It’s no coincidence that this week’s Retro Cinema choice is “Hellraiser.” Because in case you haven’t heard, the remake has been given a green light. Now, I know you hard-core horror fans like me are out there saying “Oh, God no, not another remake!” But fasten your seatbelts kids, because for once this is good news: Clive Barker is gonna direct and Doug Bradley is coming back as Pinhead.

Now that’s how you do a freakin’ remake.

When Barker first directed “Hellraiser,” he had a very limited budget and in fact, he confesses in the DVD commentary that he basically got the resurrection scene special effects done for much less than what it should’ve cost (only $25,000) because the studio liked what they saw of the film and threw a few more dollars their way. That scene wasn’t even in the original script due to not having a budget for it.

I think it’s fair to say that this time around, Barker won’t face those kinds of problems. Nor have to resort to the cheesy painted in special effects he did himself — those being my main criticism of the original as well as the pretty dreadful acting of Ashley Laurence (sorry, but it’s true.) Sure, there are a few things that went wrong, but a whole lotta things went right.

While I’m sure most people reading this have seen the film, I don’t want to give away too much just in case, but let’s just say after “Hellraiser,” people really didn’t look at hooks and chains quite the same way again. Nor their prim and proper British wives.

Glamour, “Hellraiser” Style

While we got a couple of glimpses of Pinhead in shadowy sets near the beginning, Barker made an artistic choice in this film to show his full band of demons — his Cenobites — in bright light for the first time, not the usual creepy shadows. Barker made no secret of his love of the Italian horror director DarĂ­o Argento, and the way Argento can combine beauty with horror. And that’s exactly what he did with his first scene of the full Cenobite crew in this film, creating a sort of glamour shot of his monsters. Which seems oddly appropriate given their fashionably chic fetish attire.

And oh, what monsters they were, unlike anything anyone had ever seen on celluloid before. I mean, let’s just talk about Pinhead. Sure, you’ve got Jason in his mask and Freddy with his knives, but this guy has such refined evil it chills you to the bone in an entirely different way.

The Cast of Hellraiser

And let’s talk about the actors in this movie.

Yeah, Laurence was pretty bad given it was her first acting job ever, but her costars… Clare Higgins (Julia) and Andrew Robinson (Larry) were brilliantly cast and played their roles to film-noirish perfection. Not only does brother Frank become more rejuvenated with each of the prey Julia brings to him, but old Julia certainly evolves into this high Gothic femme fatale. Yet she also brings a shaky vulnerability to her character early on in the film, trying to sound “normal” while she’s chatting through the bathroom door with her husband, yet inside covered with blood after her first kill.


Robinson played the wimpy husband Larry, then transitioned seamlessly into brother Frank with evil relish. And Robinson completely ad libbed the line “Jesus wept” in that one rather notorious scene. You know what one I’m talking about.

Of course, let’s not forget Bradley, who had no idea he was about to enter the pantheon of horror monsters and create his whole career. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you: Initially, Bradley was going to play one of the guys that helps move the mattress upstairs because he didn’t want to be unrecognizable under a bunch of makeup. But he eventually did take the role of Pinhead, and of course, I think we all know that turned out pretty well for him.

Such Sweet Suffering

There weren’t any whips, but there were plenty of chains and sadomasochistic themes thoughout the movie, besides the fetish fashion of the monsters. But then a little sex and violence mixed together shouldn’t be too surprising in a film with classic lines like “Oh, no tears please. It’s a waste of good suffering!” and”Taste our pleasures.” Please multiple uses of a rather lecherous “Come to Daddy” by Frank.

And long before the body mod craze became fashionable, these Cenobites has extreme body mod going on with their various permanent tortures of hooks and wires and nails. “Hellraiser” was low budget but it had style, it had gore, it had sex, and it had the scariest monsters we had ever seen in a very sort of sadomasochistic theme.

Barker is a man who does not recognize conventional limitations to morality or art.

Hellraiser Redux

So now, fast-forward to the present, where Barker has the clout in Hollywood to get at least a decent budget if not a huge blockbuster flow of cash. And a whole different perspective on life after so many years since his major film debut. This is one case where you have to get behind any artistic changes coming from the man who created the story “The Hellbound Heart,” in the first place, even before the first movie was made.

For once, this is a remake to look forward to, but until then, go back and indulge your dark fetishes… er, fantasies in the original.

Retro Cinema reviews a different retro horror film every Monday. Subscribe at the top of the page for updates on new film reviews, interviews and horror news.

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