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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 Kristy 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:

  • 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 horror films in western civilization.
    • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: End of the first film. 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, the puzzle box still exists, and Kirsty is forced to spend the sequel trying to escape the Cenobites.
  • Blue and Orange Morality:
    • The novella and the first movie or so. 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. The first film portrays them 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.
    Salesman: What's your pleasure, Sir?
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The first movie treats the Cenobites as such.
  • 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", at least in the first film. The summoners never really understand what they're getting into.
  • Evil Uncle: Frank, obviously sucking the life out of people to restore yourself is pretty damn evil.
  • Eye Scream: The Butterball Cenobite has his eyes sewn shut; Chatterer, meanwhile, usually has skewers through his.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap: Kirsty gets this reaction upon hearing her father say, "Come to Daddy" and realizes who it really is.
  • 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. Well, aside from Frank not being above sleeping with his brother's second wife. Even if he's not Kirsty's father, though, the implications as her uncle aren't much better. 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 in the first film.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "We'll tear your soul...APAAAAAAHHHHT."
  • Tap on the Head: Half the horror comes from averting this trope, in much of the first film. Murders are by smashing someone on the head with a small hammer, and the first blow NEVER works.
  • Self-Constructed Being: The plot of the first movie as far as Frank Cotton was concerned.
  • She Is All Grown Up: This was Frank's reaction to Kirsty in the original.
  • 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 was never fully aware of what Julia was doing until the end when Frank kills and then skins him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Larry from the first film. Paying so little attention to your house and to your wife's strange behavior can get you 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.


    Franchise/HellraiserHellbound: Hellraiser II
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