“The box…you opened it. We came.”
Man, those cenobites were scary cool, weren’t they?
Hellraiser, Clive Barker’s feature directing debut, worked not only as a grisly splatterfest, but also as a welcome shift from the rash of teen slasher movies that followed the success of Halloween. Barker was exploring more adult, decidedly kinkier fare, and Hellraiser is steeped in themes of S&M and the relationship between pleasure and pain.
Hedonist Frank Cotton solves an ancient puzzle box, which summons the fearsome Cenobites, who literally tear Frank apart and leave his remains rotting in the floorboards of an old house. Years later, Frank’s brother Larry moves into that house with his teenage daughter Kirsty and his new wife Julia (who, oh yeah, also happens to be Frank’s ex-lover).
A gash on Larry’s leg spills blood on the floor, which awakens the remains of Frank, who then requires more blood to complete his escape from the underworld. Julia, both repulsed and aroused by her old flame’s half-alive form, agrees to make sure more blood is soon spilled.
Meanwhile, young Kirsty accidentally opens the puzzle box, and when the Cenobites come for her, she offers a deal: let me go, and I’ll lead you to Uncle Frank.
What? A teenager in a horror flick doing some cool headed problem solving?
It was another way that Hellraiser rose above some weak production elements to stand out, and hail the arrival of Clive Barker as an important new name in horror.