Tag Archives: Hellraiser

Fright Club: Dangerous Lovers

Since Bonnie and Clyde and probably before, cinematic lovers on a bloody rampage have been entertaining and freaking out audiences the world over. Their escapades can be as grimly beautiful as Terrence Malick’s incandescent Badlands, or as bloody as – well, as the films we celebrate today. Dangerous lovers can really build a body count, as you’ll see here. Ain’t love grand?

5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Here’s a bizarre idea for a musical: The barber upstairs kills his clients and the baker downstairs uses the bodies in her meat pies. Odd for a Broadway musical, yes, but for a Tim Burton film? That sounds a little more natural.

As in most of Burton’s best efforts, Sweeney Todd stars Johnny Depp in the title role. Depp is unmistakably fantastic – consumed, morose, twisted with vengeance – and he’s in fine voice, to boot.

Helena Bonham Carter – ever the perfect Goth girl – gives Mrs. Lovett a wicked survivor streak balanced by a tender, pining affection. The romance dream sequence is a riot, and so perfectly Burton-esque. The two actors offset each other brilliantly, while their onscreen duo deserves credit for efficiency, if nothing else.

With Burton’s help, Depp found another dark, bizarre anti-hero to showcase his considerable talent. With Depp’s help, Burton gorgeously, grotesquely realized another macabre fantasy.

4. Hellraiser (1987)

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 (Clare Higgins) – 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.

Though the Cenobites are the real, lasting terror in this film – and how cool were they! – the sexual chemistry between Julia and that bloody lump of Frank is never less than unsettling. Higgins makes the perfect evil stepmother while redefining the term blood lust.

3. Sightseers (2012)

From the guttural drone of the opening segment, this film announces itself as a dryly, darkly hilarious adventure. Frumpy Tina (Alice Lowe, perfection) needs a break from the smothering mum who blames her for their dog’s death. Against Mum’s wishes, Tina will take a road trip with her new beau, the equally frumpy Chris (Steve Oram, amazing).

The film is a wickedly fresh British take on a familiar theme. Oram and Lowe wrote the script, alongside director Ben Wheatley’s go-to scribe (and wife) Amy Jump. The result is so absurd and hilarious – few films have had so much fun with moral ambiguity.

Wheatley blends the dark comedy of his first film, Down Terrace, with the sense of the unexpected that elevated Kill List to create enormously entertaining homicidal madness. It helps that his cast could not be better, draining all the glamour of the road trip assassin couple trope without relying on that as a gimmick. There’s a deeply British weirdness to the proceedings, which are handled with bone-dry aplomb by all involved.

2. The Hunger (1983)

Tony Scott’s seductive vampire love story has a little bit of everything: slaughter, girl-on-girl action, ’80s synth/goth tunage, David Bowie. What more can you ask?

Actually the film’s kind of a sultry, dreamily erotic mess. Catharine Deneuve is the old world vampire Miriam, David Bowie is her lover. The two spend years – perhaps centuries – together seducing victims. But he suddenly begins aging, and she needs to find a replacement. Enter Susan Sarandon as a medical specialist in unusual blood diseases and a fine actress who’s not above smooching other girls.

Bowie and Deneuve are both so effortlessly cool and sexy that you can almost forgive them their nighttime savagery. You find out just how dangerous he is once he begins the rapid-aging process, but once you get a peek into Miriam’s attic you find that she’s been far more dangerous – to her lovers and everyone else – for a very long time.

1. Alleluia (2014)

In 2004, Belgian writer/director Fabrice Du Welz released the exquisite Calvaire, marking himself a unique artist worth watching. Ten years later he revisits the themes of that film – blind passion, bloody obsession, maddening loneliness – with his newest effort, Alleluia. Once again he enlists the help of an actor who clearly understands his vision.

Laurent Lucas plays Michel, a playboy conman who preys upon lonely women, seducing them and taking whatever cash he can get his hands on. That all changes once he makes a mark of Gloria (Lola Duenas).

Du Welz’s close camera and off angles exaggerate Lucas’s teeth, nose and height in ways that flirt with the grotesque. Likewise, the film dwells on Duenas’s bags and creases, heightening the sense of unseemliness surrounding the pair’s passion.

Duenas offers a performance of mad genius, always barely able to control the tantrum, elation, or desire in any situation. Her bursting passions often lead to carnage, but there’s a madcap love story beneath that blood spray that compels not just attention but, in a macabre way, affection. Alleluia is a film busting with desperation, jealousy, and the darkest kind of love.

Fright Club: Best Doomed Romances

Valentine’s Day came and went, but we are still in a romantic mood. Why not celebrate those great, doomed romances so often found in horror? Surely, The Bride of Frankenstein may be the all-time best, but we wanted to share some of our lesser-appreciated favorites, beginning with one of the very best horror films of the last decade.

The Loved Ones (2009)

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker Sean Byrne’s sly handling of subject matter. It’s a wild, violent, depraved to spend 84 minutes. You should do so now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olB5Wrg8Sxc

Thirst (2009)

Leave it to the great Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) to think of turning the Postman Always Rings Twice storyline into a vampire tale. Thirst would be a weird movie regardless, but the steamy/guilty romantic entanglements with an ailing friend’s young wife take on a peculiar tone when the other man is not just a vampire, but a former priest to boot.

Father Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) volunteers for a medical experiment, but instead of a cure the procedure creates vampirism. The poor guy’s barely wrapped his head around his new drinking problem before he falls for his buddy’s scheming wife. Park’s visuals are a sumptuous wonder, and his romantic bloodletting is as curiously humorous as it is creepy.

May (2002)

Few horror films are as touching, funny, heartbreaking or bloody as May. Lucky McKee’s 2002 breakout is a showcase for his own talent as both writer and director, as well as his gift for casting. As the title character, Angela Bettis inhabits this painfully gawky, socially awkward wallflower with utter perfection. McKee’s screenplay is as darkly funny as it is genuinely touching, and we’re given the opportunity to care about all the characters: fragile May, laid back love interest Adam (a faultless Jeremy Sisto), hot and horny Polly (a wonderful Anna Faris).

McKee’s film pulls no punches, mining awkward moments until they’re almost unendurable and spilling plenty of blood when the time is right. He deftly leads us from the sunny “anything could happen” first act through a darker, edgier coming of age middle, and finally to a carnage laden climax that feels sad, satisfying and somehow inevitable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es0HnQqCqg0

The Signal (2007)

A transmission – a hypnotic frequency – broadcasting over TV, cell and landline telephones has driven the good folks of the city of Terminus crazy. David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry created a film in three segments, or transmissions. Transmission 1 introduces our lover heroes as well as the chaos. Can Mya and Ben remain sane, reunite and outrun the insanity? Transmission 2 takes a deeply, darkly funny turn as we pick up on the illogical logic of a houseful of folks believing themselves not to have “the crazy.” The final transmission brings us full circle.

The movie capitalizes on the audience’s inability to know for certain who’s OK and who’s dangerous. Here’s what we do know, thanks to THE SIGNAL: duct tape is a powerful tool, bug spray is lethal, and crazy people can sure take a beating.

Hellraiser

Here’s an alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. 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. A gash on brother 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. Larry’s wife (and Frank’s lover) Julia, both repulsed and aroused by her old flame’s half-alive form, agrees to make sure more blood is soon spilled.

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Halloween Countdown, Day 29

Hellraiser (1987)

“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.