Hellraiser (1987 franchise)

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The Cenobites' labyrinthine monastery of pleasure and pain, from Hellraiser II: Hellbound...

Summary

In the backstory of the first film, an obsessed seeker of forbidden lore obtains a tome-like puzzle-box from a mysterious dealer, unlocks its secrets through an excess of unnatural study, and uses it to open a gate into a mysterious netherworld from which he summons monstrous Old Ones (explorers and seekers of cosmic horror, devils to some and angels to others) who are indifferent to human ideas of good and evil, and wish to pursue their own otherworldly agenda; the cultist goes mad from the revelation and suffers hideous body horror for his trouble; afterward, his family begins piecing togethecr the clues to what happened to him, and find themselves facing the horrors he left behind....

Hellraiser is a British horror franchise that consists of nine films, a series of comic books, and additional merchandise and media. The franchise is based on the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, who would go on to write and direct the adaptation of his story, titled Hellraiser. The films, as well as the comic book series, continually feature the Cenobite popularly known as "Pinhead". The series' storyline focuses on a puzzle box that opens a gateway to the Hell-like realm of the Cenobites, an order of formerly human monsters who harvest human souls to torture in sadomasochistic experiments. Although Clive Barker wrote the original story, as well as wrote and directed the first film, he has not written or directed any of the succeeding sequels.

Details

  • Release Date: 1987-present
  • Country/Language: UK, English
  • Genres/Technical: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy
  • Starring: Doug Bradley (lead Cenobite), et.al.
  • Director: Clive Barker (original film), et.al.
  • Writer: Clive Barker (original story and film), et.al.
  • Producer/Production Co: Christopher Figg, et.al.
  • Wikipedia (link) - Covers the whole franchise.

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: R (Violence, Sexual Violence, Nudity, Gore, Adult Content)

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • Ss___ (One and a Half Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian)

Not explicitly or implicitly related to Lovecraft's stories, though the Cenobites' philosophy as portrayed in the original film and story (a transcendence of traditional notions of good and evil), the absence of anything resembling traditional religion, the Cenobites themselves (who seem to be humanoid aliens or humans commanding some sort of magic or technology which has allowed them to transcend time and space and become god-like beings), as well as the strange "Dreamland" of torment and pleasure that stands in for "hell", and the tome-like puzzle-box, are essentially elements of a form of cosmic horror decorated in the trappings of ecstatic sadomasochism. (The sequel films are handled by other writers, and vary wildly in how closely they follow this cosmic horror theme, with some sequels turning the Cenobites into literal demons and devils pitted against forces of good and/or as evil beings attempting to corrupt and conquer the Earth.)

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Review (Hellraiser) at British Horror Films (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser) by Scott Ashlin at 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting (3.5/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (4/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser) by Freddy Young at Full Moon Reviews (3.5/4 Howls at the Moon) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser II: Hellbound) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (3/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser II: Hellbound) by Freddie Young at Full Moon Reviews (3/4 Howls at the Moon) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth) by Freddie Young at Full Moon Review (2/4 Howls at the Moon) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Bloodline) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Bloodline) by Freddie Young at Full Moon Review (1.5/4 Howls at the Moon) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Inferno) at Arrow in the Head (7/10) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Inferno) by Calum Marsh at Esquire.com (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Inferno) by Jerry Savaria at Jerry Savaria on Cinema (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Inferno) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (3/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Hellseeker) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Deader) at Arrow in the Head (6/10) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Deader) by Charles Gracey at Behind the Couch (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Deader) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (0.5/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Deader) by Charles Tatum at the Tatum Archive Blog (2/5) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Hellworld) at Arrow in the Head (7/10) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Hellworld) by Fred Anderson at Ninja Dixon (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Hellworld) by James Gracey at Behind the Couch (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Hellworld) by Charles Tatum at the Tatum Archive Blog (1/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Revelations) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Judgement) by Tyler Doupe at Wicked Horror (5.5/10) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Judgement) bv Brett Gallman at Oh The Horror! (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Judgement) by Mitch Lovell at The Video Vacuum (0.5 Stars) (link)
  • Review (Hellraiser: Judgement) by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link)

