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Evil Julia helps her lover, Frank, come back to the mortal world from hell. Because Frank has used the Lament Configuration box to taste pleasures outside the normal realm of human sensation, freeing him from hell unleashes Pinhead and a menagerie of demons (cenobites) back unto earth.
For more about Hellraiser and the Hellraiser Blu-ray release, see Hellraiser Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 1, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Doug Bradley, Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman
Director: Clive Barker
» See full cast & crew
Hellraiser Blu-ray Review
Fans need not raise hell over this fine Blu-ray release from Starz.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 1, 2009
This isn't for your eyes.
Talk about hardcore. Hellraiser is a simple tale that is devoured by its intensely graphic and often disturbing visuals. Certainly not a film for the timid, or even the casual Horror fan that enjoys tamer, more "audience-friendly" films like 1408 or The Eye, Hellraiser is an unapologetic, nose-to-the-grindstone picture that features it all in excruciating detail -- body parts strewn about; scary, grotesque creatures; and torture devices used to revolting and skin-tearing effect. Released at a time when the hack-and-slash Horror craze was in full swing, Hellraiser takes a radically different approach, guiding audiences down a path of unspeakable terror where pain and pleasure become one, where terror knows no bounds, and where the macabre becomes an art form.
Frank (Sean Chapman) purchases a small puzzle box and through it summons the "Cenobites," a group of badly disfigured travelers from another dimension where pleasure and pain are indivisible. Franks's physical body is torn apart by the Cenobites and their hellish torture devices. Meanwhile, his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into the old house where Frank summoned the Cenobites. When Larry cuts his hand and bleeds on the attic floor, the blood begins to re-grow Frank's body. He emerges an incomplete man with no flesh and asks Julia, his one-time lover, to obtain for him fresh human blood so he may continue his revitalization and escape the Cenobites for good. Julia, blinded by her passion, agrees, seducing men and luring them back to her home only to murder them. As Frank regains his strength, Larry's daughter Kristy (Ashley Laurence) returns to the home and begins to realize that something is amiss. It seems now only the dastardly Cenobites, led by the imposing Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and mistakenly summoned by Kristy, can stop Frank's re-emergence into this world.
Directed by Clive Barker, Hellraiser plays out as more than an average gore-fest. Behind the blood and disturbing visuals is a rather simple tale, yet one that is often elegantly shot, making good use of shadows and the drab locations for maximum impact during the scenes of terror. To the film's credit, it attempts to build a story around the gore, one that allows for the carnage to work in a context where it may be as nasty as it wants without becoming detached from the film, playing as gore for gore's sake. Hellraiser creates two worlds, each polar opposites. On one end of the spectrum is a seemingly normal family in a normal home. It's head, Larry, remains oblivious to his wife's infidelity and the wanton carnage that happens inside his own home. For as disturbing as the violence and the unnatural rebirth of a man may be, Hellraiser takes the terror a step further by introducing to the already split world a dimension of pain unlike anything man has ever seen, a world populated by creatures that are vile, despicable, and single-minded in their pursuit of "pain as pleasure" and introducing new beings to their brand of suffering. Hellraiser is a film of parallels, where increasing depravity and unconscionable misery may be closer than anyone believes.
Hellraiser features a pair of good performances that elevate the film and the characters therein. Andrew Robinson is excellent as Larry, an almost gleefully obtuse and unaware man who sees the world as peachy and good, where no evil may befall him, his family, or his home. As the film progresses, his role changes drastically, and Robinson effortlessly transforms himself as required. Stealing the show, however, is Doug Bradley as the lead Cenobite, Pinhead, in a role that is short on screen-time but high on drama and terror. Pinhead is a secondary Horror character, not quite as well-known outside of genre aficionados as Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers, but he's just as -- if not more so -- disturbing, sinister, and terrifying. He combines the grace of Dracula with the frightening and unnatural stature of Frankenstein, a combination that lends to the character a very dark, troubling, and horrific persona. Hellraiser is a film more about its themes than its characters and its gore. However, the solid performances, not just from Robinson and Bradley but also from the rest of the primary cast, not to mention the well-done and hard-to-watch gore, come together to elevate Hellraiser from the status of B-movie wannabe to serious Horror-as-art that combines the best elements of suspenseful terror and nasty gore very well.
Hellraiser Blu-ray, Video Quality
Starz summons Hellraiser onto Blu-ray with a rather good 1080p transfer framed inside a 1.85:1 window. This is a transfer that isn't sparkly and crisp, but it captures the film's intended look nicely. Detail is appreciably high; the many dreary, unkempt locales, from messy, bug-infested kitchens and dusty attics to the finer details of a particularly nasty creature that roams the corridor that leads to another dimension, this disc reveals about all the detail there is to be seen. The transfer features a continuous and rather heavy layer of grain. Black levels are also strong, and there are many dark corners and backgrounds throughout the film, each of which generally offer deep, inky blacks, usually covered with a bit of grain, that adds to the dark, desperate, and fearful themes of the film. Perhaps most importantly, viewers will see the grisly and horrific gore in all its detail on this Blu-ray disc; there is plenty to be seen, more than most any other movie available on the format. The reds of blood and puddles of fluids, flesh, and other bodily matter seen throughout will please gore fans and churn the stomachs of those that are unprepared for what awaits in this Blu-ray release of Hallraiser.
