HELLRAISER (1987) Reviews and overview


‘Demon to some. Angel to others.’

Hellraiser is a 1987 British-American horror feature film written and directed by Clive Barker (Nightbreed; Lord of Illusions), based upon his own novella, The Hellbound Heart.

The film spawned a series of sequels and continues to be a franchise.


Somewhere in Morocco, Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) buys an antique puzzle box from a dealer.

Back in the attic of his house in North London, Frank solves the puzzle box, prompting hooked chains to emerge from it and tear deep into his flesh. Black-robed, horribly mutilated humanoids appear and attack Frank with hooked chains, tearing him into pieces. Their leader Pinhead (Doug Bradley), picks up the box and twists it back into its original state, taking Frank’s dissected physical remnants back to their realm with them and restoring the room to normal.


Sometime later, Frank’s brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) arrives at the house along with his second wife, Julia (Clare Higgins), who previously had an affair with Frank. The pair know Frank as an avowed hedonist and petty criminal, and, presuming that he is in jail in some exotic location, decide to move in.

Larry’s teenage daughter, Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence), chooses not to live with her stepmother and moves into her own place. While moving into the house, Larry cuts his hand on a nail and drips blood on the attic floor. The blood somehow reaches Frank in his prison in the humanoids’ realm, partially restoring his body and allowing him to escape to the attic…


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” …Hellraiser is a return to the cutting edge of horror, and in its inventively gruesome moments – Chapman turned inside-out – by creaking millworks, his face put together on the floor like a jigsaw puzzle, the skinned monster lighting up a cigarette, is a reminder of the Grand Guignol intensity which was so unfashionable at the time of its release.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Looking every bit like what it is — a low-budget horror movie made in 1987 — the original Hellraiser is clearly ambitious, that much it can lay claim to. Unfortunately, the budget and resources aren’t there to transform Barker’s ideas into celluloid, and the result is a film that drags for most of its first hour and makes very little sense when all is said and done.” Beyond Hollywood

“Barker’s filmmaking experience and many points where the movie turns ludicrous don’t detract from the experience. Monsters are what matters. Hellraiser is a hellacious triumph of imagination and conceptual architecture. It boasts inventive make-up effects design, and it marks the debut of one of horror’s enduring antiheroes in the form of Bradley’s chilling, diabolically charismatic Pinhead.” Mike “McBeardo” McFadden, Heavy Metal Movies

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“Barker’s dazzling debut as a director creates such an atmosphere of dread that the astonishing visual set pieces simply detonate in a chain reaction of cumulative intensity. His use of the traditional ‘teenage screamer’ heroine (Larry’s daughter) tends to undercut the unsettling moral ambiguities of the adult triangle, and the brooding menace of the Cenobites is far more terrifying than the climatic rollercoaster ride.  These are small quibbles, however, in a debut of such exceptional promise.” The Time Out Film Guide


On October 6, 2017, Lakeshore Records reissued the Hellraiser soundtrack by Christopher Young as a 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition vinyl release, remastered from the original 24 track, 2-inch analogue master session tapes.

The single LP gatefold release includes digitally restored original artwork and photography from the film’s archives. Furthermore, the disc sleeve features the long lost original theatrical sales sheet. The record itself is 140g multi-coloured translucent red with black smoke vinyl.

Buy vinyl soundtrack: Amazon.com


Buy Hellraiser from Amazon.com

Production poster image courtesy of Stephenjoneseditor.com


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Cast and characters:

Andrew Robinson … Larry Cotton
Clare Higgins … Julia
Ashley Laurence … Kirsty Cotton
Sean Chapman … Frank
Oliver Smith … Frank the Monster
Robert Hines … Steve
Anthony Allen … 1st Victim
Leon Davis … 2nd Victim
Michael Cassidy … 3rd Victim
Frank Baker … Derelict
Kenneth Nelson … Bill
Gay Baynes … Evelyn
Niall Buggy … Dinner Guest
Dave Atkins … Moving Man 1
Oliver Parker … Moving Man 2
Pamela Sholto … Complaining Customer
Doug Bradley … Lead Cenobite
Nicholas Vince … Chattering Cenobite
Simon Bamford … ‘Butterball’ Cenobite
Grace Kirby … Female Cenobite
Sharon Bower … Nurse
Raul Newney … Doctor

Technical details:

94 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Dolby Stereo

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