Viking Night: Hellraiser

By Bruce Hall

November 6, 2012

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It's a good thing the creative process exists, or Clive Barker might be a danger to himself and others. Hellraiser is the kind of film that isn't nearly as scary as what must be happening in the mind of the man who created it. Barker writes and directs this dark supernatural fantasy with a very personal touch, but the results are, let's just say...uneven.

It all starts when an avowed hedonist named Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman)walks into an exotic marketplace and buys a strange puzzle box. The seller is a mysterious Asian man who chuckles ominously as Frank hurries away. Not understanding the danger of buying from stereotypes, Frank returns home, heads to the attic, sets up some mood lighting and starts fiddling with the box - which promptly shreds him into roadside diner quality hash.

I have no idea what he thought it was supposed to do.

Eventually Frank's brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Claire Higgins) move into Frank’s old house, for some reason. Larry has some sort of sentimental attachment to the place, while Julia hates it. This becomes a constant source of conflict between them, as does Frank’s mysterious disappearance. And like a lot of people in horror movies, Larry is irrationally insistent upon moving into a shitty old house more quickly than is practically necessary, and is the only one who can't sense what a bad idea it is.


It's no wonder Julia looks at him like he's made of navel lint, and her incessant brooding over Frank's absence makes it clear - to everyone but Larry - that her heart may be somewhere else. Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) drops in to visit and is obviously suspicious of her stepmother, because frost forms in the air between them every time they speak. Kirsten is also less than excited about the drafty old house. But since Larry is a spineless idiot and his wife is a creepy shrew who looks like a mannequin, Kirsten decides to keep an eye on them.

Good call, because this is where things start to get weird.

Larry cuts his hand and spills blood in the attic, right about the spot where Frank was sitting when he got splattered. It seeps through the floor and somehow into the Godless realm where Frank's tortured soul resides. He's now able to return to partial form, which means that Julia finds him, sprawling around on the floor of the attic, looking like a pile of raw gefilte fish. He asks her to bring him victims, so that he may continue his fleshy transformation and they can run away together. Julia takes all of this surprisingly well; you'd think it was every other day she meets a half digested ex-boyfriend in the attic who asks her to prostitute herself and perform human sacrifices.

But there's a catch - the forces that took Frank once want him back, and they're coming. Time is short. So while Larry putters absently around the house, Frank is upstairs trying on clothes and oozing everywhere, Julia is luring horny young men to their doom, and Kirsty's suspicions move her to start poking around. Who will live? Who will die? Will Frank's evil plan succeed? Will Larry plant tomatoes in the garden while hell on earth unfolds in his attic? It's not as much fun finding out as it was in high school, sneaking into a matinee and passing around an ill-gotten flask of bottom shelf whiskey with your friends.

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