You'd be forgiven for thinking this sordid little S&M-fest wasn't British at all, despite its impeccable pedigree and all-round Gothicness (is that a word? It is now).
In fact, take away the copious blood-letting and kinky death/sex stuff and what you're left with is a Hammer film, to all intents and purposes (monster in the attic, woman luring men into said attic with promise of sex etc). Yet when you watch it, it positively reeks of our American cousins. Why? Because for some reason in the late 80s, if it wasn't American, it didn't sell, that's why.
Now I'm not some kind of little Englander with a huge chip on my shoulder, but this seems a bit strange. The film was made in Britain, with a British cast and British setting, yet it was then dubbed with American voices and given a kind of Mid-Atlantic feel. And yet these days, when you think of Gothic horror, you think of these shores. How things change.
Ah, well. Anyway, back to the film. Yes, Hellraiser is as British as cricket and Big Ben - after all, there's nothing we like better than a quick rub-down with some barbed wire before having all our skin ripped off and nails banged into our skulls, is there? Except possibly a cup of tea, that is.
Hellraiser is all of these things and more. From its beginning, when Uncle Frank makes the mistake of taking on an Oriental Rubik's Cube (this was the eighties, after all) and gets ripped to pieces for his trouble (still nasty, after all this time) to the ending when his niece frantically tries to solve the puzzle to send hell's emmissaries back to where they came from, it's a nasty, blood-soaked thrill-a-minute which has the power to shock and offend, more than a decade after it was made.
Forget the baffling sequels and ignore the occasionally dodgy effects - Hellraiser, with its iconic baddies and bizarre imagery, is one of the few worthy successors to the golden age of British horror cinema. When Pinhead says: "We have such sights to show you " he's not kidding.
Last updated: February 23, 2010
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