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Deep Dive: Hellraiser #1

You Know Nothing of Suffering, We Exist Only to Share it’s Meaning

If you’re asked to name the top ten iconic moments from horror, I’d be willing to bet Pinhead features at least once. Likewise if someone tells you they have sights to show you and you’ve got even a passing interest in horror, odds are you’re hearing that phrase said in Pinheads deep voice and are already thinking about whether you’ve inadvertently solved any puzzles recently. Hellraiser has been adored, analyzed, poured over, mimicked and ‘borrowed’ from across mediums.

The original film is held up as a shining light of how to create mythology and ensure a lasting legacy whilst scaring the blood out of viewers with a heavy dose of gore and pain.

It’s also talked about as being the beginning of a series that is the textbook go-to example when the phrase ‘law of diminishing returns’ is discussed, or at least that’s the commonly held view. Not ones to take popular opinion at its word, Nick and I decided we had to know, to see for ourselves, and so we explored the Leviathan of pain and flesh and now pain has become nothing more than a common currency, let us now spend some on you, if you’d like….

Hellraiser (1987) – The original, the undisputed, demons to some, angels to others...

Matt: Enough has been said about the original Hellraiser to fill many books (although if you’re looking for a book Paul Kane’s, The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy is really really good and covers in depth every analysis of the films and mythology you could hope to explore) so what I’m about to say will almost certainly be an echo of views that are held elsewhere.

Hellraiser is where we are introduced to Pinhead, the Cenobites and ‘The Box’. However, it’s almost forgotten, especially when you see commentary on the later films, that they’re not the main focus of Hellraiser. Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence Forever!) is our focal point and the underlying major threat is Frank and Julia (who are both brilliantly evil). In fact when you read Kane’s book it’s clear Julia is intended to be the series main threat and it’s a tribute to how iconic Doug Bradley’s Pinhead is that everyone whose seen the film (myself included) comes away wanting more Cenobite, more Pinhead, more box. For me this is still starting place if you’ve never seen a Hellraiser film, the place that tells you if the series is for you and the origins of all the greatest moments to come….However, in my view you really don’t have to have seen it to enjoy some of the later films.

Nick: Very Good. I watched it in Spanish to help learn the language. Enjoyed. Great.

Ed: I don’t think there’s anything I could say which wouldn’t be an echo of what Matt has already said or Nick's incisive commentary, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about Clive Barker and the Chattering Cenobite, Nicholas Vince.

Firstly, Clive Barker. It's difficult to describe how important a figure Clive Barker is in horror in a way that doesn't come across as hackneyed. His books are brilliant, his short stories are brilliant, he has given us works of art that have spawned films like Candyman (so excited by the prospect of Nia DaCosta's version), but let's just take a moment to reflect that Hellraiser was his debut feature. The ambition of it is wonderful, but it's not just ambition because he pulled it off! His debut feature film as a director is a stunning, gloriously camp and gory work of art. An absolute genius.

Now, for the Chattering Cenobite - a design based on dental work actor, Nicholas Vince, had to undergo in his youth.

Before these days of the plague I produced a few shows at the London Horror Festival, of which Nicholas Vince is a patron. My co-director, Stuart Vincent, and I were very excited about Nicholas Vince seeing our show—a comedy-horror (not really much in the way of horror) based on The Wicker Man and were overjoyed when he tweeted about enjoying it, but my overriding memory is of us standing on the door to collect tickets and Nicholas Vince being the first person in the queue. Not only that, but he sent us off to the tech box to prepare ourselves for the show and he took over collecting tickets. A Cenobite and a gentleman.

Next week, the hermanos will continue their deep dive into the wonderful world of Hellraiser with Hellbound (difficult second album or underappreciated genius?)

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