With Arrow’s mightily impressive spit and polish of the seminal Hellraiser trilogy, with the spectral gleam of sweat and the lines of a finger joint clearer than they’ve ever been, comes the realisation that we’ve been watching it wrong all these years. Far from exposing the flaws of its rubber effects and gungey viscera, the 2K restoration reveals the vision in its truest form, and in so doing inspires a reappraisal of its themes and mysteries.
Clive Barker’s 1987 adaption of his own novella, The Hellbound Heart, for all its budgetary struggles and underhand politics with the now defunct American studio New World Pictures, seemed to make an overnight icon out of its breakaway beastie, Pinhead. But for us, Julia remains the captivating and uncanny lynchpin at the heart of this sordid tale. Played with theatrical gusto by Clare Higgins, she is Lady Macbeth reimagined, luring men to her home only to bash their skulls in for her skinless lover and pleasure casualty, Frank. Brought back from whatever abyss the Cenobites left him in, by his brother’s blood, no less, Frank’s rebirth scene is a thing of stomach-churning beauty. Arrow have really outdone themselves in reinstilling the film’s sense of enigmatic terror. So when the Cenobites enjoy their few minutes on screen, the black of their S&M garbs, the white of their flesh and the red of the blood really pop.
Forever doomed to live in its predecessor’s lengthening shadow, it’s hard not to be convinced by Hellbound. The pantomime style of its ingenious vision of Hell is an impressive spectacle, and the origin of Pinhead and the downfall of the Cenobites themselves add a more obvious poignancy. Even the third film, which was a meat-headed affair best defended with the old “it was the nineties” excuse, makes up for its shortcomings with its more out-there tendencies and higher production values.
Testament to the complexity of the concept, there’s far too much imagery and themes to explore in one review. Fortunately, the bounty of extras – including Kickstarted documentary Leviathan - more than speak for all of us. There’s features there you never knew you wanted. Take The Hellraiser Chronicles: A Question of Faith from director R.N. Milward, which was intended for the pilot of a potential Hellraiser TV series. Its utter schlock value is almost worth the asking price alone. But more valuable still is the reverence with which every individual involved speaks about the series and its creator. The absence of Clive Barker himself is a sore spot, but as archive footage proves, he’s pretty sick of his brainchild. Still, in this instance, too much of a good thing can’t be bad.
Special Features: Audio commentaries / Featurettes / Documentary / Behind the scenes / Interviews / Draft screenplays / Clive Barker short stories / Art cards / Image gallery / TV spots / Trailers / Collector’s booklet
HELLRAISER: THE SCARLET BOX LIMITED EDITION TRILOGY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: CLIVE BARKER, TONY RANDEL, ANTHONY HICKOX / SCREENPLAY: CLIVE BARKER, PETER ATKINS / STARRING: DOUG BRADLEY, ASHLEY LAURENCE, CLAIRE HIGGINS, KENNETH CRANHAM, TERRY FARRELL / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 26TH