While the 80’s was the brief reign of the slasher film, the decade also gave rise to the body horror concept. Though it wasn’t a new phenomena (You could argue that something like The Wolf Man is body horror), the special effect advances allowed filmmakers to be more adventurous with what they did.
Hellraiser is one of them.
Clive Barker made the film, based on his own short story and aside from a few small details he remains faithful to his tome. Though saying that it’s hard to see anyone choosing to adapt his words straying from it too much, the story is pretty filmable as is. In it we meet Frank, a decadent sort of man who purchases an old puzzle box. In opening it he’s taken to a world of extreme pleasure and pain. A sadomasochistic Heaven…or Hell for that matter. After he vanishes his brother Larry and his bored wife Julia move into the house. When Larry cuts himself on a nail the blood seeps into the floorboards, and gives life to the long-lost Frank.
It’s this section that takes up the bulk of the film. Julia and Frank once had an affair, and the hedonistic Frank was always the bigger turn on compared to his brother. So he appears to her, barely a pile of flesh and bones, making his message clear: Spill more blood and I can live.
Barker was and continues to be an author who intertwines the idea of sex and death, or just sex and horror as part of the same thing. Hellraiser is no exception to that. What’s impressive is that even in his barely human form, Frank still has the power to seduce Julia. It’s just accepted as fact in this world, in which subconscious desires are laid out at the forefront. Even the ugliness of Frank, what’s inside being truly exposed, isn’t enough to scare off Julia.
It was of course the film that spawned Pinhead and his army of Cenobites into franchise characters. Fun Fact: In this film Pinhead is just named ‘Lead Cenobite’ and barely features. It’s understandable that he would make the poster since he still remains a striking image, but interesting to see them in this guise, treated more as ideas than as characters (In the book, as in the film, they’re a sort of guide through this extreme pleasure/pain principle – whether you want it or not). Of course by the time you get to the later films they’re overused and become less intrinsically linked to sadomasochism and more boogeyman who turn up to say scary things and turn you into a man who has CD’s embedded in his head (Thanks Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth).
I bet they called him CeeDee or something. You can have that one for free.