Film: Hellraiser

Hellraiser is a 1987 horror film directed by Clive Barker, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. It is the first film in the Hellraiser series.

Somewhere in the orient, the hedonistic Frank Cotton acquires a puzzle box from a mysterious Chinese man. At his home in London he eventually figures out the configuration, before he is is dragged off by unseen forces. Some time later, his brother Larry and Larry's second wife Julia visit the house, and with Frank seemingly gone, decide to move in. By accident some of Larry's blood is spilled on the floor in the attic, and Frank rises from the dead as a skinless undead human. He tells Julia (with whom he had an affair in the past) that he has escaped from a dimension ruled by beings called Cenobites who merge the boundaries between pleasure and pain, and convinces her to keep it a secret from Larry and find men for him to feed off on. Meanwhile Larry's daughter Kirsty discovers the puzzle box, and comes face to face with the Cenobites, who are interested in getting Frank back to their realm.


Hellraiser contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: The Cenobites. When Frank solves the box in the book, they warn him that the otherworldly sensations they offer may not be what he's looking for and actually give him the chance to walk away. They also don't renege on their deal with Kirsty.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • In the book, Pinhead is present but is not the lead Cenobite. The female Cenobite, the Chatterer, and the Engineer all have more prominent roles, but the film adaptation prevented this. The Chatterer could not speak (and the actor could not see), the Engineer was demoted and completely remade to the point of being unrecognizable, and the female Cenobite—while capable of speaking—had makeup that severely limited the actress' head and facial movements. Though fixed by the sequel, these problems meant Pinhead took point. Now he's the face of the franchise.
    • Butterball had some lines in the original script but due to the makeup preventing the actor from speaking, his lines were either cut or given to the female Cenobite.
  • Big "NO!": Frank shouts this when Kirsty tosses the Lament Configuration out the window.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Cenobites have been defeated and Kirsty has escaped the flaming wreckage of her father's home with her boyfriend. But her father is dead and the puzzle box still exists. Further soured by the sequel, in which Kirsty is still trying to escape the Cenobites.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Cenobites inhabit a dimension of pure pleasure... only their idea of "pleasure" is so far removed from what is "normal" that an ordinary human would consider it weirdly discomfiting at best, agonizing torture at worst. The Cenobites don't consider their victims to be victims at all: they're giving them what they think they want. Those who use the box with better understanding are people who are addicted to the extremes of sensation, both pain and pleasure, and often blurring the line between the two before ultimately erasing it completely. The Cenobites are effectively priests of an S&M religion.
  • Body Horror: Frank, remaking his body from blood and flesh of others.
  • Bondage Is Bad: A popular misconception of the Cenobites. Here they are portrayed as amoral, if extreme, Sense Freak types.
  • Book Ends: The film ends right where it started, with the Chinese man selling the retrieved Lament Configuration to another unwitting explorer of the boundary between pleasure and pain, just as he did with Frank. Right down to the "What's your pleasure, sir?" line.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The female Cenobite inserting her fingers into her own exposed trachea in the first film - among innumerable other examples likely to make you ill.
  • Evil Feels Good: Frank's motivation.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Frank Cotton releases four demons with the magical cube, which looks quite like some toy. They don't exactly reward him, although it's technically neither a reward nor a punishment. The Cenobites' job is to bring the summoner to the heights of "pain and pleasure". The summoners don't really understand what they're getting into.
  • Evil Uncle: Frank is Kirsty's. Obviously sucking the life out of people to restore yourself is pretty damn evil. He tries to rape Kirsty herself (after having a lengthy affair with her stepmother) before going after her with a knife.
  • Eye Scream: The Butterball Cenobite has his eyes sewn shut; Chatterer, meanwhile, usually has skewers through his.
  • Final Girl: Kirsty.
  • For Want of a Nail: A rather literal example. While moving furniture, Larry cuts his hand on a protruding nail and bleeds all over the floor. It's this blood that Frank first uses to reconstruct his body and return to the world of the living. If not for that stupid nail, Larry, Julia, and Kirsty might have just gone on living in the house, and Frank might have stayed in Hell.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Cenobites are treated as such.
  • Incoming Ham: "The box. You opened it. We came."
  • It Gets Easier: Julia starts off reluctantly killing a man to restore Frank's body. The subsequent ones are easier, but for a while she still pleads for her husband's life. By the end, she is completely calm and at ease when Frank kills Larry and steals his skin.
  • Louis Cypher: The Chinese merchant at the beginning and the locust-eating hobo are both faces of what is implied to be the devil, or at least, a devil.
  • Oh Crap!: Kirsty gets this reaction upon hearing her father say, "Come to Daddy" and realizing who it really is, and again when Pinhead appears right behind her after he's taken Frank back.
  • Parental Incest: The lurking phantom of parental incest is all over the first two films. "Come to daddy" and all that. There's no evidence that it actually happened, but the idea is pretty firmly put into viewer's heads, particularly when Frank - already established as not above sleeping his sister-in-law - attempts to rape Kirsty - his niece - while wearing her father's skin. Incidentally, that was a line taken directly from the novella where Kirsty is twenty-six and a friend rather than the daughter. Doesn't make it any less creepy though.
  • Peek-A-Boo Corpse: Played about as straight as possible.
  • Plot Armor: Kirsty. When Frank opens the box, it immediately spits out the Cenobites' signature hooked chains, promptly skewering him and tearing him apart. Kirsty, on the other hand, just gets a weird Dark World effect going on in her hospital room, a sudden door in the wall with a monster inside that doesn't catch her, and the Cenobites arriving rather dramatically. She wouldn't have even had a chance to offer a trade if it'd worked the same for her as it had for Frank.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "We'll tear your soul...APAAAAAAHHHHT."
  • Tap on the Head: Half the horror comes from averting this trope. Murders are by smashing someone on the head with a small hammer, and the first blow NEVER works.
  • Self-Constructed Being: The plot, as far as Frank Cotton is concerned.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Frank's reaction to Kirsty.
  • Sinister Shades: The Butterball Cenobite, who wears shades because his eyes are sewn shut.
  • Slasher Smile: The Chatterer. Not that he can really make any other expression...
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Larry isn't aware of what Julia is doing until Frank kills and then skins him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Larry pays so little attention to his house and to his wife's strange behavior that it gets him killed.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Larry refers to the city they've moved to as Julia's "turf" yet the residents have an odd mixture of both American and English accents. One person is seen wearing a New York Yankees ballcap. Gets more confusing in the first sequel, where Kirsty has been moved to a (presumably nearby) mental hospital, but now everyone is American except for Dr. Channard and Julia. Clive Barker mentions in the DVD commentary that the movie was initially overtly set in London, but the studio offered an increased budget if the film was changed to be set in America to capitalize on the stronger horror market in the US.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Julia. She even says so herself.