Monday, June 11, 2012

Fun with S&M

Hellraiser was my first horror movie. At least, first one I distinctly remember watching. I may have seen other scary movies before it, but this was the fist of the famous franchises I was exposed to. I have fond memories of watching the first and third movies in the series on rented VHS one Christmas morning. That was a good holiday. I think that because of this exposure early in my horror viewing days (which was later in my life than for many, I was in my early 20's) I have a special place in my heart for creepy S&M style demons and incredible supernatural gore.

Hellraiser: My first horror movie ever. What a way to start what has become an obsession with the genre. This thing is brutal. Truly amazing effects on it, which stand up even today. Probably even more so than normal, given the surfeit of cgi as compared to the practical effects used for this. Basic plot is guy moves into his old family home, his dead brother escapes from hell a bit at a time, and the wife commits murder to facilitate the escape. Interestingly enough, the cenobites which have come to represent the series are practically non-existent in this entry. They serve more as a plot device toward the end than a real antagonist. Still, gotta love this movie. It has some lovely camera work, good use of tension, and some of the best (and most graphic) use of makeup I have ever seen. This will always hold a special place in my heart. You never forget your first love, after all. New Cenobites: Pinhead, Chatterer, Butterball, Female Cenobite, The Engineer.

Hellraiser: Hellbound: Taking place immediately following the last movie (but with better hair), this is a very good sequel. Thematically, it follows the general plot of the original. Bad person brought back with the blood of someone else, does bad things, hell is unleashed. This time the bad person is not the uncle, but his lover. The instrument of the release is an evil psychiatrist. All in all, very much the same as the first movie, with an equal amount of gore and fantastic effects. The cenobites play a larger role this time around too. We learn the origin of Pinhead, and see glimpses of who the other cenobites were as well. The most shocking is the implication that Chatter was a young boy. The really shocked me, in a good way. I give this high marks for staying true to a winning formula. New Cenobites: Dr. Channard.

Hellraiser: Hell on Earth: After the last movie, where the cenobites have been set free of their tasks, we have a distinct lack of enemies for the series. Lucky for us, the Hollywood movie system has a way around that. In this movie, we find out that Pinhead was not destroyed as much as split. His human soul is now in whatever realm they go to after being freed from being a hellish S&M demon while his evil is personified as a more extreme version of Pinhead. Trapped in a sculpture, he is of course freed and all kinds of shit goes down. I like how they explain the excuse for another sequel, even if it is unnecessary. I also like how they end the movie in a way that allows for more movies if they so choose (and choose they did). The cenobites in this movie are pretty clever, being nice reflections of the personalities of those they once were. Not really a good explanation for why they become, since it was implied in the first couple movies that the transformation was more willing than this. Ah well. Enjoyable movie. New Cenobites: Pistonhead, Camerahead, Dreamer, CD, Barbie.

Hellraiser: Bloodline: I love me a good back story. I remember watching this movie years ago, when it first came out on VHS. I loved it back then. Now that I have a bit more movie watching under my belt, going back was a painful experience. You know you are in for a bad movie when you see the director is "Alan Smithee." For those not in the know, that is the official pseudonym for a director who wishes to disavow all connection to a movie. A film has to be pretty bad for that to happen, usually. This movie starts int eh far future on a space station where a robot is used to open the Lament Configuration. We then get to have some plot exposition leading to flashbacks showing the history of the box. Well, kind of. We get the story of how the box was created, and how it was initially used to summon a demon. Then we jump to the present and see the descendant of the original toymaker who created the box being tormented by said demon in a building that is decorated to look like the puzzle box (an allusion to the last film). Then back to the future to watch a bunch of soldiers get killed before the space station is transformed into a larger version of the box, which is used to destroy the cenobites once and for all. More of an anthology movie than a linear plot, the opening sequence is too short while the second is too long. The finale feels to deus ex machina for my taste, and we don't get a feel for why Pinhead is even a part of any of this at all. I also have to wonder how Pinhead, who seemingly only existed since World War I, knows Angelique who was summoned from hell centuries before. New Cenobites: Angelique, Chatter Beast, Siamese Twins.

