Hellraiser (1987) starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, Robert Hines, Doug Bradley directed by Clive Barker Movie Review

Hellraiser (1987)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Clare Higgins as Julia in Hellraiser (1987)


I first watched "Hellraiser" in 1991, it was my 18th birthday and wanted to watch the horror that people had been speaking about with its gruesome effects. Well I watched it and frankly I was bored out of my brain, yes the effects were effective and distracted me but the actually storyline did little to get me on edge, to get me scared or anything else I expected from a horror movie. Over 20 years later I decided to give "Hellraiser" another go as it is deemed by many to be a horror classic and thought maybe with a more mature head it will impress me more. It didn't, it left me feeling absolutely the same as how I did at the age of 18 with the effects still impressing me whilst it lacked everything that I want from a horror movie.

Now I accept that, movies I like some people don't and vice versa especially when it comes to horror because I am an old school fright fan who loves being made to jump by an electric atmosphere and the unexpected where others enjoy gore and other sorts of scared things. But I am a lost as to why "Hellraiser" is held in such high esteem because not once did it provoke any sensation of horror for me. I suppose I can sort of understand why there would be those who love it for the special effects and as I said they impressed me when I first watched "Hellraiser" and still do. In fact I will say the special effects and the work of the make-up team is exceptional and has given us the iconic image of Pinhead.

Doug Bradley as Pinhead in Hellraiser (1987)

But then there is this story surrounding selfishness, treachery, loyalty plus of course pleasure and pain as Julia and Larry move into the old family home and Julia doing anything to have her brother-in-law Frank back after he ended up on the dark side in his search for thrills. It does absolutely nothing for me and is surprisingly repetitive as the first half is all about Julia turning murderer in order to satisfy her lover's demands and the second half is all about Larry's daughter Kirsty trying to save the day. Maybe for some they feel some deeper connection to the pleasure & pain aspect that the story comes to life but it left me wondering when it was going to get entertaining.

Now for me the best part of "Hellraiser" was the special effects and make-up work but I also have to say that Clare Higgins as Julia delivers some wonderful bitchy looks. After bringing her first victim home for Frank to feast off of the look in her eyes of what she has done and how she transforms is brilliant, it is the best performance and character in the entire movie.

What this all boils down to is that "Hellraiser" just doesn't do it for me, it fails to grab my attention and deliver the old school shocks and frights as well as atmosphere which I need from a horror. But for so many to class it as a horror classic I accept that it must work for some especially as it spawned sequels.