Clive Barker Has Such Sights to Show You: Hellraiser (1987) - 30 Years of Pleasure and Pain [Part 1 of 2] - Dread Central
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Clive Barker Has Such Sights to Show You: Hellraiser (1987) – 30 Years of Pleasure and Pain [Part 1 of 2]

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Clive Barker’s Hellraiser came along at a time when cinematic horror desperately needed to be taken more seriously again, needing not only groundbreaking innovation, but also it needed to go beyond our limits of what we consider taboo. While the film’s theme of sadomasochism may seem like old hat these days to desensitized genre audiences, it still stands up strong today as an imaginative experience in supernatural fantasy body horror that is as chilling, disturbing, and disgusting as it was when first released in 1987.

The American slasher film flourished in the late ‘70s, ripened in the early/mid ‘80s, but was rotting at this point with mostly formulaic offerings. The sub-genre’s Golden Age ended three years before with what should have been the final death of one of its most iconic slashers – Jason Voorhees in 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Sure, Wes Craven rejuvenated the template that same year with his dreamscape terror masterpiece A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Freddy Krueger would become the next big thing in horror, but it was a shot of adrenaline that would not last. Other independently produced and distributed ultra-low budget slashers had also become box office poison that would end up on the scrapheap of the long forgotten, and for good reason. While Sam Raimi’s brilliant sequel Evil Dead II would come out bursting with creativity in 1987, it was deeply rooted in black comedy. Something was needed that was wholly original with a serious tone that was deeply unsettling, and it would come out of Britain later in the same year from Clive Barker, an author turned novice filmmaker, who had only two experimental short films to his name. He would also give birth to his own famous movie monster.

Barker felt so frustrated and was left crushingly disappointed by his total lack of creative input into Rawhead Rex, the 1987 film adaptation of his shot story in Books of Blood Vol. 3. The producers would not allow him anywhere near the production, and the final cut would bear little resemblance to his screenplay. He knew that if you needed something done right, you do it yourself. He saw in his novella The Hellbound Heart, the potential it had to be made into a low-budget film. With backing by New World Pictures, and with little filmmaking know how, he would shoot for ten weeks from his own screenplay. When taking into consideration his statement in The Hellraiser Chronicles on his then minimal filmmaking skills, Hellraiser is a remarkably confident, mature, and intelligent directorial feature debut – “I didn’t know the difference between a 10-millimetre lens and a 35-millimetre lens. If you’d shown me a plate of spaghetti and said that was a lens, I might have believed you.”

“What’s your pleasure, Mr. Cotton?” the Asian merchant asks Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) in a hot and humid Middle Eastern establishment. Frank replies, “The Box.” He is referring to the antique brass/gold puzzle box that is etched with arcane symbols, sitting on the middle of the table between them. He gives the merchant a wad of cash, who says, “Take it, it’s yours.” Frank does just that, and after getting up and taking one last look at the merchant, he walks away. Unbeknownst to Frank, the merchant then says, “It always was.”

The pleasure of Frank is also his pain. In a dark room, sitting on the floor surrounded by a circle of lit candles, Frank attempts to solve the puzzle box. As he is about to finish it, we see something stirring behind the walls – a blue light that signifies something is about to enter our world. When moving the final piece of the puzzle into place, chain hooks fly out of the box, digging into Frank’s flesh. The camera then goes to the exterior of a house to establish the setting, and then it goes to the interior to show us Frank’s suitcase and belongings next to a mattress on the floor to tell us he has been crashing there. We see a close-up shot of a figurine of a couple making love, as a fly crawls towards it.

Back in the darkened room, hanging from the ceiling, there are now chain hooks everywhere with Frank’s flesh hanging from them, and there are spinning black pillars covered with chains and body parts. There is gore everywhere on the floor, as every inch of Frank has been ripped to pieces. We see strange out-worldly beings clad in black leather, much like bondage gear. One of them that has grey skin, and whose face and head is embedded with nails, reaches down to piece together Frank’s face. Picking up the puzzle box, the being changes it back to its original shape, and when it reverts they are sent back through the doorway to their dimension, along with everything else, and the room is now bare as it was before.

