Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Hellraiser

Sequence of three Horror Movies with unusually rich fantasy content.

1. Hellraiser UK movie (1987). New World/Cinemarque/ Film Futures. Pr Christopher Figg. Exec pr Mark Armstrong, David Saunders, Christopher Webster. Dir Clive Barker. Mufx Bob Keen. Screenplay Barker. Based on The Hell-Bound Heart (1986 Night Visions 3 ed George R R Martin; 1991) by Barker. Starring Doug Bradley (Pinhead), Sean Chapman (Frank), Clare Higgins (Julia), Ashley Laurence (Kirsty), Andrew Robinson (Larry), Oliver Smith (Frank as Monster). 93 mins. Colour.

Unpleasant adventurer Frank buys a curious puzzle-box which, on manipulation, opens a Portal to the other-dimensional world of the Cenobites, seekers after the utmost in pleasure and pain. Some time after he has been snatched away to their tortures, his brother Larry and Larry's second wife Julia (once Frank's lover) move into the family home. After a minor accident, some of Larry's blood spills onto the attic floorboards; it is enough for Frank to begin to regenerate himself. But more blood is needed, so Julia lures men back to the house and murders them for Frank to feast on. Last killed is Larry, whose disguising skin (> Skinned) Frank wears in an attempt to deceive Kirsty, Larry's daughter by his first wife. Kirsty has accidentally manipulated the box, but bargained with the Cenobites: her life or Frank's return. In a gory ending, Frank kills Julia but is reclaimed by the Cenobites.

Hugely successful, H mixes much horror cliché with some genuinely adventurous Dark Fantasy (there is on occasion a fine sense of being on the borders of the transcendent). The leading Cenobite – known colloquially as Pinhead – became a minor fantasy Icon. [JG]

2. Hellbound: Hellraiser II UK movie (1988). New World/Cinemarque/Film Futures. Pr Christopher Figg. Exec pr Clive Barker, Christopher Webster. Dir Tony Randel. Mufx Image Animation. Screenplay Peter Atkins (1955-    ). Starring Doug Bradley (Pinhead/Elliott), Imogen Boorman (Tiffany), Kenneth Cranham (Dr Channard), Clare Higgins (Julia), Ashley Laurence (Kirsty). 93 mins. Colour.

Although again rich in cliché, the first sequel to 1 is a significant work of the fantastic. Weird psychiatrist Dr Channard uses the flesh and blood of a patient to revive Julia from the gory mattress on which she died, and – solving the puzzle-box through the medium of mute-savant child Tiffany – follows Julia to a Dante-style Hell, ruled by Leviathan, Lord of the Labyrinth. In pursuit come Kirsty – eager to rescue her father – and Tiffany. Julia betrays Channard, but he becomes the most powerful Cenobite of all, destroying the earlier ruling quartet (here more clearly identified as Demons, though much is made of their human origins). At last, Julia having been Skinned, he himself is destroyed by the two girls and by Leviathan. There are conscious resonances with the works of Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dalí and M C Escher and with Fairytale – "I'm no longer just the wicked Stepmother," says Julia to Kirsty: "Now I'm the evil queen." [JG]

3. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth UK/US movie (1992). Fifth Avenue/Lawrence Mortorff. Pr Lawrence Mortorff. Exec pr Clive Barker. Dir Anthony Hickox. Spfx Bob Keen. Screenplay Peter Atkins. Starring Kevin Bernhardt (J P Monroe), Doug Bradley (Pinhead/Elliott), Ken Carpenter (Doc), Terry Farrell (Joey Summerskill), Ashley Laurence (Kirsty), Paula Marshall (Terry). 93 mins. Colour.

Essentially a video nasty. The movie's sole interesting piece of fantasy comes when tv journalist Joey steps through Limbo's layers of Reality in company with the Ghost of WWI veteran Captain Elliott Spencer, who wishes to stop the sadistic activities of the entity he himself later became, Pinhead; this can be done only by Joey with the puzzle-box. At last Joey is able to despatch Pinhead/Elliott to Hell. [JG]

further reading: The Hellraiser Chronicles (photo coll 1992) by Clive Barker with Peter Atkins and Stephen Jones.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.