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THE F*CKING BLACK SHEEP: Hellraiser (1987)

09.30.2011by: 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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