Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy (Blu-ray films review).

November 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘Hellraiser’ turned the horror genre on its head. Before it, horror was mostly implied in the shadows or off-screen. ‘Hellraiser’ took the implication out of horror and waved its shock in your face. Forget creepy castles and shifty guys in evening wear, here the monsters came thick and hard at you. You were in for the most brutal of rough rides watching this film. Forget the fang in the jugular as a metaphor for sex, ‘Hellraiser’ was bloody, beautiful and very, very horny.

Like many 80s kids, I first saw the first film, ‘Hellraiser’ (1987) on a VHS with my teenage friends. VHS was still something of a novelty. Films sometimes cost upwards of £60 and, by today’s standards, looked pretty terrible. Fuzzy pictures and warbling sounds were the norm. Despite all of this, the quality and beauty shone through.

Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy (Blu-ray films review).

Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy (Blu-ray films review).

Frank is a bad, bad boy. In his pursuit of physical pleasure he will try anything, including his brother’s wife, a whole lot of chemicals and culminating in travelling to whole new planes of Sadomasochistic existence. The first film, ‘Hellraiser’, tells about Frank’s attempted return to Earth aided by his lover. Doing their best to keep him where he is are his niece Kirsty and the movie’s most iconic characters the Cenobites. These mangled angels are the highlight of the film.

The second film, ‘Hellbound – Hellraiser II’ (1922), follows neatly on from the first. The Cenobites want Kirsty to come back to their spiky hell. Stepmother Julia is brought back from torture Tartarus by a perverted psychiatric doctor obsessed with the events of the first film. More diabolic adventures follow for Kirsty and she must battle old and new enemies.

The third film, ‘Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth’ (1992), is set some years after the second. A dramatic pillar is bought as a piece of sculpture by a sleazy club owner. However this contains the remains of Pinhead, the lead cenobite from the first two films. Pinhead persuades the club owner that if he brings him back to life with the blood of freshly murdered victims, Pinhead will reward him richly. Eventually, the murders attract the attentions of an investigative reporter who will stop Pinhead by all means.

The acting performances throughout are mixed. Highlights include Andrew Robinson (much loved SF actor) in the first film as Larry and Terry Farrell as Joey in the third film also shines.

Without a doubt the star of the series is Doug Bradley as Pinhead. His performance is truly great. It takes an amazing level of skill to animate that much make-up and to make the dual roles in the third film so human and so monstrous. It feels, half-way through the second film, like a sea-change takes place. The second film began as a vehicle for Clare Higgins’ character, Julia. Pinhead and the Cenobites were demoted to lumbering creatures. Towards the end, during their battle with Kenneth Cranham (possibly the least likely piece of casting as the doctor), they take their rightful place at the centre of Hell and the film series. The human origins of the creatures is explored in the third film and once more Bradley’s performance is sublime.

It is impossible to talk about any horror film without a mention of the special effects. Here is the series’ strongest and weakest points. The transformation effects of Frank and Julia back to their human forms are simply brilliant. Even in Blu-Ray quality, the effects have stood the test of time amazingly well. Julia’s transition would work in a modern film. The puzzle box looked glorious in high definition.

The flip-side of this glorious detail is the profusion of wires, strings and at one memorable point some wheels. None of these were an issue on the original VHS copy, so technology has not been exclusively kind to the series. One wonders if the wires and wheels were visible in the cinema.

The passage of time also shows in the clothing and music fashions. This is inevitable in a film so anchored in its place in time. Hair was big, waistbands were high and music had thickly layered synthesisers. Frank’s designer stubble and Julia’s shoulder pads pale next to the wonder and brutality of the Cenobite’s caresses.

The box-set is loaded with extras. I enjoyed the interviews with the cast and crew. The most interesting features were a discussion of Clive Barker’s influence on the horror genre. He is held in justifiably high regard. His imagination injected life into a very bloated corpse.

It is a relief that the pilot for a ‘Hellraiser’ TV series was allowed to fester though if the pilot presented here is evidence.

The Blu-Ray set is a excellent purchase. The box-set is a must for genre fans. If you want to revisit childhood shocks this is worth a look, too.

Andy Bollan

November 2015

(Hellraiser. Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth)

(Region: Region B/2 blu-ray: pub: Arrow Video. 4 blu-ray discs 330 minutes 4 films. Price: £99.99 (UK). ASIN: B0117WYPPK)

cast: Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Claire Higgins, Kenneth Cranham and Terry Farrell

Sub-titles For The Hearing Impaired: English

check out website: www.arrowfilms.co.uk

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Category: Films, Horror

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