The film never shies away from what it is… a bloody, brilliant mess. Yet it still has a great story under all of that blood and gore, an almost Edgar Allen Poe-esque twisted tale blended with a Shakespearean love story – topped off with sublime gothic overtones.
Barker’s direction is beautiful to behold, even at its most goriest. There’s a marvellous scene where Kirsty experiences a rather twisted and yet astonishing nightmare complete with terrifying ambient sound effects that I feel is mesmerising in its direction. The fact Barker chose to shoot in a real house over a set means he restricted himself in terms of camerawork – and yet that just adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere, as he had to use tight camera shots and subtle/slight camera moves to tell his story. This is an antiquated haunted house flick in the same vein as House On Haunted Hill (1959) or The Uninvited (1944) but with an 80s twist.
There are so many great and iconic images in this film from skinless Frank smoking to Julia’s transformation into blood-splattered murderess and of course – the main man himself… Lead Cenobite.
The Cenobites themselves are almost regal in their appearance and mannerisms, especially the main dude. Before the sequels, before he became a horror icon – Pinhead was credited as ‘Lead Cenobite’ and played by Doug Bradley- who would go on to play Pinhead in almost every Hellraiser flick from this point onward. He has some amazing lines in this film, speaking of which….
Lead Cenobite: “We’ll tear your soul apart!”
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
The sequel was given the green-light before the first film was even released and Hellbound: Hellraiser II hit theatres in 1988. Back were some of the cast and crew including Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and of course Doug Bradley. Clive Barker was gone as director, but he did write the story and serve as producer. Now in the director’s chair was Tony Randel.
Opening up with a flashback showing a glimpse of the origins of Pinhead himself – the film quickly jumps forward in time to and picks up directly where the last film left off. Kirsty has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital following the events of the previous flick. She tells anyone who will listen about the puzzle box, the Cenobites and dead uncle Frank coming back to life – but no one believes her… no one except Kyle MacRae (William Hope) the assistant of Dr Channard (Kenneth Cranham) who runs the hospital Kirsty is being kept in.
It is later revealed that Dr Channard is in fact a follower of the puzzle box himself and has the mattress that Julia died on (from the first film) brought to him. Dr Channard also has one of his more insane patients brought to him, hands the patient a razor – which he uses to cut himself spilling blood onto the mattress which brings back Julia from the Cenobites grasp.
With the help of another patient – Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), Kirsty sets out to stop Dr Channard and Julia which takes them into a Labyrinth of Hell overseen by its God called: Leviathan.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a wonderful film to look at, the set designs are stunning and the work put into the hellish labyrinth is marvellous and very atmospheric:
The story picks up right after the first flick and even comes equipped with its very own recap to get you up to speed. Overall, its a solid sequel… but it lacks that distinctive Clive Barker feel that it definitely would have had if he’d directed it. The story is a bit bland and the characters lack any real depth. Its a sequel that I feel it was rushed out and needed a little more time to be fully cooked and it comes across as a less coherent film than the first. Still there are some great moments in this picture such as seeing Dr Channard turned into a Cenobite… which looks painful.
We get a glimpse of who Pinhead was before he opened the box and it offers an interesting insight without spoiling too much (the sequels will do that). A good sequel and well worth checking out – but just not as great as the original.
Julia Cotton: “They’ve changed the rules of the fairy tale. I’m no longer just the wicked stepmother. Now I’m the evil queen.”
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
Well here we go, from this point on the films get bad… very, very bad. Doug Bradley returns as Pinhead and that’s about it. Everyone else is gone including Clive Barker (though according to rumour, he did return to do some ‘patchwork’ during post production). Released in 1992 and directed by Anthony Hickox, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is the exact point where this franchise became a franchise and the beating of the dead horse began.
Opening with a much more detailed backstory as to just who Pinhead was before opening the box. We are introduced Captain Elliot Spencer (Doug Bradley) who we see open the puzzle box and become Pinhead during World War I.
Jumping forward to present time (well, 1992), some nightclub owner called J. P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) buys a unique piece of art, it just so happens this piece contains the soul of Pinhead. After being bitten by a rat, J. P. spills his blood onto the art and this awakens Pinhead – but does not release him, he needs more blood to be fully free. J. P. agrees to help Pinhead by bringing him another victim.
Meanwhile, reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) gets visions of Captain Elliot Spencer who is trapped in some kind of limbo. So Joey and ghost Elliot team up to take down Pinhead.
I don’t like it – lets move on…
Of course I’m going to rip this one apart more so than Larry/Frank at the end of the first film. To be honest, this is not a terrible film – its just a terrible Hellraiser film. The wonderful, regal and enigmatic Pinhead from the first two flicks is gone and has been replaced with Freddy Krueger… pretty much. Pinhead is now this wise-cracking slasher villain spouting one liners and badly written ‘humour’. That glorious Clive Barker imaginative and creative world has been destroyed and replaced with 1990’s North Carolina. There are new Cenobites introduced and they are shit – such as that CD face one that shoots CDs at people… cos you know, 90s!
Police cars explode as do church windows, the police are unbelievably stupid… well all characters are to be honest and the plot is pathetic. The mystique of Pinhead is obliterated by the Captain Elliot Spencer backstory that we didn’t need or want. This is a far cry from the simplicity and effectiveness of the first film.
The studio wanted to make a more mainstream horror flick and they did exactly that. It panders to that 90s horror crowd, it cashes in and sells out by trying to make Pinhead the next Jason or Freddy and he loses all of his priestly persona due to this. In fact there is a scene where Pinhead wreaks havoc in a nightclub and the scene is very reminiscent of the pool-party scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. The film is just a bog-standard, typical 90s slasher film, I suppose its worth watching if you like that kind of thing – but its just not Hellraiser. Almost forgot, Ashley Laurence has a small cameo as Kirsty.
Pistonhead Cenobite: “Relax, baby. This is better than sex.”
This one is so bad that its directed by Alan Smithee and any self respecting film fan should know who he is…
Released in 1996 – this was the final film in the franchise to be released theatrically and also the last one that Clive Barker had any involvement in. What started out as an ambitious and interesting concept was ruined by studio interference.
Okay, so there are three different timelines going on in this flick. So we have a prequel set in the 19th century telling how the puzzle box was first created. Then there is a direct sequel set in the 90s that explains the Lament Configuration building seen at the end of the previous film, and finally – there is a future sequel in the 22nd century set on a space station.
