Andrew Robinson as Larry Cotton
Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton
Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton
Sean Chapman as Frank Cotton
The story told in Hellraiser is a bit difficult to recount, and I understand (though I haven’t read it myself) that the book can be even more difficult to follow. We begin this horror movie with a close-up of a small metal-looking box with intricate carvings on it. The box sits on a table in a dive cafe in some far-away land. The box is being purchased by a man, Frank Cotton, but when it comes time for the money to change hands the seller won’t take it – declaring that “the box is yours…it has always been yours…”
Fast-forward to Frank, kneeling in a dark room holding the box and surrounded by candles. The box, you see, is a puzzle…and Frank is now attempting to solve it. When he does, all hell breaks loose! (as it were…) Chains with hooks on the ends of them appear out of nowhere and embed themselves in Frank’s skin, ripping his flesh to his great agony (and to the viewer’s delight!).
Fast-forward, yet again, to the bulk of this horror movie’s story: A middle-aged couple, Larry and Julia Cotton, are moving into Larry’s childhood home. It is here that the scenes so far begin to come together, as we learn that Frank (ripping hooks guy) is Larry’s brother…oh, and he also had an affair with Larry’s wife Julia. Oh what a tangled web we weave…
Well, during the move Larry cuts his hand on a nail (very well done anticipatory sequence), and the blood drips onto the floor…where it is sucked into the wood as if by sponge. This somehow awakens now-dead Frank (his bones were hiding in the floor???), and his bones come together to form a skeleton – and his flesh begins to rebuild and reanimate (ZOMBIE!!). Frank is now a half-finished monster-man that convinces his ex-lover Julia to find strange men in a singles bar and lure them into the house, where she kills them with a hammer. Frank then drinks their blood so that he can continue rebuilding his zombiefied body and become whole. Confused yet?
It is at this point that we get some additional insight…the puzzle is in fact a gateway to hell, and when this gateway is opened some spooky characters come to get you, including Chatter-Teeth and Pinhead. They are not happy that Frank somehow escaped their grasp and is rebuilding his physical body… not happy at all.
The special effects in Hellraiser are, especially for the 1980s, INCREDIBLE! This movie is a masterpiece in terms of the visuals, the characters and the way they actually make you believe the plausibility of this ridiculous story. The cold-as-ice Julia (Clare Higgins) is especially well done, and she plays her part with a steely frigidity that conveys years of sorrow and frustration…and a bit of EVIL (grin)!
And let’s not forget the birth of a horror icon, PINHEAD! In an era that was somewhat slim on horror movie innovation, Hellraiser set a new standard. Anyone serious about horror should rent, if not own, this movie. Highly recommended.