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Showing posts from March, 2014

Hellraiser: Revelations

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2011
Dir. Victor Garcia

While on a pleasure-seeking road trip to Mexico, teenagers Nico and Steven discover and open the Lament Configuration, unlocking the gateway to a hellish dimension presided over by sadomasochistic demons known as Cenobites, who abduct and torture Nico. When Steven finally returns home to his family, dark secrets are unveiled and souls are at stake as the Cenobites close in on their prey…

Based on a story and screenplay by Gary Tunnicliffe - who had provided the special effects and make-up for many of the Hellraiser sequels - Revelations was rushed into a three week production at the behest of Dimension, who were apparently at risk of losing the rights to the franchise. At this stage the studio was still struggling to get its long touted Hellraiser remake/reboot/reimagination off the ground. Seemingly stuck in development hell, the remake has had many recognisable genre names attached to it since it was announced several years ago, including Patrick Lussier (We…

Wine of the Month

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This month’s Hellraiser marathon was brought to you with (a lot) of Rioja Reserva Cepa Alegro, 2007. Not only is it currently on offer in Sainsbury’s, it’s been described as a good quality Rioja for a meaty dinner table. The perfect accompaniment then, to all those visceral, wet scenes of meat, flayed flesh, red-raw body-modification and blood in Hellraiser.

A medium bodied, spicy, and acidic wine, it boasts blood-red berry aromas, a smidgen of tobacco, woody tannins and a long, hint-of-vanilla finish. Tannin-tastic reds such as this go really well with rare meat. Meat is high in protein you see, especially the blood in rare meat, and protein softens tannins. A match made in bloody heaven. Or hell. It’s also great with meaty dishes such as roast lamb or game; its acidity cuts through the fat as efficiently as Pinhead skinning a doomed pleasure-seeker. A ‘modern’ Rioja, whatever that means, it proves complimentary with manchego cheese too, so it should complement the acrid, rubbery qu…

Hellraiser: Hellworld

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2006
Dir. Rick Bota

Two years after the death of their friend, who died while playing an online game based on the Hellraiser mythology, a group of teenagers find their own lives endangered. Accepting an invitation to an underground rave party at an isolated mansion, they’re told by their sinister host that the Cenobites and the puzzle box of Hellraiser infamy are actually real. Before long, the gamers are picked off one by one as nightmarish fantasies become entwined with disturbing reality...

The eighth instalment of the on-going Hellraiser series, Hellworld, like Deader before it, didn’t actually start out as a Hellraiser film. Based on a story by Joel Soisson (writer of Mimic 2, Hollow Man 2, and various Prophecy sequels) called The Dark Can’t Breathe, Hellworld unfolds as a strange and rather bland fusion of slasher flick and creaky haunted house yarn. The narrative essentially consists of teens partying at a spooky mansion, splitting up to explore said mansion, venturing into cr…

Hellraiser: Deader

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2005
Dir. Rick Bota

When a streetwise journalist begins investigating a bizarre underground cult, dabbling in necromancy and the resurrection of the dead, she becomes embroiled in a nightmarish world in which her very soul is at stake…

The seventh film in the franchise, Deader wasn’t actually written as a Hellraiser film. An existing spec script by Th13teen Ghosts co-scribe Neal Marshall Stevens had elements of the Hellraiser mythology added to it by Tim Daly (co-writer of the dreary Hellseeker). And it sort of shows. Much like Inferno and Hellseeker, it feels cobbled together in a lazy attempt to keep the franchise afloat; the overtly 'Hellraiser' moments a clunky afterthought. That said, it’s certainly a marked improvement on the prior instalment, and at the heart of proceedings twitches a genuinely interesting concept - an underground goth/punk/post-rock cult experimenting with suicide, necromancy and resurrection. These are themes that were dealt with in Barker’s original…

Hellraiser: Hellseeker

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2002
Dir. Rick Bota

When she and her husband are involved in a horrifying car crash, Kirsty Cotton is declared missing and presumed dead. Her husband Trevor, a shady businessman, attempts to piece together the details of the crash in an attempt to find her. Suffering from severe head injuries, amnesia and horrifying dreams in which he is tortured by the demonic Pinhead, Trevor soon realises that all is not as it seems, as he spirals into a personal hell of his own making…

The sixth instalment of the Hellraiser series, and the second to go straight to DVD, Hellseeker was apparently an attempt to emulate Barker’s original film. Director Bota, and writers Carl V. Dupré and Tim Day, had actually wanted to involve Clive Barker in the production, but were allegedly advised against this by Dimension, who wanted to continue moving the series in a new, Barker-free direction. Bota and co set about fashioning a film that would remain faithful to the tone of Barker’s original, and once completed…