Its 2127 when Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) uses a robot to try and solve the puzzle box on board a space station: The Minos, that he created. The film then flashes back to France, 1796 where we see Dr. Merchant’s ancestor, Phillip LeMarchand (Bruce Ramsay again) as a famed toy maker who creates the puzzle box under commission for the aristocrat Duc de L’Isle (Mickey Cottrell). LeMarchand is unaware of just what the box is for as L’Isle wishes to use it to sacrifice a peasant girl to please the demon Angelique (Valentina Vargas). LeMarchand is told his bloodline is now cursed for helping to create the box and open a portal to hell before being killed.
In 1996 John Merchant (Bruce Ramsay yet again), a decedent of Phillip LeMarchand, has built a skyscraper inspired by the puzzle box. The demon Angelique travels to America and releases Pinhead from the box. The two team up to cause pain and suffering to millions and kill John Merchant who is working on an anti-puzzle box, The Elysium Configuration. Back in 2127 and it seems that the opening of the box has freed Pinhead and his cohorts… in space!
This film could have been amazing. It held such promise with an idea thought up by Clive Barker that would been much more in-depth and thought out. However, the production company cut the budget, ordered director Kevin Yagher to film a new ending and alter certain scenes that changed characters and their motives (which is why he’s credited as Alan Smithee). 25 minutes were cut from the film for the sole reason to get to Pinhead quicker and it ended up becoming a hatchet job.
Its a damn shame too because this could have been a worthy Hellraiser sequel. There are some great moments in this one, the whole 1796 France portion telling the origins of the box are really well done and the Pinhead and Angelique relationship is fun to watch too. Yet one of the biggest problems of the film is Pinhead himself, there’s just too much of him as the production studio force him down your throat – Pinhead works best when used sparingly. Plus, save a few examples, a lot of his dialogue is just awful.
This one is very hit & miss, you can really tell that it suffers from studio interference and we can only wonder just how much better this film would have turned out if they just left Kevin Yagher to direct the film he and Clive Barker wanted to make.
Pinhead: “Hell is more ordered since your time, princess, and much less amusing.”
Well this is it folks, the start of the ‘straight to DVD’ era of Hellraiser. There is also another thing the films have in common from this point onward too – none of them were written as Hellraiser films at all. What we have now is a slew of unused film scripts nobody wanted to make – spec-scripts that the production company just threw Pinhead into.
The first Hellraiser film of the new millennium as this one was released in 2000 and directed by Scott Derrickson.
So this one follows a corrupt detective, Joseph Thorne (Craig Schaeffer) with a penchant for drugs and prostitutes. Joseph is called out to a murder scene which seems ritualistic in its execution. At the murder scene, he finds the infamous puzzle box which he solves and then starts to experience strange hallucinations and visions. Joseph eventually links the murder to someone (or thing) known as ‘The Engineer’. He investigates more murders, of which the victims are his friends and associates and he is soon considered the number one suspect.
Believing he is being driven mad, Joseph seeks out the help of a psychiatrist who is not all he seems to be.
If this was a straight up story about a psychologically troubled detective – it could have been a quite interesting psychological thriller. But the fact they shoehorned in Pinhead to make it a Hellraiser sequel is a major failing and as a Hellraiser sequel is how I have to look at it.
It has pretty much nothing to do with Hellraiser at all aside from a few tenuous links and references. There are a couple of interesting scenes – like the one above where Joseph is ‘caressed’ by two prostitute Cenobites and his decent into madness can be an entertaining journey at times. But as an overall film and Hellraiser sequel – its atrocious and insulting to the name. Pinhead is used VERY sparingly in this one, so much so that you can really tell he was just thrown in at the last minute. Remember when I said earlier that using Pinhead sparingly is a good thing? Well here he’s actually under-used in a blink and you’ll miss him appearance.
Tony Nenonen: “What’s an eight-letter word for ‘slaughterhouse’?”
Directed by Rick Bota and released in 2002. So this one has a nice surprise – Ashley Laurence is back as Kirsty. But is that enough to keep the most hardened Hellraiser fan happy?
Okay so this time around, Trevor Gooden (Dean Winters) survives a car crash that plunges into a river, but his wife Kirsty Cotton-Gooden (Ashley Laurence) is nowhere to be found when police divers recover the car. Is she dead and if so, where is her body? A month later and Trevor wakes up in hospital suffering a head injury that affects his memory and grasp on reality. He struggles to find out what happened to Kirsty as well as keep himself sane. Its not until Pinhead turns up and explains exactly what is going on that the truth comes out.
Much like the previous film, Hellraiser: Inferno, this one is a waste of a good idea. While I’d say this flick is ‘better’ than the last one – it suffers from a lot of the same problems. This too could have been a good, stand-alone psychological thriller and quite honestly didn’t need to be a Hellraiser sequel at all. Having Ashley Laurence back as Kirsty was a great and welcome idea too. But I feel she was misused here – knowing the ending to this picture and remembering her character from the first two flicks, it makes no sense.
I don’t want to spoil the ending here as its actually pretty good to be honest – even of it doesn’t make a lot of sense character-wise. Also the reunion of Kirsty and Pinhead should have been an epic meeting, yet it feels very flat and a wasted opportunity. The ending may be a decent one, but the journey getting there lacks punch and is rather tiresome.
Chief Surgeon: “You’re freaking me out. And I’m a coroner.”
And here we are at number seven (I can’t believe I’ve made it this far). Rick Bota returns as director, the film was released in 2005 and was a continuation of the ‘straight to DVD’ formula.
Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a reporter sent to Bucharest by her boss after witnessing a video tape that seems to show a ritualistic murder by a supposed cult known as ‘The Deaders’ (we have a title people!). Amy finds the puzzle box and takes it home to open it… which (of course) unleashes Pinhead… or does it?
Amy eventually tracks down Winter LeMarchand (Paul Rhys) the leaded of ‘The Deaders’ and a decedent of the creator of the puzzle box (remember Hellraiser Bloodline?). Winter believes it is his birthright to own the box and everything that entails, including becoming the leader of the Cenobites. The film then becomes a battle between ‘The Deaders’ and the Cenobites… guess who wins?
You know what? I’m willing to admit that the first 20 – 30 minutes or so of this one are actually pretty damn good. The scene were Amy finds the box is a particular highlight. You get a sense of not only that you are watching a good horror film, but that you are also watching a good Hellraiser film. Its moody, atmospheric and it all feels very Hellraiser-esque. Dare I say it? It even has a Clive Barkery style and tone. But sadly, the flick falls apart quite quickly after that.
