Truly Bad Films

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Movie Review - Hellraiser

Hellraiser (1987)

I watched Hellraiser for the second time while it was snowing yesterday. The first time I saw it was on tv a few months ago, so I rented it in case I missed a lot due to television cutting bad language or graphic scenes. To my surprise, the TV version didn't cut much at all. And it's not, even one bit, a bad movie.

The great thing about reviewing a movie everyone on earth has already seen is that I don't have to re-cap the plot. I hate retelling plots blow-by-blow - but in case you haven't seen it let me sum it up by saying:

Evil step-mother of lovely heroine turns to murder in order to reanimate undead uncle who is on the lam from four demons called Cenobites. There!

You can't tell if the movie is supposed to be set in England or New England. It was directed by Clive Barker - a Brit - who seems to imagine that England New England is one big country filled with mixed casts of Americans and Limeys anyway - so you don't need to know where this movie is supposed to be. But, to set the record straight, it was filmed in England.

For the most part, it stands up to the passing of time. The whole thing is very soap opera in its thin sketchs of character and dialog, but that's ok. You believe it when the evil mother-in-law turns to murder. You get that same sickening lurch in your belly the way you do in Texas Chainsaw Massacre from the raw violence that is enacted, incongrously, while she's wearing high heels and a silk blouse.

The Cenobites are just weird enough that you can't dismiss them easily. They carry a whiff of bad dream, even though they also look kind of stupid. The one with the dental lip retractors almost makes me laugh. It's like Marilyn Manson was throwing a party on the set next door and some of his guests wandered over to the Hellraiser set. "Dental Lips Cenobite" clicks his teeth together statically, reminding me of grasshopper mandibles. It somehow communicates a mindless destructive force more than it does sillyness. Small details like the "Throat Surgery Cenobite" who whispers everything she says through blue lips shove you just enough off kilter to buy into this reality.

And that is the true genius of this film. It's the small things that it does right. It gets you to buy into the small things and then big things that aren't completely fleshed out (like story) or even logical (too many to name) aren't important. It gets inside your nervous system and disturbs you - and that is what horror is paid to do.


At 3:32 AM, Blogger Sandy said...

Oh...I love this daughter watched it for the first time a few mths ago and she was trying to be all brave...haha...I woke up the next morning and almost stepped on her, she had made a pallet on the floor next to my bed!

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Chai-rista said...

haha!!! Great story. I'm watching Land of the Dead and Constantine this weekend.


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