With these opening events, Clive Barker has established a story of fantasy horror that exists on the planes of our world and another existence, with aspects of Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. They were, respectively, 17th and 18th century authors who wrote about sexual sadism; Sade actually practised it, and Sacher-Masoch fantasized about it in his work. The term sadomasochism is derived from their names, hence, the abbreviation S&M. It is interesting to note that in The Hellbound Heart, a backstory is provided for the puzzle box – the Lemarchand Configuration – that alludes to Marquis de Sade having once been in possession of it. It is implied he actually used it, and that his horrific experiences inspired the writing of his infamous book The 120 Days of Sodom.

The act of sexual sadism involves the receipt or infliction of pain purely for pleasure, and the term sadomasochist applies to both the recipient and practitioners of the pain. Therefore, while the out-worldly beings – the Cenobites – are obviously the practitioners, Frank is also a sadomasochist, as he is the receiver of the pain for his pleasure. He is a jaded hedonist and sexual deviant, his obsession evident from the figurine of the couple making love. It was never enough for him, having done everything he could possibly imagine, until he opened the box and met the Cenobites. As a smoking “Skinless” Frank (Oliver Smith) relates later in the film – I thought I’d gone to the limits. I hadn’t.” The Cenobites gave me an experience beyond limits… pain and pleasure, indivisible.”  While sadomasochism might not be the taboo hot topic now as it was thirty years ago, as it is more widely accepted in today’s society as a sexual act between consenting adults in their personal lives, it is taken to the extreme here with graphic depictions of body horror, entailing the total destruction of human flesh.

Sadomasochists can also switch between roles, so it is fitting that Frank is one of two humans here, which embody two characters in some of Marquis de Sade’s most famous work, who are the real antagonists, not the demonic Cenobites, who are bit part players as secondary villains. This makes it even more impressive that the lead cenobite (Doug Bradley), who would later become known as Pinhead, went on to become a major horror icon on the back of just six appearances here, and for being the film’s posterboy. All this will be elaborated upon in part 2 of this feature.

After the Cenobites have left our world, Frank’s brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his second wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into the house, as it is the Cotton’s childhood home. From the subtly inserted exposition in the couple’s conversation, we learn they are having material problems, and that moving here is supposed to be a fresh start for them. Robinson who portrays Larry is an American actor. He says to Julia “you’re back on your own turf.” Higgins is an English actress, and speaks with her native accent here, and what with the obvious locales of England, the film was supposed to be set in the country of its production. The thing is New World thought it would be more marketable to have a US setting, so they dubbed the actors portraying peripheral characters with the voices of American actors. However, it only makes for annoying inconsistences, and as a result, the story never knows its true geography.

Larry and Julia discover Frank’s belongings. When Larry hears the phone ringing, he goes to answer it. It is his daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), who shows reluctance to stay with them, and has found a nearby room. Julia finds a small box in Frank’s suitcase that contains photos of Frank with a woman. Later, Kirsty comes to visit while Larry and the removal men struggle to move a mattress up the narrow staircase. This mattress plays a significant role in the epic sequel/companion piece that followed the next year – Hellbound: Hellraiser II. We learn from Kirsty’s visit that Julia is actually her stepmother, and that her birth mother died.

Julia takes out from a pocket one of the photos of Frank she has kept, and tears it to take out the image of the woman’s face. In a montage of flashbacks of Julia’s memories, we learn that her and Frank had a mad passionate affair. Barker lends loving detail to this, perfectly supplemented by Christopher Young’s powerful score for emotional effect. When Larry badly cuts his hand, scraping it past an old nail in the staircase while trying to move the mattress, blood comes gushing out. He goes upstairs to find Julia, who is in the room where Frank met his grisly demise. Larry’s blood spills on the floor, but instead of remaining there, the floorboards soak it up. As Julia and Kirsty take Larry to the hospital, we witness the gooey resurrection of Frank, one of Hellraiser’s true villains that will turn Julia into the other.

To be continued.

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Go Christmas Caroling with The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Given that I personally have gone Christmas caroling with various lunatics hopped up on eggnog, what the hell… why not go Christmas caroling with The Killing of a Sacred Deer? Dig on this latest clip!

Look for the flick starring Colin Farrell (Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, In Bruges, 2009) and co-starring Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (Best Actress, The Hours, 2003) to hit Blu-ray, DVD, and digital on January 23rd. Yorgos Lanthimos directs.

