Kelly's December Pick
It seems we keep revisiting horror from the 1980s! This is, of course, not a complaint from me as I continually get to share my love for this decade with you all. In middle school, I used to throw sleepovers with my girlfriends and we would pull all-nighters watching horror movies. One of the films that we rented often was Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, among others like Pet Sematary and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Based on the novella by Clive Barker called The Hellbound Heart (I still haven’t read this!), Hellraiser is a sacred film for horror fans and contains one of horror’s infamous icons, Pinhead. It also is a strong representation of what horror was like in the 80s: tons of gory practical effects, complex female characters, strong storytelling, quippy one-liners, and an unforgettable villain. Pinhead became the notable, leather-clad Hell Priest through the amazing acting by Doug Bradley, who quickly became a favorite among the horror community. Bradley has acted in numerous horror films, lent his voice to horror and non-horror projects, and did guest vocals on Cradle of Filth's 2008 album Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder. I met him once at a convention and he is a lovely man to talk to, so if you get a chance to meet him, do yourself a favor and do it!
Along with Doug Bradley, Hellraiser also has solid performances by Ashley Lawrence (Kirsty), and Clare Higgins (Julia), that contribute to the rich, dark mythology and religious undertones. Hellraiser blends sexuality and violence while asking you the question “pleasure or pain?” with the understanding that these would most definitely be combined. It displays sadomasochism and death in a highly fantastical, grim way.
Hellraiser has been heavily analyzed for its themes of religious imagery, fetishism, sexuality, feminism, queerness, and more. The academic text Scared Sacred: Idolatry, Religion and Worship in the Horror Film (coming February 2020) will have a detailed analysis of these films. It’s a staple in any horror fans’ repertoire as it doesn't shy away from taboos such as incest, BDSM, religion, murder, and adultery. Because of this, the first time someone sees Hellraiser it’s truly memorable.
Hellraiser is highly aesthetically pleasing along with being incredibly well made. It gave us the brave and severely under-recognized Final Girl in Kirsty, fantastic and extremely quotable one-liners like “We will tear your soul apart” and an entire franchise (though these successors pale in comparison and lack the strength that the original holds).
Hellraiser is a unique horror film and one of my favorites of the 1980s. It is a little bit of heavy metal, merciless, menacing fun! Now, no tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering.