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THE F*CKING BLACK SHEEP: Hellraiser (1987)

Sep. 30, 2011by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Hellraiser (1987)
Directed by Clive Barker

ďItís a bloody bore, slow, dumpy, uninteresting, over dramatic and a little on the pretentious side.Ē

Ever since I was a kid Clive Barkerís name has been just as tied to horror as King, Craven, or Carpenter. He hasnít directed many films, but heís been the creative force behind a slew of them. Heís a promotional machine as he slaps his name on about everything imaginable making him a household name. Only one film, however, defines his career: Hellraiser. Sure, heís known for some good stuff, but itís the Hellraiser series that made him. Itís his Nightmare on Elm Street. His Halloween. His Saw. But like those series, his creative input only lasted so long as Hellraiser spawned 135 sequels.

But why? The movie isnít great. Itís not even entertaining. Itís a bloody bore, slow, dumpy, uninteresting, over dramatic and a little on the pretentious side. I get it why fans get stiff for the pokey-headed Pinhead. Heís an S&M demon from other dimension, and heís hungry for some yummy souls. The dude has nails in his face, which makes him very cool looking, yet thatís about it. He doesnít have the personality of a Freddy. Not even of a Myers. Iím not saying he should be tossing out one-liners like dead hookers after a long night. Give the man something more memorable than spikes in his face. Itís not enough.

Now thereís no denying that Hellraiser is a masterpiece of flesh tearing gore. Itís damn gruesome and some scenes (especially on Blu-ray) are painfully realistic. However, Barkerís brand of horror never clicked with me. It lacks that gothic quality that I love in grand, serious horror. Itís without flair or rhythm. If it had either Iíd say itíd reminded me of an episode of Tales from the Crypt, only more f*cked up of course. Crypt though had an ability to make things enjoyable, make them interesting while showing terrible, awful things to terrible awful people.

Barker doesnít accomplish that. Instead, he creates an overly melodramatic story that plays like a wacky version of Dallas (or Real House Wives of Wherever) on crack. Or perhaps meth. How else could someone describe the plot where an unfaithful wife hooks up with her dead lover who came back to life with a drop of blood from her husband? Perhaps thatís where my biggest issue comes from, the characters. None are particularly interesting, provocative, or memorable. Not the wife. Not the husband. Not the lover. I donít even feel for the victims. The wife is so utterly generic that I struggle to think of a single defining quality. Wait, maybe staying in love with a talking corpse is a quality. Real, true love.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe music doesnít help matters either. Itís a lovely classical score and all, but it makes things very soap opera-ish, taking itself more serious than it needed to. Think about how the movie might be different with a couple Skid Row tracks or if Carpenter had done the score. Things would beÖdifferent. Maybe not for the better, but at the very least it could have added that extra layer because if the characters are duds, there better be something to patch up that slacking, saggy skin.

I donít want anyone thinking I donít enjoy the dark side. I do. Plenty of films deal manís obsession with the dark side that I love. Exploring what lurks in the deepest reaches of hell and all that shit is fascinating. Hellraiser does attempt that with a whole lot of chains, rotted flesh, and kinky leather but that doesnít mean itís fun to watch. That doesnít mean itís entertaining. I canít pretend or suggest that Hellraiser is the worst thing ever released. Itís not. Great parts exist like the rising the dead lover, which is graphic as hell and reminds me a lot of Carpenterís The Thing. Thereís some real emotion in some scenes that work damn well. But those parts donít happen enough. Itís too f*cking boring by the time those scenes arrive. Barker might be one of the kings of horror, but he rules over a class that Iím particularly interesting in hanging out with.

Disagree? Buy the DVD and discover the f*cking black sheep for yourself.

