Men & Cubes: The Hellraiser Series Pt.1

Hellraiser is like the series that just won’t go away. 2012 marks the 25th Anniversary of the launch of the Hellraiser series back in 1987.

That original film scared the crap out of me during high school and it is interesting that the series continues with the ninth entry being released in 2011.

Clive Barker has been trying to get a remake of the original film done but it keeps getting stuck in limbo.

Hellraiser was the only Clive Barker property that was a hit with filmgoers and it would make sense that a reboot was being looked at. Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers have all been rebooted why not Pinhead?

So to mark the 25th Anniversary I wanted to write an article to analyze and hopefully celebrate Clive Barker’s creation and the twists and turns the series took over 25 years.

HELLRAISER (1987)
Hellraiser came from the dark twisted mind of author Clive Barker, who directed the inaugural film. It is based on one of his short stories from his Books of Blood anthology. In it, an unfaithful wife, Julia (Clare Higgins), encounters the zombie of her dead lover, Frank (Sean Chapman) who’s being chased by demons after he escaped from their sado-masochistic Hell.

The gore and gruesomeness of this film was new for 1987 and is now very tame in comparison to today’s Saw franchise. But here the gore served a purpose. When we picture Hell usually it is just all fire and brimstone and if our souls are not saved we burn for eternity. Well Hellraiser’s version is a lot more intricate. There are many ways to have an eternity of damnation and that side of the coin is explored in this series.

The first two films are about escapees trying to get out of hell by any means necessary. Frank uses his power over Julia in the first film to bring him victims so he can crossover. The more blood the quicker Frank will embrace her once more.

Their forbidden lust for each other crossed with her killing men for Frank damns her from the first time she encounters him. His plan would have been perfect if one of their victims hadn’t been Frank’s brother and Julia’s husband, Larry (Andrew Robinson). When Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) finds out what happens to her father Frank’s plan of escape is thwarted.

There are amazing performances from Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman and Andrew Robinson. But really it is Ashley Laurence who steals the show. Her Kirsty is strong, driven and determined and she as important to this series as Jamie Lee Curtis was to Halloween. It is really a shame this actress didn’t go on to bigger and better things. She’s incredible.

(4 out of 5)

HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2 (1988)
The sequel is interesting because it is a direct continuation of the first film.

Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is brought to an institution after the death of her family. Kirsty’s doctor, Phillip Channard (Kenneth Graham) becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth behind Kirsty’s stories.

So he uses the cube and connects with Julia, who like her former lover Frank convinces the doctor to bring her victims so she can return.

So after two films as a casual viewer, you must be wondering where does Pinhead, the featured monster of these films come into play.

Pinhead is more like a guardian of hell and tries to get as many souls corrupted as he can.

He makes deals with Kirsty so that her escaped relatives are returned to him. But really he is only a supporting character in the first two films.

Another thing that is worth mentioning about the first sequel is that we actually get a front row seat to see Clive Barker’s version of hell and where Pinhead and his minions (The Cenobites) come from. It is quite an amazing sight and very different than any Christian hell.

(4 out of 5)

HELLRAISER 3: HELL ON EARTH (1992)
In the third film, a nightclub owner (Kevin Bernhardt) buys a pillar covered with the victims of hell. He has no idea that it’s a conduit to bring Pinhead and his minions to Earth. But as an investigative reporter (Deep Space Nine’s Terry Farrell) uncovers the mysteries of the cube and pillar, it might be too late for the world and the soul of the nightclub owner.

What made three different than the first two was Pinhead was more of a character. In the first two it was more Kirsty and Frank’s stories. This time there is no escapee just a corrupted man making a deal with Pinhead.

The movie also explores more of the origins of Pinhead, which is all quite fascinating. Who was the man behind the pins?

The second sequel is where the became more of a “men and cubes” kind of structure. The cube and Pinhead corrupt and the victim is damned. This kind of structure is very much what happened to Frank in the original film. But we never get the extra layer of perversion with the illicit affair and escape attempt through blood. It just became the series trademark and formula.

The third film was also the last Hellraiser film released in theatres.

(3 out of 5)

HELLRAISER 4: Bloodline (1996)
In the first direct-to-DVD sequel, the franchise goes to the 22nd century, where a scientist attempts to right the wrong his ancestor created: the puzzle box that opens the gates of Hell and unleashes Pinhead and his Cenobite legions. Can the scientist finally close the gate?

Seriously Pinhead goes sci-fi? What were they thinking?

This was five years before they launched Jason Voorhees into space in 2001’s Jason X and a year before 1997’s Leprechaun 4: In Space.

So you really can’t even blame this film on a horror trend. If anything it started it.

The acting, writing and casting in this film is all atrocious. Like many entries in long running horror series, you just have to forget some of them exist like Halloween 3 for example.

As a Hellraiser fan, I choose to forget Hellraiser 4 was made. It makes no sense to the series.

(1 out of 5)

In Part 2: We will find the sequel that put the series back on track as a old friend squares off against Pinhead. We will also visit one of new Superman Henry Cavill’s early roles. All this tomorrow as Men & Cubes continues.

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