Unfortunately, this was another one of those non-Hellraiser scripts that was sitting on the shelf doing nothing, so the producers decided to throw in Pinhead and sell it as a Hellraiser sequel… and it shows. And again, I can’t help but think that this could have been a better stand alone flick if it had done its own thing. The ending is very ‘meh’ and you can really tell that Doug Bradley was starting to get more than a little bit bored of being Pinhead as his performance feels very phoned in. A great start, but the latter part of the film is dull and almost unwatchable.
Pinhead: “Dreams are fleeting. Only nightmares last forever!”
Yes, Rick Bota is directing again for the third time and this one was released in 2005, same year as the last movie as they were shot back to back. So given the fact the last two films were directed by the same person and filmed together and the fact they were both released the same year – you’d think they would be connected plot-wise right? Nope!
So this one is about an online video game based on the Hellraiser franchise… seriously. It is set up that the movies exist in this films universe as fiction and the game within this movie, called Hellworld (we have another title folks), is spin-off/sequel to the fictional movies. So anyway, a teenager dies while playing the game and all his friends refuse to play the game ever again… until they are invited to a special Hellworld party held in a creepy old house.
This is when we are introduced to The Host (Lance Henriksen) who is – errrm… the host of this mass sex, drugs and shitty dance music party. As the party progresses, the teens end up being killed off one by one in unoriginal ways at the hands of The Host and Pinhead.
This is pretty much considered the worst of the franchise and people who say this have never seen the next film…
Yeah this one is fucking terrible, a complete mess of a picture. There are a couple of plot twists thrown in, but if you have an IQ over two – then you’ll see them coming within the first five minutes. Is Pinhead real or not… ahhhhh, who fucking cares at this point? The other films in the franchise, even the bad ones had some redeeming qualities about them – this one does not. Okay, so Lance Henriksen is a joy to watch (when isn’t he?) and that’s about it.
The plot is stupid, the characters are flat and instantly forgettable (I honestly do not remember any of their names), the acting is wooden and by now – its quite clear that Doug Bradley is only appearing in the film to pay the mortgage. You’ll be as bored watching the film as Doug was acting in it and this film marks his final time playing Pinhead. Oh yeah, Henry ‘Superman’ Cavill is in it too, so he has been in a film worse than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Its not scary, its not atmospheric, it not entertaining, its not Hellraiser.
The Host: “Like a bad horror movie, isn’t it?”
Holly fuck-balls, this is going to be a lot of fun to write up. Directed by Víctor García and released in 2011. This flick is a desperate attempt for the production company to hold onto the Hellraiser license… and it really shows too.
So this plot revolves around two teenagers (don’t remember their names, don’t give a shit either) who travel to Mexico, and they film themselves (lost footage film people) partying and so on. Yet the boys disappear. Their belongings are returned to their parents, including the footage they filmed.
Twelve months later, the families of the two missing teens gather for a dinner party. The contents of the footage the boys recorded is brought up and the film is shown in flashback via the found footage on exactly what happened to the teens when an unexpected visitor arrives.
Okay, so before I get into what I think of the film, I just want to share a couple of Tweets with you from the main-man himself – Clive Barker in relation to this movie when it was marketed as ‘from the mind of Clive Barker’…
Bearing in mind we are now nine films in and despite not having much to do with any of the sequels aside from some behind the scenes stuff and absolutely nothing to do with any of the films after Hellraiser: Bloodline, Clive Barker has never once spoken out about the quality of any of the sequels. This is the film that broke his silence.
I’m not sure where to start with this abomination of a movie. To be honest, I could write a stand alone article on just how terrible this one is and it would probably end up being longer than this entire (very long) retrospective. Hellraiser: Hellworld was bad, really, really bad – but this one is a whole new level of terrible. The acting feels like you are watching a day-time soap opera…and a bad one at that. The plot feels as if written by a sixteen year old with a mental age of a five year old. The dialogue makes your ears bleed and the film looks like it was shot on someone’s phone from the around 2009.
I’m going to try a little visual experiment here. So what you are about to see is a side by side comparison between the original Pinhead from the first film and the new Pinhead in this one… brace yourself…
Sorry, but I can’t help but giggle when I see that. The original Pinhead had a mystique about him, his mannerisms were amazing, he had a screen presence whenever he appeared (even in the bad sequels) and his voice was commanding as he spouted some of the greatest lines in any horror film.
The new Pinhead however… just look at him. I think they spent about $10 on the make-up. Stephan Smith Collins who plays Pinhead in this one is no Doug Bradley. His acting is wooden and he’s about as intimidating as an ant’s fart. He looks like someone who turned up to a horror convention in a home-made costume. You know, Doug may not have given a shit in the latter sequels when he played Pinhead… but he was never this terrible.
Right here I just want to explain how I complied this whole retrospective. Over the course of nine days, I watched the Hellraiser films from the original up to Hellraiser: Hellworld. Sometimes I watched more than one film in a day, sometimes I only watched one. I would take a day off now and again in-between to look at my notes and write this article. After day nine, it was time to watch this film… and that in itself took three days. I could not watch this film in one sitting and had to split it up into three separate sessions over three days. I sat through Hellraiser: Hellworld in one sitting no problem and that was atrocious. Also, this film is only seventy five minutes long and I had to split it up into three parts over three days – just let that sink in for a while…
I still giggle at that! You silly cosplayer.
So I need to move on as I think my rant against this film is going on longer than my love for the original. But I need to wrap up. Remember how I said the other sequels were made from spec-scripts and they just threw Pinhead on to make them Hellraiser films? Because of that, you can kind of excuse some of the shortcomings of the films. This one however was written from the start as a Hellraiser sequel and yet it somehow manages to have even less to do with the franchise than the others. You know, I found at least one thing worth watching of all the sequels in this franchise, whether that be a great scene, an interesting plot twist, an acting performance. There has always been something (no matter how small) that I’d say was worth watching the film for – not with Hellraiser: Revelations, this flick has nothing redeeming about it – NOTHING. Please do not waste you time with this one.