Synopsis

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

HELLRAISER: Sexual deviant Frank inadvertently opens a portal to hell when he tinkers with a box he bought while abroad. The act unleashes gruesome beings called Cenobites, who tear Frank's body apart. When Frank's brother and his wife, Julia, move into Frank's old house, they accidentally bring what is left of Frank back to life. Frank then convinces Julia, his one-time lover, to lure men back to the house so he can use their blood to reconstruct himself.

HELLRAISER II, HELLBOUND: Confined to a mental hospital, young Kirsty Cotton insists her supposedly dead father is stuck in hell, controlled by sadomasochistic demons after being betrayed by his evil, occult-obsessed wife, Julia. Few believe Kirsty, except the thrill-seeking Dr. Channard, who is intrigued by S&M and the young woman's lurid stories. So when Kirsty and fellow patient Tiffany head to hell for a rescue, Channard and Julia are close behind.

HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH: After learning in "Hellraiser II" that he used to be British air force Capt. Elliot Spencer -- before he was sucked into another dimension and turned into the pain-craving creature known as Pinhead -- Spencer's soul ends up in limbo. Meanwhile, Pinhead is sealed in a column, which is bought by J.P. Monroe. In a dream, reporter Joey Summerskill learns from Spencer she must reunite his two halves to send the murderous Pinhead back to his world.

HELLRAISER - BLOODLINE: Three generations of the same family deal with the consequences of unleashing the forces of hell. In 18th-century France, Paul L'Merchant works as a toymaker until he's coerced into creating a box that serves as a portal between hell and Earth. The box summons demonic Angelique and Pinhead, who -- 200 years later -- hunt down John Merchant. Then, centuries later, Phillip Merchant prepares for a final confrontation.

HELLRAISER - INFERNO: A Los Angeles detective wakes to find himself in hell, and his only means of leaving is with Pinhead's puzzle box.

HELLRAISER - HELLSEEKER: Pinhead and his demons terrorize a man after his wife dies in a car accident.

HELLRAISER - DEADER: A reporter investigates an underground group that can resurrect the dead, much to Pinhead's dismay.

HELLRAISER - HELLWORLD: Gamers who participate in an online role-playing game are invited to a rave whose host plans to show them all the truth behind the Cenobite mythos.

HELLRAISER - REVELATIONS: Two college friends unwittingly release Pinhead and his minions.

HELLRAISER - JUDGEMENT: A trio of cops chasing a serial killer find themselves at the mercy of the Cenobites after they follow up the wrong clue.


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes

  • The Hellraiser mythos might best be used in one-shot, noir-themed scenarios, perhaps as detectives tracking down missing persons, etc.
  • The offer of temptation that the Cenobites might make to chosen human beings, to introduce them to supernatural realms of pain and pleasure beyond limits, might perhaps be loosely comparable to Cthulhu's influence over humanity, when "mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom..."
  • The Cenobites are, effectively, cultists who have built and entered their own sadomasochistic "Dreamland", where, free from the traditional interests and limitations of normal humans, they have explored beyond the limits of human experience and have transcended their humanity, effectively becoming "Great Old Ones" within their own outre version of the universe.
  • Consider the essential elements of the original film (an obsessed seeker of forbidden lore obtains a tome-like puzzle-box from a mysterious dealer, unlocks its secrets through an excess of unnatural study, and uses it to open a gate into a mysterious netherworld from which he summons monstrous Old Ones who are indifferent to human ideas of good and evil, and wish to pursue their own otherworldly agenda, while the cultist goes mad from the revelation and suffers hideous body horror to boot!) The unique direction that Barker took these generic cliches of Weird Fiction can be seen as just one way that they can be given an entirely new look and feel with a little imagination and a few minor changes.