GET HELLRAISER DVD HERE

GET HELLRAISER BLU RAY HERE

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12:50AM on 10/05/2011
I'm the first one to admit this movie is flawed, very VERY flawed, but I love it anyway. You wrote a good article and I can see why you dislike it; they're all reasonable reasons why. For me I love the "melodramaticness" and I thought most of the actors were fine and Kirsty is a GREAT heroine. For me in this film Pinhead isn't THE villain, but ALL the cenobites as a whole and they're spooky, eerie, and scary for me and I love them and their look. The film is original...and about the music,
I'm the first one to admit this movie is flawed, very VERY flawed, but I love it anyway. You wrote a good article and I can see why you dislike it; they're all reasonable reasons why. For me I love the "melodramaticness" and I thought most of the actors were fine and Kirsty is a GREAT heroine. For me in this film Pinhead isn't THE villain, but ALL the cenobites as a whole and they're spooky, eerie, and scary for me and I love them and their look. The film is original...and about the music, for me this film has one of the BEST movie scores I have ever heard in my life.
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9:06PM on 10/01/2011
the acting is subpar but the story concept and execution are excrutiating in a good way. one of the only films that actually frightened me. in all honesty it is a twisted soap opera with a demonic angle but that was the whole point of the movie. to bring drama to horror. a bored housewife rekindling a past love affair with a dead man and the affects of their actions and desires on the stepdaughter and her relationship with her father plus gore lots and lots of sick disgusting gore.
the acting is subpar but the story concept and execution are excrutiating in a good way. one of the only films that actually frightened me. in all honesty it is a twisted soap opera with a demonic angle but that was the whole point of the movie. to bring drama to horror. a bored housewife rekindling a past love affair with a dead man and the affects of their actions and desires on the stepdaughter and her relationship with her father plus gore lots and lots of sick disgusting gore.
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5:57PM on 10/01/2011
Couldn't disagree more with a column. IMHO this is the best film in the franchise. 2 is not bad but everything afterwards was crap and borderline stupid. This one had a fleshed out storyline and interesting characters. The cenobites were creepy as hell and I find them used pefectly here. Not overexposed like the later films.
Couldn't disagree more with a column. IMHO this is the best film in the franchise. 2 is not bad but everything afterwards was crap and borderline stupid. This one had a fleshed out storyline and interesting characters. The cenobites were creepy as hell and I find them used pefectly here. Not overexposed like the later films.
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12:48PM on 10/01/2011
I was terrified of this film when I was a kid. But now i totally see it as plodding and dull, with magnificent, horrific scenes sprinkled in. The cenobites are classics, but the film and it's effects definitely havent aged well. I still chuckle a little remembering noticing as a kid, the crane that the engineer was hooked to as it chased Christy down the hall...now that is classic...
I was terrified of this film when I was a kid. But now i totally see it as plodding and dull, with magnificent, horrific scenes sprinkled in. The cenobites are classics, but the film and it's effects definitely havent aged well. I still chuckle a little remembering noticing as a kid, the crane that the engineer was hooked to as it chased Christy down the hall...now that is classic...
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11:55PM on 09/30/2011

A near perfect film

The film is not "slow"-it is a deliberate calculated build to a tragic bloody end. Not all films need to be hyper kinetic in their pacing to be deemed worthy of viewing. Take a film like "House of the Devil", a perfect example of a well thought out atmospheric build to a powerful climax. Most horror films today are style over substance, Hellraiser has both.
The film is not "slow"-it is a deliberate calculated build to a tragic bloody end. Not all films need to be hyper kinetic in their pacing to be deemed worthy of viewing. Take a film like "House of the Devil", a perfect example of a well thought out atmospheric build to a powerful climax. Most horror films today are style over substance, Hellraiser has both.
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+9
9:31PM on 09/30/2011

You need a Stone Cold Stunner!

Could not disagree more. The way this film is shot is absolutely amazing. It is like watching literature in motion. The camera work synched with the music is absolutely beautiful. It is total Clive. Just by reading his work there is no doubt that Clive could film some beautiful sequences, and this is (sadly) the best of his short film career. Clive please get over Hollywood and film some more of your stories! You have so much potential!!
Could not disagree more. The way this film is shot is absolutely amazing. It is like watching literature in motion. The camera work synched with the music is absolutely beautiful. It is total Clive. Just by reading his work there is no doubt that Clive could film some beautiful sequences, and this is (sadly) the best of his short film career. Clive please get over Hollywood and film some more of your stories! You have so much potential!!
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-7
5:48PM on 09/30/2011
I have to agree. I'm a big Clive Barker fan and love the Cenobites, but Helleraiser (and the book, Hellbound Heart) were pretty boring.

Though I loved Hellraiser 2 and 4, mostly for the cool monsters and sets.
I have to agree. I'm a big Clive Barker fan and love the Cenobites, but Helleraiser (and the book, Hellbound Heart) were pretty boring.