I thought I’d end up by sharing a couple of tit-bits I discovered in my research for this flick:
It’s budget was around $300, 000 (obviously only $300 of that was spent of the effects and make-up the rest on drugs for the writer and director) and took less than three weeks to film. Also, the film was only made so Dimension Films would not lose the Hellraiser license and who owns Dimension Films? The Weinstein Company as in Harvey Weinstein and only someone as sick and twisted as that fat-fuck could come up with a film this shit (yes, managed to bring everything full circle to my Harvey Weinstein jab at the start of this article).
Vagrant: “This will take you beyond the limits. Places you can’t even begin to imagine. Sensual pain.”
But its not over yet…
So there’s yet another Hellraiser film (that’s ten for those counting), but I can’t offer my opinion on this one as its not been released… yet. But I can tell you what is known of the film so far.
The film revolves around three detectives who team up to track down a serial killer. As they investigate, they discover the killer has otherworldly connections. (I’m calling it right now, one of the detectives is the killer and has links to the Cenobites) And that’s about all is known about the plot. The film will feature horror icon Heather Langenkamp playing a landlady. There’s a new actor playing Pinhead too…
Introducing Paul T Taylor as the new Pinhead… well he doesn’t look as bad as the last one.
But will the film ever be released? It was originally announced as being released on 28th of March this year, but that obviously never happened. Then it was suggested that the delay was because they are trying for a theatrical release – Pinhead himself even made the following Facebook comment.
Yet there has still not been any news on the film, not even a trailer. Its all gone very quiet on the Hellraiser: Judgment front. The film has been completed but nobody outside of the production has even seen a single frame of it. Are they really trying for a theatrical release – or is it just too bad to be seen by the public? Some people are being very optimistic about the flick, but I have my doubts and the biggest one is writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe. You may not recognise the name, but I do – he wrote the previous flick Hellraiser: Revelations and you know how I feel about that one.
Seeing as I’ve watched all the films up to this point, I guess I’ll have to watch this one too… if its ever released. It can’t be as bad as Hellraiser: Revelations can it?
So how do I feel about the franchise as a whole? I think its awful, one of the worst horror franchises ever made. Pinhead once said: “Your suffering will be legendary even in Hell!” And after watching the entire series over the course of almost two weeks – I now know what he meant. This franchise is the movie equivalent of Hell and the deeper you go, the worst it gets.
The first film is amazing, the second one is a damn good sequel… and then it all goes very, very wrong. A few minor highlights aside – the films from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth onward are just not worth it. You know, if they were clever, they could do a really good meta film – kind of like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. They could make out that the Hell that Pinhead and the Cenobites take people to is a non-stop, continual showing of the Hellraiser sequels with a double screening of Hellraiser: Revelations.
And just for a little bonus – a Hellraiser merchandise video promo that was found at the end of the original VHS release in 1988. Because, why not?
Its the decade of big hair and even bigger horror films. the 80s.
If the 70s was my favourite decade for horror films, then the 80s is a very, very close second. This was the era of the slasher film (and their numerous sequels), plus a few examples of modernising the classic movie monsters from the past. Some of my favourite horror movie directors cut their teeth in the 80s and it was also the decade of amateur, low budget masterpieces. The effects were bigger, better and bloodier and the films became more controversial as the boundaries of what was allowed to be seen on film were pushed to breaking point with many movies being outright banned here in the UK as the censors hit hard and the dawn of the ‘video nasty‘ was born.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980): Well, if I’m going to show how controversial the 80s horror movie was, I may as well go straight for the jugular. Directed by Ruggero Deodato and easily one of the most infamous and controversial horror films to ever be made. A team of four documentary makers go to a South American jungle to search for cannibals. They go missing, so an anthropologist and his team is sent to find them. The documentary team are never found, but their film reels are…
Where to start with this film, so much to cover? This is often regarded as the first of the ‘found footage’ sub-genre that became popular in the late 90s onward, as the movie’s plot is told through the film that the missing documentary team made. Onto the controversy; the director was arrested and charged with obscenity then all copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed… but why, its only a movie right? Well that is not what a magazine in France thought, they believed the film was real and that people were actually killed. This prompted charges against director; Ruggero Deodato to now include murder. It all even went to court as Ruggero Deodato had to prove his innocence by having the actors who supposedly died in the film appear in court as well as show behind the scenes photos of other actors that ‘died’ on screen still being alive as well as the effects work used. Eventually the charges against Deodato were dropped, but that was not the end. So no human was killed making this film, but something(s) were. There are actual animal killings shown in this movie, not special effects but real animals being killed. A coati is killed with a knife, a large turtle is decapitated and its limbs are then cut off before its shell and entrails are removed, a tarantula and boa constrictor are killed with a machete, a squirrel monkey is decapitated and a pig is shot in the head with a shotgun. All real and all on film. This lead to the film being heavily censored or outright banned in some countries and its still a sore issue today. There is a lot more to cover with this film, but I have plenty more pictures to talk about so need to move on. But do I recommend this one? Yes I do. There are various versions of this film to watch, there is an edited version that cuts out most of the violence and all of the animal killings. However, I have to be honest here and say its crap. If you really want to watch this movie, then you just have to watch the full, uncut version. Yes its hard to sit through and I’m an animal lover so detest the killing of animals for entertainment. But for the full impact of the film, the uncut one is the only version to watch.
Fade to Black (1980): A very low budget psychological horror movie written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman. Eric is frequently bullied and betrayed, he hides away from his torment in his love for horror movies and often fantasies about being one of the villains. Eventually he snaps and begins a killing spree against the very people that bullied and opposed him all while being influenced by some of his favourite horror icons.
Its a shame this picture is so low budget as its a great idea, but the lack of money really shows on screen.The plot is a little bare, some of the death scenes are just pathetic and the editing is terrible. But there is still a watchable movie here. Its great to see someone get made up and dressed in classic movie monster garb (Dracula, The Mummy, etc) and show that there is still room for the old guard in horror films. Dennis Christopher playing Eric is a joy to watch and Linda Kerridge as a Marilyn Monroe look-alike is great too. Plus be on the look out for a small appearance by Mickey Rourke. A good film, but tremendously flawed. Only worth a watch if you enjoy low budget schlock.
Friday the 13th (1980): Just like Halloween (1978), I think its law to include this in a horror movie list. Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. It summer at Camp Crystal Lake and a group of young camp counsellors are readying the camp for a busy season. But it seems that somebody isn’t happy about all the commotion as the camp counsellors are killed off one by one.
