HELLRAISER: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
What's it about
A man finds he is given more than he bargains for when he solves the puzzle of the Lament Configuration - a doorway to hell. But his ex-lover has found a way of bringing him back, and his niece Kirsty, finds herself bargaining with the Cenobites, angels to some, demons to others, whose greatest pleasure is the greatest pain.
Is it good movie?
I've always had a soft spot for the Hellraiser films and I'm thrilled that this one has been given an updated (although reeking of ca$h grab) release by Anchor Bay. What can be said about Hellraiser that hasn't already been said? It's a classic film that has aged very poorly but really deserves a look.
The first Hellraiser film has always reminded me of a sort of European soap opera, with skinless bodies and minions from hell. The whole thing plays out like a terrifying fever dream that seems all too real. It really frames the 80s quite well and serves as a definite example of cultural zeitgeist. An example of a man who has grown weary of the pleasures of earth and toys with the things that simple shouldn't be touched.
Eventually the whole thing becomes too much to handle, Frank manages to convince Julia to provide him with fresh bodies. The whole film really isn't about Pinhead, but rather about the sins of the flesh and the things that people do to each other, rather than what the cenobites do to their victims. They're scary though, and very effective. The effects for the most part are really, really good. All practical stuff that serves a purpose and has helped make Hellraiser one of the most memorable flicks of its time. Things are not perfect though- some effects are painfully dated, like the laser effects and the giant crawling creature which is purely laughable.
The acting is relatively solid and the pace is built well, relying on a lot of scary imagery to effectively creep out the viewer. Clare Higgins is best as Julia, and the character of Frank is well played as well. With that being said (don't crucify me here), I thought Ashley Laurence’s' Julia to be very annoying. She really gets on my nerves.
I look back very fondly on the first Hellraiser and I can see past its flaws. Unfortunately today's mainstream audience might not be able to see how effective the film really is due to some outdated filmmaking.
Video / Audio
In terms of Video, I couldn't notice much difference here between the last transfer and this 1.85:1 transfer. It's still dark but detailed, it is probably as good as it's going to get.
The Audio department is mostly good too, Dolby 5.1 has its moments, although the track isn't stellar, it serves a purpose. The score sounds great.
Mr. Cotton, I Presume? is an interview with Andrew Robinson. Essentially a bio piece, he discusses how he got into film.
Actress from Hell is the same thing, except with Ashley Laurence. It's interesting and she's pretty honest, which is nice. Unfortunately, she seems really bitter, as she feels she's been typecast since Hellraiser came out.
Hellcomposer is am interview with composer Chris Young, and I thought this was great because the man really delivers an awesome score. I expected this to be different, and was pleasantly surprised.
Of course you'll also notice Under the Skin, an interview with Doug Bradley, the man himself. It's awesome, but sadly brief and a repeat of the last release.
There's also a commentary with Clive Barker, Ashley Lawrence, and moderated by screenwriter Peter Atkins. It's decent and very honest, although Clive dominates it (and it IS his work). This too is a repeat feature from previous releases.
Hellraiser Resurrection is essentially the EPK from the other Anchor Bay release, and runs about 20 minutes. I'm glad it’s here, but it could provide a bit more meat, could use some glossing over.
Rounding out the disc, we get poster & still gallery, TV and radio spots, and a DVD-ROM screenplay.
Hellraiser is great and deserves the treatment it's finally gotten. Sure, some features are double dipped, but if you don't have a previous release, this is a perfect time to pick it up. Even though it's dated, it deserves your attention and any self-respecting horror fan should take a look at where it all began before it tears your soul apart.