Though I loved Hellraiser 2 and 4, mostly for the cool monsters and sets.
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+11
5:13PM on 09/30/2011
No.
No.
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5:08PM on 09/30/2011

Hellraiser is a landmark Horror film.

I first saw Hellraiser when I was a kid. I was flipping through the TV channels and HBO was showing some kind of back to back presentation of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. My parents were busy so I got to check out both films. What I saw blew my mind.
Hellraiser introduced me to a world that was like nothing I had ever imagined. It showed the perversity that could sometimes taint love. It showed how far obsession could push a person. It demonstrated a Hell that was
I first saw Hellraiser when I was a kid. I was flipping through the TV channels and HBO was showing some kind of back to back presentation of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. My parents were busy so I got to check out both films. What I saw blew my mind.
Hellraiser introduced me to a world that was like nothing I had ever imagined. It showed the perversity that could sometimes taint love. It showed how far obsession could push a person. It demonstrated a Hell that was truly terrifying. It was a Hell whose occupants were sophisticated and really thought out torture. They were not afraid of pain themselves. The movie was fascinating
Hellbound: Hellraiser II followed after Hellraiser. It is one of those rare instances where the original can be surpassed by the sequel. It was a brilliant edit in the opening sequence that thrust upon you the main points of the original. Then it showed you Elliot. It showed you how this normal man could be corrupted into a demonic force. While be changed it showed you a smile come upon Elliotís face as he was being mutilated. I was hit with a moment of shock at the thought that he was actually enjoying this agony being inflicted upon him. It blew my innocent little mind.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II introduced me to a new vision of Hell that went contrary to the fire and brimstone that I had been taught in my Catholic upbringing. Instead Hell was a cold place.
The music is perfect. It is one of the most amazing soundtracks in movie history. Christopher Young really achieved something monumental. Even having the horns spell out God in morose code as Leviathan is introduced is a brilliant move.
I had never heard of Clive Barker before but I became fascinated with all things pertaining to Hellraiser. I started to read his books and discovered that Clive Barker is one of the most talented writers in modern literature.
Unfortunately the sequels to Hellraiser have tried to catch the charm of the first two and have fallen short. They have attempted to turn Pinhead (who never really went by that name) into your stereotypical horror icon. They have given him puns and quips, which were not what made him interesting. What made him interesting is that he was a sophisticated disciple of pain. That made him all the more terrifying.
Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II are great achievements.
They were unique for their time. And that is what really needs to be understood. The context of the time in which they came out. There was nothing like them before. You had your basic slasher films but nothing that illustrated Hell and itís minions so eloquently.
I have long been a fan of Hellraiser. I even made a short Hellraiser film that can be seen here: [link] . Iíd appreciate any feedback.
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+16
4:13PM on 09/30/2011
Did you really say that Michael Myers has a personality? Pinhead has 1,000,000x the personality Myers will ever have, and that's coming from someone who loves both franchises.
Did you really say that Michael Myers has a personality? Pinhead has 1,000,000x the personality Myers will ever have, and that's coming from someone who loves both franchises.
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2:52PM on 09/30/2011
I totally see where you're coming from. I only really liked the parts with Kirsti.
I totally see where you're coming from. I only really liked the parts with Kirsti.
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12:26PM on 09/30/2011
and just how can someone's opinion of a movie be wrong?
and just how can someone's opinion of a movie be wrong?
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10:02PM on 10/02/2011
Not to throw a wrench in your spokes, but...
perhaps someone's opinion can be wrong if they're uninformed as to what makes a movie good. Read some Immanuel Kant, particularly his book entitled Critique of Judgment. I won't really do him justice by trying to explain the main theme of his book, but in it he tries to argue that there is a way to tell if something is objectively good or beautiful, and that anyone who can't see the objective beauty within certain things has tunnel vision/ is an
Not to throw a wrench in your spokes, but...
perhaps someone's opinion can be wrong if they're uninformed as to what makes a movie good. Read some Immanuel Kant, particularly his book entitled Critique of Judgment. I won't really do him justice by trying to explain the main theme of his book, but in it he tries to argue that there is a way to tell if something is objectively good or beautiful, and that anyone who can't see the objective beauty within certain things has tunnel vision/ is an idiot. I'm not saying that this is the case with Hellraiser, but I thought i'd try to answer your question, which is a question that is brought up frequently on this site.
12:24PM on 09/30/2011
I also found this movie dull. Perhaps if I had seen it ten years ago I may have seen it in a different light but watching it now it just seemed like it was trying to be ambitious but failing to deliver beyond its attempts. I liked some of the gore but the story made little sense to me and the characters were, as usual, dumb. I'm glad I saw it becuase it is considered a lassic but I did not take anything away from the experience aside from a 'been there, done that' sense of accomplishment.
I also found this movie dull. Perhaps if I had seen it ten years ago I may have seen it in a different light but watching it now it just seemed like it was trying to be ambitious but failing to deliver beyond its attempts. I liked some of the gore but the story made little sense to me and the characters were, as usual, dumb. I'm glad I saw it becuase it is considered a lassic but I did not take anything away from the experience aside from a 'been there, done that' sense of accomplishment.
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12:12PM on 09/30/2011
jesus. wept.
jesus. wept.
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11:57AM on 09/30/2011