I think it can be said without much argument that Friday the 13th is one of the main trendsetters in terms of the ‘slasher’ sub-genre of horror film. After John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) set the standard, many, many followed and this film was one of the big hitters that went on to become a very successful franchise with about six hundred sequels (I may have over counted), spin-offs and even a remake. The franchise became so huge and popular that everyone knows the killer in Friday the 13th is Jason Voorhees… isn’t he? One of the all time classic horror films with exceptional make up/effects work by the grand-master himself, Tom Savini. The film also features an early role for Kevin Bacon.
The Shining (1980): I said in the previous part how The Exorcist (1973) is my all time favourite horror film, and it is, but this picture is a close second. Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring the legendary Jack Nicholson. Jack Torrance is a writer struggling to write his next book, he takes on a job offer as a caretaker at a remote hotel that closes down for the winter. Arriving with his wife and son, Danny. As Danny starts to witness strange hallucinations, Jack begins to experience cabin fever and slowly goes insane.
One of the very best examples of a tremendous psychological horror film. This movie was detested by Stephen King, so much so that he went on to publicly slam this picture and even make his own version as a three part TV mini-series in 1997. I love King’s novel and I also love Kubrick’s version just as much (I also enjoyed the TV mini-series… but not as much), they are two very different animals from two different geniuses. Jack Nicholson gives one of the best performances of his career, if not THE best and goes down in horror history as one of the all time great villains. There is a unnerving feeling of tension right from the opening credits of the film and it never lets up until the end credits roll. The hotel backdrop is both gorgeous and foreboding and Jack’s slow decent into madness is well done throughout the picture. It all builds up to a terrifying ending with a quizzical footnote involving a photo that still has people theorising and debating today. Beautifully shot, brilliantly adapted from the novel (despite what King says) and genuinely scary… “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” .
An American Werewolf in London (1982): “I see the bad moon arising.“, great song by CCR from an equally great film directed by John Landis. Two American backpackers go exploring the English countryside moors where they are attacked by a wolf-like creature. One of the two outright dies, while the other is mauled but lives and he slowly learns he has been given the werewolf curse.
Oh, how I love this film. A modern twist on the classic werewolf lore. The film is a great mix of genuine scares blended with a very dark sense of humour. The make up effects are just sublime, especially on the ever decaying Jack who haunts his werewolf friend David as he is trapped in limbo. The main werewolf transformation scene is still the greatest werewolf transformation ever filmed and make up artist, Rick Baker deservedly won and Oscar for his work in this movie. Another thing that needs mention are the terrifying nightmares David has as his curse starts to take over. Some absolutely amazing visuals and scary scenes. My favourite werewolf movie by far… and the soundtrack is awesome too as each of the main songs has the word ‘moon’ in the title. Almost forgot to mention the radio adaption form 1997 which is also worth checking out if you can find it.
Docteur Jekyll et les femmes (1981): This is a French film by director Walerian Borowczyk. A modernised take on the Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Set in the 19th century in London. A celebration for Dr Henry Jekyll and Fanny Osbourne’s engagement is being held at Dr. Jekyll’s home. Later that night, one of the female guests is brutally attacked, raped and murdered in her room and this starts a very bizarre and bloody series of events.
This film is a strange and often difficult watch (if you can find a fully uncut version), yet its beautifully shot and directed. The movie is very surreal and often feels almost dream like. There is quite a lot of sex and nudity in this one and often mixed with violence. The film feels very sleazy, but that sleaze just works. Not a film for everyone, but if you want a Dr Jekyll yarn that dares to be different and even shocking at times, then you may enjoy this picture.
The Evil Dead (1981): Directed by Sam Raimi and starring cult fan actor, Bruce Campbell. Five college friends shack up in a cabin in the woods. A recording is found in the cellar and played back which unleashes an evil force with the power to possess humans and turn them into demons.
I already did a quick overview of this film. I really enjoy low budget horror movies from first time directors and The Evil Dead is pretty much the pinnacle. The plot is bare basic, the acting is horrible and the effects work is cheap… but the film is still one of the best horror films made. This is the movie that got me interested in what happens behind the camera just as much as in front of it. I love reading/watching anything about The Evil Dead and think its amazing how this film was made by a few teenagers and how it has gone on the become a successful franchise recognised around the world. It a cheap, low budget effort. But its also a bloody, scary and effective picture with some of the best camerawork and direction seen at the time.
Possession (1981): A little known French/German horror film directed by Andrzej Żuławski and starring Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani. Mark returns home from a business trip away, he finds is wife, Anna is restless and withdrawn, Anna says she wants a divorce and she starts to act even more irrational and bizarre. Mark believes another man is involved but it seems Anna’s behaviour is related to something much more sinister.
How best to describe this movie? An extreme assault on the senses, that sounds about right. This picture is surreal and hyperactive, its beautiful and disturbing at the same time. The acting is OTT and eccentric, yet it all fits perfectly with the tone of the film. You’ll watch this film once and think to yourself ‘what the fuck did I just watch’ but then immediately want to watch it again and it is subsequent viewings that make this film so much more enjoyable. Isabelle Adjani won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981 and deservedly so too. Not an easy watch, but if you can make it through, you will be rewarded with a hard edged and brutal horror film that will stick with you forever.
Basket Case (1982): Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter. This is another one of those low budget, gore-fests that I enjoy so much. Duane is a strange young man who goes everywhere with a wicker basket which contains his surgically removed, deformed Siamese twin. The brothers set out to seek vengeance on the doctors who separated them.
Bizarre seems such a tame word to use as a descriptive of the one, but bizarre it is. This is a trashy film, its not high art, it has no political statement to make. Its just what it is meant to be. A low budget, low brow piece of rubbish… but its great and entertaining rubbish. Its a film about a deformed Siamese twin kept is a wicker basket that wants revenge, what are you expecting? Its silly, hokey and gory. A stupid film that entertains from start to finish.
Creepshow (1982): I love horror anthology pictures and this is one of the very best. Directed by George A. Romero, the film includes five tales (and a wrap around story); Father’s Day is about a cruel dead father who comes back to carry on his reign of terror. The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is a tale where a country bumpkin discovers a recently crashed meteorite but after he touches it, things slowly go very wrong. Something to Tide You Over has a man who finds out his wife has been having an affair, so he buries his wife and her lover alive up to their heads on a beach as the tide comes in, only they return for revenge. The Crate is a wonderful tale about a hard done by man who finds a way to rid himself rid his overbearing wife thanks to a mysterious crate. They’re Creeping Up on You is about a ruthless businessman suffering from mysophobia and locks himself away in his germ free apartment only to be invaded by his worst nightmare.