Hellraiser: Inferno

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2000
Dir. Scott Derrickson

When he discovers and opens the Lament Configuration at the scene of a gruesome crime, shady LA detective Joseph Thorne finds himself embroiled in a series of sinister occurrences and hellish encounters with the demonic Cenobites. Presiding over events is a seemingly omniscient figure known only as The Engineer…

After Hellbound, the rights to Clive Barker’s burgeoning series were acquired by Dimension, then a sub-division of Miramax, specialising in genre films. They produced and distributed Hell on Earth and Bloodline, but after the troubled production of the latter, Dimension wanted to reinvigorate the franchise and take it in a new direction. Enter Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, whose somewhat daring script essentially ignores the previous films and establishes a whole new set of rules for the series. Inferno acts as a stand-alone instalment; set after the events involving the descendent of John Merchant in Bloodline, but way before Pinhead&#…

Shocks to the System

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"Obviously what's happening in the world creeps into any work, it just fits right in. Because that's where it comes from, where the idea comes from, where you get the idea in the first place." George A. Romero

Horror cinema flourishes in times of ideological crisis and national trauma - the Great Depression, the Cold War, the Vietnam era, post-9/11. Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present, a brand new book by Jon Towlson, argues that a succession of filmmakers working in horror - from James Whale to twisted twins Jen and Sylvia Soska - have used the genre, and the shock value it affords, to challenge the dominant ideologies of these times. Spanning the decades from the 1930s onwards, Subversive Horror Cinema is a critical examination of the work of producers and directors as varied as George A. Romero, Pete Walker, Michael Reeves, Herman Cohen, Wes Craven and Brian Yuzna - and the ways in which films like Frankens…

Hellraiser: Bloodline

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1996
Dir. Alan Smithee

2127. A scientist onboard a space station attempts to complete the task began by his ancestor centuries ago; to destroy the puzzle box that, when solved and opened, allows the demonic entities known as Cenobites to enter our world and cause havoc and untold suffering in the name of pleasure.

Written by Peter Atkins, with Clive Barker serving as executive producer, Bloodline is the century-spanning origin story of the puzzle box that featured throughout all the Hellraiser films up until this point - and the sequels which followed. Acting as a doorway to hell itself, the box, an amalgamation of alchemy and science, grants demons access to our world. Director Kevin Yagher disowned the film when the studio began re-editing it, ordering re-writes and re-shoots, and generally preventing him from realising his grand vision. And what a vision this could have been. The tale of a family plagued for generations by demons who wish to create a permanent doorway into our wor…

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

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1992
Dir. Anthony Hickox

When the diabolical Pinhead is freed from his prison, a macabre statue purchased by a sleazy nightclub owner, he sets about creating a new army of Cenobites to aid him in his quest to establish hell on earth. What he doesn’t count on is feisty TV reporter Joey Summerskill, the only person with the courage and knowledge to defeat him and thwart his fiendish schemes. She is aided in her quest by the spirit of Pinhead’s former human self, WW1 British Army Captain, Elliott Spencer. There will be blood…

The first Hellraiser slow-burned its way through searing violence and morbidly sexualised imagery, while sequel Hellbound upped the scope and hammered home the depressing, downbeat tone with surrealistic depictions of a cold and private hell. Written by Peter Atkins and Tony Randel, the writers and director of Hellbound, and with Clive Barker in the role of executive producer, Hell on Earth unravels as a commercialised, diluted version of Barker’s original themes a…

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

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1988
Dir. Tony Randel

Having survived the bloody events of the first film, in which her family was torn apart by the demonic Cenobites, inter-dimensional demons with a deprived definition of ‘pleasure’, Kirsty Cotton is taken to a psychiatric hospital. Unbeknownst to Miss Cotton, her creepy psychologist has been searching for the gateway to hell and plans to resurrect her step-mother Julia to help him in his diabolical plans to indulge in untold, hellish pleasures.

Hellbound reunites much of the cast and crew who worked on Hellraiser, ensuring a seamless segue into this instalment, which features a similarly grimy, bleak tone. It succeeds as a sequel because while it continues the story, picking up almost immediately after the events depicted in Hellraiser, it doesn’t just repeat itself, it opens up and explores the background of certain characters and, despite the rather modest budget, has a much more grandiose feel. Directed by Tony Randel, who served as an editor on the first film…