28 February 2011

Fin's Review: Hellraiser

Hellraiser is a tough watch, and I mean that in a good way.

Although Hellraiser has always been in the background of my horror thought, for some reason I have always avoided it. I've always seen it as a needlessly violent and to be honest trashy horror film, as well as been put off by what I saw as sado-masochistic undertones. I couldn't have been more wrong. Hellrasier is in fact a very skillfully made and artful addition to the horror canon. Although a very different film, like The Exorcist it actually has a traditionalist message running through it and can be seen as an attack on the hedonistic and moral revisionist thought which dominates modern society. It argues that the pursuit of pleasure purely for pleasure's sake will ultimately lead to physical and moral degradation.

This film is a disturbing and uncomfortable experience but, like all the best horror, it is definitely an 'experience'. I find it odd that this film, although widely known, does not receive more recognition. Clive Barker is on excellent form and his sharp direction creates an ominous doom-laden atmosphere from the start. The acting is universally strong. The film also contains some of the most incredibly creative and stunning imagery I have ever seen in a horror film; two notable moments are the scene in the hospital ward after Kirsty has opened the puzzle box and the IV drip bag fills with blood, and when the walls of the hospital explode with an eerie light indicating the arrival of the cenobites.

The special effects are awesome and are up there with The Thing as the best horror special effects of the 80s. The scene when Frank is born again and literally grows out of the floor has to be seen to be believed. Frank's return from the cenobite layer begins with a pool of goo until out of nowhere a barely human form begins to ooze and meld out of the goo. This scene, Frank's dripping skinless body and the infamous cenobites are a remarkable achievement in the pre-CGI era. Bob Keen, the effects designer, should have won an Oscar.

I cannot talk about this film without discussing Pinhead and the cenobites - undoubtedly some of the most hideous and balls-out villains you are ever likely to see. Pinhead has now become a horror icon, along with his pleasure-seeking buddies, and as a result it is difficult to view them with fresh eyes, but they are a truly unique addition to the horror pantheon. The internal twistedness of the cenobites is reflected in the twisted nature of their bodies - the cenobites are horrific but their genius lies in the fact that we can still see their humanity and what they perhaps once used to be.

Fundamentally it is difficult to sum up the visceral experience of watching Hellraiser. Although I'm not usually a fan of gore, in this film the gore and viscera merge with the darkness of the movie to create an artistic masterpiece. If you haven't seen this movie, make sure you do.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.