I could quite honesty go on about this picture for hours and hours… but I can’t here as there is so many other films to cover. What is there to like? Directed by George A. Romero, written by Stephen King and make up effects work by Tom Savini… you couldn’t get a better horror team than that in the 1980s. Each of the five stories are great and offer a varying amount of scares as well as macabre comedy. Inspired by the old horror EC comics of the 40s-50s and that inspiration shines through. This film’s tongue is firmly placed in its cheek and its a complete riot.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982): The second sequel to the John Carpenter classic that isn’t really a sequel. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, the film departs form the story of Micheal Myers and does its own thing. A mysterious toy maker releases a new line of Halloween masks for sale which seem to have some kind of a connection to a strange series of commercials on TV that are counting down to a big event… but what?
This film was despised at the time of release as it took a severe departure from the Halloween movie franchise (even though this was only the 3rd film). Fans hated it as did the critics, yet over the years, the movie has gained a strong a loyal following. I adore this film and always have done, I got tired of the whole Micheal Myers thing after the first film anyway, so this movie was a breath of fresh air. Originally, John Carpenter wanted this to be the start of a whole new anthology idea after he killed of Micheal Myers in the first sequel. His intention was to have a series of Halloween themed films each year all with a new story, yet they would all exist in one shared film universe. But as the fans at the time were too small minded and just wanted more Micheal Myers, more of the same tired old formula, the idea was dropped and Myers was brought back for several other terrible sequels instead. Still, this movie is a great horror picture full of scares and a few hard to watch scenes too. A massively overlooked film that deserves much more credit.
Poltergeist (1982): A true classic in every sense of the word. Directed by Tobe Hooper, written and produced by Steven Spielberg. The Freelings are a young and loving family who move into their new home. The youngest daughter, Carol Anne, develops a strange connection to the TV and things only get stranger from that point on.
One of the all time classics and a modern retelling of a golden age ghost story. The film is chock full of iconic and memorable imagery/scenes. That picture of the clown up there probably sparked off childhood memories you’d rather forget. What about the tree or the skeletons in the unfinished swimming pool, maybe the scene where the paranormal investigator goes to wash his face? The visual effects in this one still stand up today (for the most part) and are still some of my strongest memories of a horror film. As scary as it is tense and well made, Poltergeist has stood the test of time and can still offer plenty of chills today.
The Thing (1982): Another one form one of the all time greats, director John Carpenter. A loose remake of The Thing from Another World (1951) and based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. Starring Kurt Russell and featuring music by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Set in Antarctica and a US research station is suddenly brought to attention by a Norwegian helicopter trying to kill a dog. After the helicopter crashes, the members of the US research station take the dog in as a pet, which was perhaps not the wisest idea.
I must have been around 7/8 years old and watching this with my brothers and cousins at my Auntie Chris’ house one night. I have a very strong memory of watching THAT dog scene and if you have seen the film, then you know exactly which very specific dog scene I am talking about. I remember being both horrifically scared and yet unable to look away at the same time. I was terrified but amazed. It was that moment when I fell in love with horror films. Oh I had seen other horror films before this one, but nothing quite like The Thing. So I have John Carpenter and a dog to thank for my love of horror films. This film is amazing, the directing is spot on and the isolation you feel due to the setting is unnerving. Ennio Morricone’s score is almost minimal and fits perfectly. Then there is the small cast full of great performances of which the star, Kurt Russell is easily the best. Also of note is Rob Bottin who headed up the effects/make up department and created some of the most stunningly grotesque and yet beautiful effects work of the 80s. “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding!”
Psycho II (1983): The first sequel (there were others) to the Hitchcock classic Psycho (1960). Sitting in the director’s chair this time around is Richard Franklin and returning as Norman Bates is Anthony Perkins. After 22 years of being institutionalised following the events of the first film, Norman is released and goes back to his motel and it seems that mother is also back too.
I love the original film, it is one of my all time favourite films ever. Is this sequel as good? No, not at ‘as good’… but its still a damn good film regardless. There are some genius moments of directing here including blending the aftermath of perhaps the most famous scene of the original film into this sequel seamlessly. There are a few scenes that I’m not a fan of (like a bloody, overflowing toilet… been done countless times before) but then there are also scenes that are also excellent. The film leaves you guessing as to whether Norman is settling back into his old ways, or is somebody attempting to give him a few gentle pushes? Maybe Norman is innocent in all of this? Anthony Perkins is just as great playing the role here as he was in 1960, also returning from the original is Vera Miles and even Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance despite dying three years earlier. An overlooked film and one of the better horror sequels made, well worth checking out as a double feature with the original.
Gremlins (1984): Directed by Joe Dante and starring Zach Galligan & Phoebe Cates. Billy is given a Christmas gift, a small and unusual creature called a Mogwai. This Mogwai has a strict set of three rules that Billy must adhere to, but due to series of ‘accidents’ the rules are broken and the Gremlins are born.
How do you categorise this film? Its a family friendly, Christmas themed, horror, comedy, action, satire of monster movies… movie. There is a weird cocktail of so many genres and sub-genres it just shouldn’t work, but it does. Gremlins can be genuinely scary at times, but then a few seconds later and it’ll make you smile with its humour. The very dark and macabre tale Kate tells about how she learned there is no Santa Claus is both disturbing and humorous. The Gremlins themselves are malicious but engaging and thoroughly entertaining. And of course, yes Gizmo the Mogwai is ‘cute’. This is a fun romp for all the family to enjoy regardless of age.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): The film that made me a fan of writer/director Wes Craven. The birth of one of the all time great horror icons, Freddy Krueger and the start of the career of some unknown actor called Johnny Depp. A group of teenagers are being haunted by nightmares where a horribly scarred and burnt maniac with knives for fingernails called Freddy, who scares them so much they refuse to sleep. It soon becomes apparent that if this guy kills you in your dreams, then you die for real. But who is this Freddy and where did he come from, maybe the parents know more than they are willing to let on?