Hellraiser: Inferno: A really quite decent allegorical tale of a bad cop's decent into madness. Initially starting as an investigation of a violent crime, the movie spirals into the realm of the surreal and horrific as the cop tries to hunt down the mastermind behind a string of violent crimes. To make the hunt even more desperate, there is the indication that a child is being tortured and mutilated with each crime committed. It is a race against time to stop the crimes and save the unknown child. As the movie goes along, you find that things are not what they seem and it all ties back to the cop. A great movie, really, with a well handled plot and some pretty deep meaning behind it all. It just ain't Hellraiser. Other than a couple random cenobite kind of things which are really not important or meaningful tot he plot at all and a token Pinhead appearance toward the end, there is no reason to have made this Hellraiser at all. It's almost like someone saw the script for this movie, thought it would be good but was worried they couldn't sell it on its own merits, so they just tossed in some demons and a puzzle box and called it good. A shame really, since it detracts from what was an otherwise enjoyable movie as well as reducing the overall meaning behind the franchise itself. New Cenobites: Torso, Wire Twins.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker: Similar to the previous entry into the series, this movie seems more like a decent script that had some Hellraiser shoehorned in to make it sell. A husband and wife are in an accident, following which the husband cannot remember things clearly. Throughout the movie, there are glimpses of what he remembers, as well as quick cuts between alternate events of reality. Things like people dying, then not being dead. Or, him being in one place, then waking up in a place he was in a few scenes earlier. Some decent attempts to mess with the mind of the protagonist as well as the viewer. Then we get the final act cenobites and forced revelation of a puzzle box. While the ending of the movie is 100% reliant on Hellraiser and the greater storyline therein, it is not hard to imagine the original plot having a similar alternative that didn't require Pinhead or Kirsty Cotton. Sad to see the franchise falling apart so bad.. New Cenobites: Bound, Stitch, Surgeon.

Hellraiser: Deader: Well, on the plus side, this movie ties more fully into the Hellraiser mythos. Barely. More so than the last couple movies, but still only in a tangential sort of way. I have to be honest, I just finished watching this movie and I still don't think I fully understand what was supposed to be going on. Something about a guy bringing dead people back to life, who may be a descendant of the toymaker responsible for the box. I think he is supposed to be the villain, except he doesn't really do anything bad. Yeah, he has a cult of people who worship him and he convinced them all to kill themselves. But, he also has genuine miracles he can perform and none of them stay dead. So, kind of hard to find him all that bad. Less evil than the cenobites, who will torture and kill you for opening their puzzle box, which the want you to do. Not a great reward for doing what they ask, is it? Anyhow, it all ends in some blood and death and an explosion. Relatively entertaining, i guess. New Cenobites: Bound II, Little Sister, Chatterer III.

Hellraiser: Hellworld: So, Hellraiser without the cenobites? Hasn't really been done since the original. Yeah, the other sequels have a low cenobite count, but this one literally has none. Funny thing is, there are more Pinhead appearances in this one than on the last three sequels combined. He just isn't real. What we get instead is a Hellraiser themed, LSD induced, teen slasher film. Which is pretty enjoyable in and of itself. Just like the other direct-to-video sequels, this is a movie that could have prospered without the Hellraiser tie ins. It's a pretty decent movie with a pretty straightforward plot for the most part. In fact, it is one of the few movies in the horror genre I have seen in recent years that actually didn't have me guessing the ending early on. So, good movie if it wasn't for the attempt to shoehorn in Pinhead and friends. New Cenobites: None

Hellraiser: Revelation: So, a new Hellraiser. One in a long line of direct-to-video sequels to keep the franchise "alive." This one is nothing special. We get some video of a couple guys playing with the puzzle box, meeting Pinhead, and the usual end result. The rest of the movie takes place at a dinner where the families of the two boys are getting together to bond over their shared loss. They know their sons are missing, but not what happened to them. Then one of the two missing dudes comes back. the rest of the movie is a mix of flashbacks to what happened to the two when they were in Mexico and the events of the reappearance of the missing guy. Kind of a mix of a mystery, found footage, and Hellraiser. Overall, it is a passable movie. Nothing new or groundbreaking, though there is a kind of creepy incest scene that sort of wigged me out a bit. Big reveal is one that shouldn't surprise anyone. It does end in a way where they could do a sequel off of this one, which might be something worth seeing. Overall, just filler until a real Hellraiser can be done again. New Cenobites: Pinhead (revamped)

So, big picture, this franchise is pretty much my favorite of the big horror series out there. It was my first, as I said before. While most of the sequels have not been that great as Hellraiser movies, they are all pretty fun as movies in and of themselves. All of the direct-to-video ones were pretty much tapping into the latest fad at the time they were released, with a Hellraiser theme over the top to help sell them. I can say that the first 4 movies stand alone pretty well as a series. After that, the sequels are more independant than key piece of the whole.

I think, overall, the story of Pinhead is pretty well done in the original theatrical ones. You have the introduction to the mythology, further exploration of it (as well as the origin of Pinhead), the result of Pinhead's being severed from his host, and the finale telling the story of the box as well as the end of the epic. A decent story arc.

Regardless, I look forward to the new remake/reboot...whenever it is finally made.

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