Monday, October 12, 2015

31 Days of Halloween: Hellraiser

Well, I finally fucking did it. I watched Hellraiser.

In my first blog post of this month-long series in which I reviewed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, I told you all about how my boyfriend Brandon (aka Horror Movie Madness) and I spend the month of October. For us, October is full horror movie immersion month. You see, I'm horror movie deficient, and Brandon has decided he will cure me of that. 

It's fun, and I super enjoy it, but long ago I told Brandon I only had one rule: no Hellraiser.

"I will not watch Hellraiser," I told him all those years ago. "Not in a box, not with a fox. Not on a train, and not in the rain."

Brandon, being a kind and loving boyfriend, agreed to my terms. But he was curious, so he asked why. I explained to him that many years ago, in circumstances I can't remember, I stumbled into a room in which someone was watching the movie. I caught ten to fifteen seconds of it, and it scarred me for life.

It was that fucking chattering Cenobite. I saw him grab a woman by the head and shove his fingers in her mouth. It looked to me like he was attempting to rip her jaw off, or perhaps he was miming forced oral sex. I couldn't really say for sure which, but it turned my stomach.

Anyhow, fast-forward to today. This is our third year of October horror-movie lessons. I've already conquered the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses. I've seen most of the eighties slasher flicks and the classic seventies religious-cult movies. I thought it was time that I climb Mount Hellraiser and get it out of my system.

Besides, I always thought it was a little weird that I've read (and enjoyed) many of Clive Barker's novels and couldn't bring myself to watch the movie adaptation of his story that he, himself, directed.

So I watched Hellraiser today. And this is my assessment.

It was good.

Ha! I have more to say than that, of course. But just right off the bat: Hellraiser was exactly as scary as I expected, but not to the point where I couldn't enjoy Clive Barker's story. The man is just as much a genius of the genre as Stephen King, and I wouldn't say that lightly.

There are only a handful of characters in Hellraiser: Larry, a remarried widow of considerable financial means that derive from an unspecified origin; Larry's new wife Julia, his brother Frank; and his daughter Kirsty.

It's revealed early in the movie that Frank is a philandering cad who may or may not live off his brother's money, and who slept with Julia on the eve of her marriage to Larry. Frank is also, not surprisingly, the person who hunts down the demon-raising puzzle box and summons the Cenobites. They variously torture and pleasure him, as is their wont, and banish him to Hell-with-a-capitol-H.

When Larry cuts his hand and bleeds on the floor of their family home, the blood somehow nourishes Frank, who begins to rematerialize in his earthly form. Frank then reaches out to Julia, telling her that if she feeds him the blood of more innocents he would come back to life all they way. Julia, recalling their one wild rendezvous, agrees to help.

Time out.

This entire movie is predicated on the fact that Larry is apparently so boring in bed that his wife would literally kill random innocent people in order to once again fuck her brother-in-law. Good God. How sad.  Poor Larry is surrounded by horrible people. Except for Kirsty. She is eventually the one to re-banish Uncle Douchebag Frank to Hell and drive away the Cenobites. Of course, she didn't do any of that soon enough to save her father's life, but, oh well.

This is a Clive Barker story, remember. There may be a simple plot line but that leaves plenty of room for art, however terrifying it may be, and for psychology. 

A common theme throughout most of Barker's stories is the conflation of pleasure and pain, disgust and desire. Those themes are found throughout the movie. There are images of sexually-titillating fingers-in-mouths in the clips of Julia and Frank's One Wild Night early in the movie, images that are twisted and recreated later when Kirsty accidentally summons the Cenobites and Chatterer grabs her head and shoves his fingers down her throat.

As much as that scene disturbed me years ago (and again today), I was impressed by how it sort of bookended the earlier scene. It's like it put a ghoulish period on the end of that sentence.

I'm glad I watched Hellraiser. But, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I don't think I'll be watching it again.

I will leave you with this image, because it is cute, and cute conquers scary.

For another take on Hellraiser, read what Brandon thought of it!

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