Does Freddy Krueger (or this film) really need any kind of an introduction? This is arguably Wes Craven’s masterpiece (for some anyway, there is another film he made later that for me is his masterpiece…). Rather like Friday the 13th (1980), this film is one of those trend setters that defined the slasher sub-genre of horror films and much like ‘Friday’, it too spawned many, many sequels, spin offs and a remake. Freddy has rightfully gone down as one of the all time great horror icons and has become cemented in many a subconscious of the horror fan. The film has some overtly bloody scenes, but also a film with just as many creepy/scary images and scenes that contain really well done frights. “One, two…”
The Terminator (1984): Its another one of those low budget films from a little known director and this time its James Cameron in the hot seat. Starring the then unknowns; Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton and some guy called, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the year 2029, a killer cyborg is sent back in time to 1984 to murder the mother of the leader of the resistance who leads the humans to defeat the self-aware Skynet super computer. If the mother is dead, then the leader can never be born. But the resistance themselves send back a lone soldier as a protector.
I know what some people are thinking as they read this. “The Terminator isn’t a horror film.”. Yeah, I’ve heard this before numerous times, even my girlfriend said the same thing as I was writing this when she peered over my shoulder. The Terminator is a horror film and please allow me to plead my case as not only will I put forward a convincing argument, I’ll also categorise what sub-genre of horror film it falls into. Okay, so we have a weak female who by the end becomes a stronger version of herself (Sarah), a virgin who has sex and dies shortly afterwards (Kyle), a killer that is in someway masked or in disguise (Terminator), POV shots from the killer, a chase type movie where the killer keeps perusing its intended victim(s) and there is even an ending where the killer is (supposedly) stopped just to come back at during the end for more. Does any of this sound familiar? These are slasher movie tropes as The Terminator is a slasher horror film. Just remove the sci-fi element for a while and think of the film on its purest terms. A movie about a stalking killer who systematically goes through a phone book and murders women named Sarah Conner. Change the killer form a cyborg to an everyday flesh and blood human, remove the time travel and sci-fi elements, change the title to ‘The Phone-book Killer’ and you have a bog standard 80s slasher film. The Terminator is anything but bog standard though and simple because it just threw in a few sci-fi elements. Watch something like Halloween (1978) and then watch this film directly afterwards and you’ll see so many of the tropes and clichés from the classic slasher film repeated in The Terminator. This flick is a horror film, and a damn good one too.
Dèmoni (1985): AKA, Demons is produced by Italian horror guru, Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava. A group of people are invited to attend a preview screening of a new film. One of the guests tries on a prop from the movie, a silver mask of a demon and this kick-starts a gruesome series of events that get worse and worse.
The plot is simple, the acting is sub-par and the music is typical, cheesy 80s rock. But the film is one of the most enjoyable demonic possession films made with buckets of blood thrown in too. Much like the decade it comes from, this film is a bit of a mess and a lot of things don’t make much sense… but it all just clicks and works. It almost gets a bit meta with the idea of a film about demons being shown in a film about demons, as life begins to imitate art. The dead bodies build up, both human and demon as the film progresses and what is left of the survivors escape the cinema and out onto the streets where they are saved, only for the viewer to be hit with a great stinger of an ending that still resonates with me today. Here’s an interesting tit-bit for you too, the guy in the mask handing out invites at the start of the movie is Michele Soavi. A protégé of Argento who would go on to become a horror movie director himself.
The Return of the Living Dead (1985): From writer/director Dan O’Bannon. A pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a gas into the air. The gas brings back to life a cadaver which the duo cut up and then enlist the help of a local mortician to burn and hopefully end their problems, only this triggers an even bigger problem.
“Braaaaaaaaiiins!” the zombies cry out in this film as they hunt for brains to eat. This was the first film to introduce the idea of a zombie that eats brains, something that has now become common place and referenced countless times. The idea of mixing comedy and horror is not a new one, it has been around since the 1930s, but very few films manage to get the balance right. ROLTD doesn’t just get it right, it nails the blend of comedy and horror perfectly. As gory and scary as it is funny, this film is a riot and wicked fun. The scene where a zombie torso is interrogated (above image) and it is revealed that zombies need to eat brains as being dead hurts and brains ease the pain is genius, as it gives a reason for the zombie attacks and you actually start to feel a little sympathy for them too. The make up is amazing with some of the most detailed and creative zombies ever seen on film, Tarman, need I say more?
Re-Animator (1985): Loosely based on the H. P. Lovecraft short story, Herbert West–Reanimator. Directed by Stuart Gordon and starring Jeffrey Combs. Herbert West is a scientist who creates a fluid which can bring dead tissue back to life. With the help of his medical student housemate Dan, Herbert West gains access to a morgue where he can continue he research into bringing the dead back to life.
Part Frankenstein, part zombie movie and all topped of with a deliciously dark flow of humour. Re-Animator is a gory masterpiece of horror cinema. Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West is wonderfully over the top and a joy to watch as his passion drives him to the brink of insanity, an interesting modern take on the ‘mad scientist’ of the 50s era. Also of note is the main antagonist of the movie, Dr. Carl Hill played by David Gale who ends up tangling with Herbert West and coming off worse for wear. There are some truly gore-tastic scenes in this one as well as some rather ‘WTF’ ones too that all build up to an unforgettable ending. Its also worth checking out the other films in this franchise; Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003).
Entrails of a Virgin (1986): An infamous Japanese horror classic directed by Kazuo Komizu. A group involved in making porn head out to a house in the mountains where they find a mud covered demon who brutally kills the males and rapes the females with its ‘impressive’ appendage.
Errrr, yeah. How do I cover this one? I really enjoy Japanese horror, alas not all of it is good. I find that it falls under three basic categories. 1) Damn good, 2) Damn terrible and 3) What the fuck did I just watch? Entrails of a Virgin definitely falls into category 3. There is no plot, just and excuse to show sex, nudity and gore. The sex is mostly censored/fogged out as there were some very strict rules when it came to showing sex on screen in Japan, yet strangely the gore is shown in all its glory. Never understood why something as natural and normal as sex was taboo but murder, blood and gore was perfectly fine. And the gore in this is taken to ridiculous levels. Is this a good film? No, its terrible. But it is a film that has become so infamous that I feel it deserves a mention here. Worth watching? Not really, but if you want to see some soft core censored porn alongside unbelievable gore… then this is the film for you.
The Fly (1986): A remake of the 1958 film that was based on the short story by George Langelaan. Directed by the wonderfully weird David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Seth Brundle is a brilliant scientist who has created two pods capable of teleportation. he uses himself as a guinea pig to test his invention, but just as he prepares to teleport himself, a fly enters the pod with him and the DNA of the fly becomes part of Seth.
