It’s been almost 40 years since Clive Barker’sHellraiser first hooked its chains into the hearts of horror fans all around the world — and the glorious suffering has been legendary ever since. Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and the Cenobites had such sights to show us back then, and we as horror fans still can’t get enough of their gifts. So, we’re thrilled to report that Barker’s masterwork will return to British and Irish cinemas on September 22 in a brand new 4K restoration courtesy of Arrow Video.
Hellraiser needs no introduction, but let’s give it one anyway. The film centres around a family who experiences literal Hell after they come into contact with the Lament Configuration, a mysterious puzzle box that’s capable of summoning demons. Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) is a sadomasochistic hedonist who uses the box in pursuit of the forbidden wonders contained within it, only to get more than he bargained for when Pinhead and his Cenobites show him their idea of pleasures of the flesh.
Somehow, though, Frank manages to escape his plight to find himself in the basement of his brother’s family home, where his skinless body rekindles a previous affair with his sister-in-law, Julia Cotton (Clare Higgins), which may or may not involve her bringing him human sacrifices. However, Frank’s niece, Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) just so happens to find the puzzle box that caused all of the trouble in the first place, and let’s just say they’re keen to inflict more suffering.
Based on Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser was released at the height of the 1980s slasher boom, and it set itself apart from other horror movies of the era from the get-go. While Barker’s classic certainly isn’t for the squeamish, it’s more than a simple hack-and-slash picture. Hellraiser is a warped domestic drama that combines mysticism, eroticism, and taboo ideas to create something wholly original. Even after all these years, Hellraiser stands out as a work brimming with originality.
Hellraiser is a transgressive film, even by today’s standards. From Julia and Frank’s incestuous love affair to the sadomasochistic nature of the Cenobites, it unabashedly challenges societal norms in regard to sex in a way that only Clive Barker can. “I’ve always written sexual fiction,” Clive Barker said in 2015. “There is a strong theme of rampant passion and uncontrollable desire going through my written work, and the challenge was to see if I could make that work in a movie.” It’s safe to say that he accomplished that goal.
The re-release will be essential viewing for many horror aficionados, but those who can’t make the trip to the cinema needn’t worry. Arrow Video’s “Quarter of Torment” limited edition boxset featuring 4K restorations of the first four Hellraiser films will be released on October 23.