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Hellraiser (1987)

This is one of those franchises that is loved by so many fans of the genre, and rightly so. Yet for one reason or another, it has never had the same impact on me and never drawn me back in to a rewatch time and time again, like so many other iconic horror films of a similar stature do. This is thankfully one of the reasons I started to do this page, encouraging me to revisit once soured films in my mind and giving them the second chance that some of them either do or sometimes do not deserve. The question is, does this Clive Barker's film based on his own 1986 novella 'The Hellbound Heart' deserve it? Although I can see the appeal, this film is certainly not without its flaws. By creating such iconic horror villains such as the Cenobites, Julia and Uncle Frank, it does not fall short on engaging plot whilst also managing maintain a consistent pace throughout. I can only assume having a well grounded lore to pull from can only have helped mold the storytelling side of things. With Barker having one of the most creative and twisted minds in the business, it is clear this is his vision. Even given the budgetary constraints he had to endure during the process, and this being his first directorial debut, I think he shows such potential with his ideas and disturbing visuals. Filmed mostly within the confines of a single house location, this does run the risk of looking slightly like an episode of a bland soap opera from time to time. Pairing that with some rather subpar acting from Clare Higgins and Sean Chapman as the titular villains Julia and Frank in the first 45 minute of its runtime, it's not that hard to see why I never found the need to revisited this until now. That is of course with the exception of Ashley Laurence's performance as Kirsty (Who I found to be one of the more convincing final girls to come from films of this era) and the exceptionally terrifying portrayal of Pinhead by Doug Bradley. I think without either of these two this film would have undoubtedly been a major failure. One of the more unforgivable things however is the rather glaring use of poor CGI within the last third act of this film. This does however coincide with the introduction of the Cenobites and their horrifying practical make-up work, which does make it slightly easier to overlook these issues. I just think maybe given the limitations of this technology in that era, it would have been best to avoid its use altogether. The make-up department do an amazing job of making the Cenobites look incredibly sadistic, combining them with some extremely creative and gruesome looking practical effects throughout (especially with the ever growing transition of Frank returning to his human form). It's easy to see why this has garnered the fan base it has over the years. Personally, I would have just preferred to have seen more of them within the first two thirds of the film. I'm glad I made the decision to go back and give this film a watch with fresh eyes, showing it the appreciation it does deserves. However for me, I didn't find this to be as impressive as most firsts in horror movie franchises. I did enjoy it for what it was and I really liked the haunting score used throughout but, unfortunately, I found the idea more compelling than the execution. Considering the amount of installments within this Hellraiser series, I'm expecting things to get better from here.



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