Hellraiser Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hellraiser debuts on Blu-ray with a quality Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The audio is occasionally somewhat bland and uninteresting. Dialogue sequences sound slightly detached and lacking in volume but not clarity. The music heard throughout the movie is pleasantly strong; it's fairly clear, and oftentimes finds itself pouring out of the rear channels in addition to the front. Hellraiser offers a fairly active 360-degree sound field. Chapter four features both bass and the score taking on a louder, more aggressive tone as Frank's bloody shell rises from the floorboards. The track enjoys many good directional effects, a brief scene of a train speeding across the soundstage from left to right and a subsequent fluttering of birds heard from every corner of the listening area makes for some of the more aggressive surround moments of the presentation. The film's finale also offers a robust and hard-hitting sound presentation. Hellraiser makes for a surprisingly engaging listen on Blu-ray.
Hellraiser Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Starz presents Hellraiser on Blu-ray with a fair selection of bonus materials. First up is a commentary track with Writer/Director Clive Barker and Actress Ashley Laurence, moderated by Screenwriter Peter Atkins. This track is several years old and recycled from previous releases, but it's nevertheless a good and worthwhile listen. Barker is interesting and engaging, reminiscing on the making of the film and offering insights into his feelings towards it, both from then and now. They discuss the intensity of the gore, the importance of delivering the goods early in the film, the traits of the characters and the performances of the actors, and more. This is a well-above- average track that is a worthwhile listen. Fast Film Facts is a pop-up trivia track, the tidbits often reflecting thoughts expressed in the commentary track, making this an ideal feature to watch in conjunction with the commentary. Also included are three 480p trailers -- an R-rated U.S. trailer (1:29), a G-rated U.S. trailer (1:34), and an international trailer (3:28) -- and four 480p TV spots.
Next are five featurettes. Mr. Cotton, I Presume? -- An Interview With Star Andrew Robinson (480p, 16:13) features the star reminiscing on his career, Hellraiser, and the character he portrayed, looking at what makes for an effective portrayal of a villain. Actress From Hell -- An Interview With Star Ashley Laurence (480p, 11:58) is a charming piece as the actress recounts her Hellraiser experience, beginning with her earning of the role and reaction to the caliber of the script and moving through to the quality of the final picture. Hellcomposer -- An Interview With Composer Christopher Young (480p, 18:19) is a piece where the composer looks back on his influences pre-Hellraiser and moving on to look at his work for the film and respect for Clive Barker. Hellraiser: Resurrection (480p, 24:25) primarily features an interesting and extended look at the film's many special effects with interviews with plenty of cast and crew and concluding with an examination of the film's staying power. Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on 'Hellraiser' (480p, 12:32) showcases the actor sharing his thoughts on the famed Horror icon, Pinhead, and the film itself. Concluding this set of extras is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) functionality and four still galleries -- Behind the Scenes, Make-up & SFX Photos, Promotional Material, and Storyboards.
Hellraiser Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hellraiser is often vile, repulsive, and disgusting, a banner film for gore even for the Horror-crazed 1980s. As such, it is something of a cult film; it never enjoyed the mainstream success of some of the decades more well-known franchises, but it's not for lack of a decent story or disturbing visuals. Perhaps Hellraiser was just too much for general audiences, but among Horror afficonados, the film remains a popular and perhaps even quintessential film because of its relentless, grotesque, and unapologetic visuals that transcend simple gore and veer towards a macabre form of cinematic art. Starz presents Hellraiser on Blu-ray as a package fans should be excited about. The film has never looked or sounded better for home viewing, and the studio has included several good extra features. Hellraiser isn't a film for the timid, but fans should rest assured that this Blu-ray release does the film justice. Recommended for Horror aficionados and viewers with a strong stomach.
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Hellraiser Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hellraiser: Revelations Blu-ray - August 3, 2011
In October, Dimension Extreme will release Hellraiser: Revelations on Blu-ray. The ninth entry in the Hellraiser series, this film focuses on two friends who discover the Lament Configuration and unwittingly loose Pinhead (The Darwin Awards's Stephan Smith Collins, ...
• Hellbound: Hellraiser II Blu-ray - June 17, 2011
The sequel to Clive Barker's iconic horror film, Hellbound: Hellraiser II will arrive on Blu-ray this September, courtesy of Image Entertainment. Picking up immediately after the events of the first Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II finds the depraved Cenobites ...
• Lightning Deal: Children of the Corn/Hellraiser/Halloween Blu-ray... - October 25, 2010
Amazon has an interesting BD-related "lightning deal" going on now: for a very limited time, you can buy the Classic Horror Bundle (comprised of
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