Espantobre – Day 24 – Hellraiser (1987)

By: Claudio “Your damn right I like S&M, Spaghetti & Marinara“ Cortés 

It’s Friday night in the 1998, you are at the video store with your siblings and mother, it’s your birthday week so your mom lets you pick the family movie. The pressure of the choice is weighing heavy on you, the tall aisles are filled to the brim with VHS boxes, the faces on the covers stare at you beckoning you with their siren song, there in the darkest corner of the horror section is one box calling to you, on the one next to the smiling skull with eyes there is a man with nails all over his head in his hand a glowing rubik’s cube of some sort. You select it and your mother goes back on her word, “you can pick any movie..BUT that one” she says, and directs you to the aisle with the more age appropriate selections, in your defeat you pick something with subtitles just to spite your siblings, but that cover stays with you, officially turning it into a taboo. I knew who the main character of today’s movie was long before I even watched the film 32 years after its release, his nail filled head is instantly recognizable as that one dude from Hellraiser. Like Frankenstein’s monster and Lubdan the Leprechaun the Lead Cenobite aka “Pinhead” will live in unnamed infamy, universally recognized but not enough cultural cache to merit a recognizable name like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, or Dracula. Before watching today’s film I thought that it would be a slasher, like all of the other “mainstream” horror schlock of the 80s, boy was I in for a surprise when I finally got around to discovering that it was actually a movie about multidimensional S&M. 

If it is not painfully obvious by now, the film pick of the day is Clive Barker’s 1987 tribute to sadomasochism, Hellraiser. Based on the 1986 novella Hellbound Heart written by Hellraiser’s writer and director Clive Barker, Hellraiser would go on to spawn 9 subsequent movies. Today we will focus on the OG of the series. Hellraiser opens up with a tried and true offensive orientalist trope that was quite popular in the 80s, a bustling Mororcan marketplace where a sinewey fella called Frank purchases a mysterious puzzle box. From Morocco Frank finds himself in a bare attic surrounded by intentionally placed candles solving the puzzle whose prize is dismemberment by hook. From here Hellraiser takes a sharp right turn into a very very gritty hallmark movie about one woman trying to find her father and another woman trying to do what she can to bring her long lost lover back.

You can watch Hellraiser for yourself over at Hulu, however I would recommend watching it in the genre in which it was meant to be enjoyed, dig up the old VCR and find a copy on VHS, lets just say that some movies weren’t meant for high definition viewing. 

Today’s almost too “on the nose” musical accompaniment is Master and Servant by one of the best bands on the planet Depeche Mode. 

Keep up with the playlist as it builds Here

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