Special features include “An Impossible Conundrum” featurette, and the package will be priced at $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Synopsis:
Dr. Steven Murphy (Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon presiding over a spotless household with his ophthalmologist wife, Anna (Kidman), and their two exemplary children, 12-year-old Bob (Sunny Suljic) and 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Lurking at the margins of Steven’s idyllic suburban existence is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen he has covertly taken under his wing.

As Martin begins insinuating himself into the family’s life in ever-more unsettling displays, the full scope of his intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter the Murphy family’s domestic bliss.

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Which Monsters May Be Making Their TV Debut in Junji Ito Collection?

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Studio Deen’s highly-anticipated anime anthology Junji Ito Collection has been building buzz, especially since its new teaser dropped weeks ago. Eagle-eyed fans who are well-acquainted with horror mangaka Junji Ito’s body of work will spot some familiar faces in the new trailer, brought to the small screen by showrunner Shinobu Tagashira.

So, who among Ito’s famous menagerie of monsters may be making an appearance in the show when it airs next year?

Oshikiri Toru

Oshikiri is the morally-questionable highschooler who begins to question his perception of reality in Hallucinations, a series of some loosely connected one-shots. Oshikiri’s a little on the short side, with an even shorter fuse. One thing he’s not short on is moneyas evidenced by his impressive, albeit creepy, mansion. We’ve yet to see which of his adventureswhich range from murder to parallel dimensionswill be his television debut.

Yuuko

The once-chatty Yuuko falls ill and sees her worst fears come to pass in Slug Girl, the famous one-shot whose brand of body horror is sure to feel like a distant cousin (or maybe a predecessor?) to Uzumaki‘s “The Snail” chapter. It offers little in the way of answers but is best enjoyed in all its bizarre glory.

The Intersection Bishounen

In Lovesick Dead, one of Ito’s longer standalone stories, an urban legend causes a rash of suicides when young girls begin to call upon a mysterious, black-clad spirit called the Intersection Bishounen. The custom catches on quickly among teenagers, out late and eager for him to tell them their fortune in life and love, since his advice is to die for. Literally.

Souichi Tsujii

A long-running recurring character in Ito’s manga (probably second only to Tomie herself), you’ll know Souichi by the nails he sucks on or sticks out of his moutha strange habit borne out of an iron deficiency. He’s an impish kid whose fascination with the supernatural makes him the odd man out in an otherwise normal family. The morbid pranks he likes to playfunny only to him—don’t do much to endear him to his peers or relatives, either.

Fuchi

The titular character in Fashion Model, Fuchi works as a professional model for her, shall we say, unique look and Amazonian stature. When she and another actress are hired by a crew of indie filmmakers, Fuchi shows them that she doesn’t like sharing the limelight. She also makes a cameo in a couple of Souichi’s stories, and in them he finds her genuinely attractive. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

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Nemo Rising Signing Happening at Dark Delicacies on December 23

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Author C. Courtney Joyner will be signing copies of his new book Nemo Rising at Burkank’s Dark Delicacies horror store on Saturday, December 23 at 4pm. You can get the full details of the event and directions on Dark Delicacies’ website.

Nemo Rising will be a sequel to Jules Verne’s 1870 masterpiece Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and will see President Ulysses S. Grant recruiting the notorious Captain Nemo to destroy a gigantic sea monster which has been responsible for sinking ships. The gigantic eight-tentacled mollusc can be seen on the book’s cover below, and it looks like Nemo will have his work cut out for him.

Joyner also worked on the screenplays for the Full Moon films Doctor Mordrid and Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys, whilst his previous books include Hell Comes To Hollywood and the Shotgun series. If you can’t make it to the signing, Nemo Rising will be released in the US on December 26, and in the UK on January 13.

Nemo Rising Dark Delicacies Signing Details:
​Nemo Rising will be released on hardcover from Tor Books on December 26th, 2017.

JUST ANNOUNCED: On December 23rd at 4:00 PM, C. Courtney Joyner will sign copies of NEMO RISING at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California!

C. COURTNEY JOYNER is an award-winning writer of fiction, comics, and screenplays. He has more than 25 movies to his credit, including the cult films Prison, starring Viggo Mortensen; From a Whisper to a Scream, starring Vincent Price; and Class of 1999, directed by Mark Lester. A graduate of USC, Joyner’s first produced screenplay was The Offspring, which also starred Vincent Price. Joyner’s other scripts have included TV movies for CBS, USA, and Showtime. He is the author of The Shotgun western series and Nemo Rising.

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