Way off, dude.

While agreeably the pacing is a bit slow and some of the characters are superfluous at best; Hellraiser stands out for it's pure originality and visual panache. There was absolutely nothing like it before. Maybe Argento came close to the hallucinatory weirdness of this movie but Barker created something totally different here in an era of slashers and vampires. The cenobites alone make this a classic not to mention the lines spewed by Frank/Larry at the end. "Jesus wept." is up there with Ash's
While agreeably the pacing is a bit slow and some of the characters are superfluous at best; Hellraiser stands out for it's pure originality and visual panache. There was absolutely nothing like it before. Maybe Argento came close to the hallucinatory weirdness of this movie but Barker created something totally different here in an era of slashers and vampires. The cenobites alone make this a classic not to mention the lines spewed by Frank/Larry at the end. "Jesus wept." is up there with Ash's "Groovy." if ask me. And, oh yes, the gore. Yummy.

I've seen Hellraiser a hundred times and I'll see it a hundred more as an example of how to shake even jaded horror fans expectations and it's just plain creepy weird goodness. Big thumbs up.
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+9
10:53AM on 09/30/2011

disagree.

altho some fx seem very dated and the cenobites are just the normal hardcore body mod enthusiasts now.
altho some fx seem very dated and the cenobites are just the normal hardcore body mod enthusiasts now.
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10:32AM on 09/30/2011
You hit that nail 100% on the head. Its just a boring/slow film with some cool effects.
You hit that nail 100% on the head. Its just a boring/slow film with some cool effects.
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+14
10:21AM on 09/30/2011
wrong.
wrong.
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+16
10:06AM on 09/30/2011
Disagree on all points! Hellraiser is not Friday the 13! It is a well-constructed masterpiece of Horror that is very tasteful. Consider it like a modern Greek mytho. It's not all about the blood and guts, but is a wicked parable for man's obsession with pleasure. It is also one of my favourite films of all-time. Clive Barker is a God. Although, that's your opinion, so power to you for speaking it.
Disagree on all points! Hellraiser is not Friday the 13! It is a well-constructed masterpiece of Horror that is very tasteful. Consider it like a modern Greek mytho. It's not all about the blood and guts, but is a wicked parable for man's obsession with pleasure. It is also one of my favourite films of all-time. Clive Barker is a God. Although, that's your opinion, so power to you for speaking it.
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9:54AM on 09/30/2011

Agreed!

I agree. Pinhead is a cool character and the FX are good but this film always bored me. Not a big fan of Barker's horror either.Good article!
I agree. Pinhead is a cool character and the FX are good but this film always bored me. Not a big fan of Barker's horror either.Good article!
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-7
9:28AM on 09/30/2011

100% right

Totally agree with you on this one. My #1 beef with this is just how boring it is. Cool gore effects, but that's about it.

I enjoy part II way more than this one.
Totally agree with you on this one. My #1 beef with this is just how boring it is. Cool gore effects, but that's about it.

I enjoy part II way more than this one.
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8:52AM on 09/30/2011

NO

Man...how can you say this? It's a classic. Sure it's slow moving but to say it's not entertaining? Jeez,you need a slap from Mr Fallon! lol
Man...how can you say this? It's a classic. Sure it's slow moving but to say it's not entertaining? Jeez,you need a slap from Mr Fallon! lol
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8:07AM on 09/30/2011
No
No
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