Friday, 11 July 2014
Clive Barker's directorial debut takes a sunday evening television idea and thoroughly vandalises it. Hellraiser's adulterous love triangle involves married couple Larry and Julia, as well as his flick knife carrying brother Frank. Weeks before Larry and Julia's wedding, Frank made a point of fucking Julia with such expertise that she's never been able to shake the memory.
Following a prolonged disappearing act from Frank, the bickering bride and groom move into his former lodgings, the decrepit old family home. Unknown to them, Frank met a sticky end in the attic after purchasing an ornate puzzle box. Whilst moving a mattress, Larry snags his hand on a rusty nail. Being of a weedy constitution, Larry rushes upstairs to show his wife, spilling copious amounts of soupy gore on the bare floorboards. This blood offering returns the dead Frank back to life as a dessicated, vampiric corpse. Reunited with Julia, Frank sets about manipulating his former plaything into bludgeoning drippy businessmen for him to feast on.
Although Doug Bradley's Pinhead gets all the attention, Hellraiser is really Julia's film. Barker and actress Clare Higgins take what could be a sleazy, one-dimensional role and beef it up with anxiety and hesitation. Julia is willing to help her flayed lover but she isn't brazen, it's an obligation. A unpalatable task to churn through. The hammer murders she commits are also framed by her disastrous interactions with men. Julia's husband is a loud-mouthed dolt who keeps pawing at her even when she's sobbing. The suits she picks up to feed Frank are either sneering yuppies or ditherers who turn rough behind closed doors. Frank, Julia's idea of salvation, doesn't even pretend to love her.
S&M debauchery aside, a sense of sadness hangs over Hellraiser. Julia has spent her life settling. Her marriage is so lacking in passion that she's willing to cave other people's heads in to feel desired. Julia is used to putting up with slights and soldiering on. She doesn't even flinch when Frank starts making it obvious he's lusting after Julia's stepdaughter Kirsty. She simply looks the other way.
Disappointingly, Hellraiser the film eventually loses interest in Julia as well. Despite doing all the heavy lifting in the second act, Julia is dumped as soon as the demonic Cenobties turn up. Hellraiser had developed two competing ideas of how female sexuality is commodified - youth versus experience and expertise. Sadly they barely clash. Julia's discarded, skinned offscreen. Kirsty ends up front and centre, banishing monsters by solving a Rubik's Cube.