This is how you do a horror remake well. The chemistry between Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis is amazing (well they did marry in 1987) and they play off each other perfectly. The make up effects as Seth slowly turns into ‘Brundlefly’ is astonishing and the slow transformation brings about some disturbing scenes. Goldblum gives a stunning performance as he manages to break through all the make up he has to endure and still make you feel something for the character. The ending is a bloody, grotesque conclusion and yet utterly heart breaking at the same time. Its a strange feeling how the film makes you feel for the monster by the time the credits roll. A simple story, but told so very well.
The Hitcher (1986): An overlooked masterpiece of thriller/horror directed by Robert Harmon and starring the mesmerising Rutger Hauer. A young man has a job transporting a car from one state to another. While driving along a quiet desert road, he spots a hitchhiker and offers him a ride. This hitcher is not quite what he seems and a game of ‘cat & mouse’ begins between the two.
Is this a horror film? Quite a few people I know don’t think so, but for me it most definitely is. This isn’t a picture about blood and gore, this is a movie that plays on tension and fear. Is a slow burner with a simple plot. Often massively overlooked and often forgotten about too. This film oozes atmosphere and tension, there are scenes in this movie that will stick with me forever. As every time I have a burger and fires, I always check the plate first. Rutger Hauer is simply astonishing in his role of ‘John Ryder’ (if that is his real name) and is perfect casting, Hauer is at his most ‘Rutger-ist” in this film. I could sit here and write about this film for hours, who is ‘John Ryder’, why is he doing all of this, etc? The film has a lot of subtlety and subtext that many people miss. An amazing flick the deserves a lot more credit… just avoid the terrible sequel and remake.
Hellraiser (1987): Clive Barker is the writer/director behind this gothic classic based on Barker’s own short story; The Hellbound Heart. Larry moves into his old family home along with his wife. They soon discover that Larry’s bother, Frank has been squatting in the house but has mysteriously disappeared. While moving in, Larry cuts himself by accident and this triggers a series of events that reveal what happened to Frank and his connection to a strange puzzle box.
What a movie, I love this film. Its a great throwback to the gothic horror films Hammer were making in their heyday, but mixed with the blood-soaked gore that became common place in the 80s. Its essentially a haunted house movie… but not. There is so much memorable imagery in this film its hard to know where to start. Well you have the poster-boy himself, Pinhead (though only known as ‘Main Cenobite’ in the movie), it strange how Pinhead became the face of Hellraiser despite the fact he actually only has a few minutes of screen-time, I think the puzzle box itself has more screen-time. There is a scene in this picture that is disgustingly disturbing and yet strangely alluring and beautiful to watch, I refer to the re-birth of Frank. A visual treat along with a compelling plot, interesting characters and of course, plenty of blood. A great movie well worth watching and if you don’t, “we’ll tear your soul apart!“.
The Monster Squad (1987): Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker, directed by Fred Dekker. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Gill Man, and The Mummy try to take over the world by taking possession of a scared amulet. But a group of young kids known as ‘The Monster Squad’ team up to take on the classic monsters.
The classic Universal movie monsters are back in this wonderful Goonies-eque style family friendly action/horror/comedy. Really not so much of a horror film (compared to other films I have listed) but more of a horror themed movie the whole family can enjoy. It just puts such a huge smile on my face to see the classic Universal monsters still being used and in such a fun way too, and that is the best way to describe this flick… fun. There are some great gags here along with plenty of (mild) scary scenes. If you have kids, then sit down with them and watch this one. While mainly aimed at a younger audience, there’s still plenty for the older horror fan to find here with jokes, references, etc that will keep you more than entertained. And remember, this is the film that taught us that “wolfman’s got nards.”
The Lost Boys (1987): From director Joel Schumacher comes this teenage take on the vampire lore. A mother and her two sons move to a small coast town in California. The youngest son, Sam meets the Frog brothers who claim the town is being taken over by vampires.
This film just proves how shit other teenage vampire moives really are… mentioning no Twilight, I mean names. A film of its age that is somehow ageless at the same time, the word ‘classic’ does not does this movie justice. There are some great scary scenes, but all through the picture there is a fun sense of humour. A particular highlight is Barnard Hughes who plays Grandpa who rounds of a great cast including; Dianne Wiest, Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and Kiefer Sutherland. The title comes form the Lost Boys of Neverland, from Peter Pan. The film is topped off with a beautiful and memorable soundtrack. Modern vampires done justice creating on the best vampire pictures ever made.
Shiryô no wana (1988): AKA; Evil Dead Trap is another Japanese horror film directed by Toshiharu Ikeda. A TV station host, Nami comes across a strange video tape. The tape appears to be a real snuff film and Nami along with her TV crew decide to investigate the location where the tape was filmed only to find themselves caught in a gory nightmare.
Yes more Japanese horror and this one is brutally, bloody, brilliant. The flick feels very Argento-esque in many ways, its not shy with the gore and its plot is as basic as it can get. Yet the whole package just works and doesn’t fail to entertain and horrify along the way. The death scenes are graphic, gory and gruesome (there is a particular ‘eye opening’ opening) as the victims are dispatched of in pretty creative ways. The film’s plot is pretty formulaic and ‘slasher’ like and you’ll be correctly second guessing where this film is going… until, the last act where things go a little ‘weird’ and even almost ‘Cronenbergian’ and accumulates into a brilliant conclusion.
Society (1989): Brian Yuzna is sitting in the director chair for this one. Teenager Bill Whitney feels as if he doesn’t quite fit in, even among his own family. He is given a disturbing tape that may prove incest within his family that involves a weird society. Bill then decides to try to uncover the mystery of this society that seem to be in control.
To say this film is weird is a massive understatement. Its beyond bizarre, its in a world of its own. It feels Cronenberg-esque, but even I don’t think he would go this far. The effects work is both disgusting and beautiful and with effects by a guy called; Screaming Mad George, what do you expect? I think the film is trying to make some kind of social comment on the soullessness of the upper classes but at the same time, the movie never takes itself seriously at all. There are some pretty disturbing and hard to watch scenes as the picture builds to a 20 minute climax dubbed ‘The Shunting’ that will stick in your subconscious and never leave.
Well that is the end of the 80s in my Incomplete History of Horror and what a strange and wonderful journey it has been. In part VI, I’ll take a look at the 90s as horror films try to be clever.
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