Since my movie reviews are a bit….lacking, I’ve decided to have another go at it. Since it’s October I’ve decided to review a horror film franchise. One I find interesting (and in a few ways quite unique) is the Hellraiser series, which I rather enjoy despite its many flaws. So in the next few posts we are going to dive into this series and explore the good and the bad of it, as well as look at aspects of the franchise outside the cinematic world. I hope to do this franchise justice, because it’s one of the few I do respect, despite what it’s become.
I have such sights to show you….
This series had so much great potential that was so utterly ruined by the Hollywood system. And for what? So they are now a straight to dvd, low-budget set, while crap like Jason vs Freddy are made into blockbuster smashes.
I guess we should look first into the general premise and understand certain terms.
To start, the original concept, as conceived by series creator Clive Barker, was actually quite good. A mysterious puzzle box acts as a door way to a dimension of the ultimate physical experience, of sensations so incredible that they are literally almost unbearable to the senses. A place where the senses explode in ecstasy. Many seek to find this gateway but when they do, it comes with a hefty price. In the novella the solver of the box would be stimulated to the extremes of both mind and body (experiencing pain through pleasure) by the beings of the otherworld (“Hell”). In return though they would become the experimental slave of these creatures, subjugated to otherworldly tortures to satisfy their curiosities. In the first film, Hellraiser, the seeker/solver of the box (known as the “Lament Configuration“, or “Lemarchand’s Box“) were promised to have all their greatest desires fulfilled, only to find that they had been deceived and are now the playthings of the Cenobites, creatures who defined themselves as “explorers of the furthest reaches of the human experience. Demons to some, angels to others.” The victim would then be torn apart, dragged to the world of the Cenobites to be remade in order to be subjected to the Cenobite’s cruel whims again and again. From this the Cenobites would observe their prisoners suffering, though to what purpose it was unknown. A few were chosen by Leviathan, the god of that world, to be realistically transformed and tortured into Cenobites.
In the (first) film the other world is known as “Hell” (not to be confused with the Christian/Judeo form of Hell), the second film gave it the moniker of the Labyrinth (not to be confused with a certain fun time goblin labyrinth). Later films would reject this mystique of an unknown, otherworldly dimension of sadomasochism in favor of converting it into a twisted take of the Christian/Judeo Hell. Regardless though of which interpretation used, Hell was always depicted as a place of immense physical/mental suffering. But we will look more into this later when I review the films.
The theme of desire (lust for either the physical, knowledge, or power) is a reoccurring one in the series. In fact, it is the basis for all that happens in the films (and comics). Though not an unique concept it is an extremely powerful one and works well in the original series Barker created, but was able to mesh to what Hollywood wanted too. Also prevalent are the themes of moral dilemma, morality, and inner conflict/torture.
The creature and set designs in the film and comic series are often inventive and usually evocative of the S&M club culture. As with the Silent Hill series, the possibilities are near endless, if utilized well with the core theme of the series (because let’s face it, like the Leprechaun films, the rules essentially go out the window with each installment). As with many other horror series, it is often the creature designs that distinguish the franchise. And of course, we have the primary cenobite, Pinhead, as the face of the series (just like Jason, Freddy, and Michael are the face of theirs). What is fairly different about the series is that Pinhead is not always the primary antagonist (and in some cases, could be seen as not an antagonist at all) nor is he always the cause of conflict. In fact, some films barely have his presence felt.
So, after a brief overview of the series let’s dive into the films themselves. We will explore some of it’s secrets and observe each film and I will give my general thoughts of each. And in case you haven’t figured it out, there will be some MASSIVE spoilers. You have been warned.
Next post: Hellraiser I – III.
For those of the curious/impatient breed, a lovely Hellraiser site for you to enjoy!