Fuck. I just finished Hellraiser IV, and I already spent the joke about pain surpassing pleasure writing about Hellraiser III. If you want to read my thoughts about the first three (read: the best three) Hellraiser films you can find them here for Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and the link for Hellraiser III is above.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is directed by Alan Smithee. That’s all I need to tell you. Turn off your computer, go outside and do something productive. For those of you who don’t know, Alan Smithee is the pseudonym a director uses when they don’t want to be associated with a film, typically because of studio interference. It traditionally means the film is hot garbage.
Hellraiser IV is Hellraiser in space. Hellraiser. In. Space. Sounds awesome right? Like, Event Horizon but not as good, which is still pretty good. But, unfortunately for us, Bloodlines is an origin story for the Lament Configuration, the puzzle box that opens a gate to Hell and summons Pinhead and his Cenobites when solved. This film follows three different generations of a family known as the Merchants: an 18th century French toy maker, a 20th century architect, and a 22nd century space…man? It’s not really clear what he does for a living. Anyways, Hellraiser IV follows the Merchants across space and time, showing how the Lament Configuration has been intertwined in their lives since its inception. (more…)
The Cenobites in the Hellraiser series have always talked about how at extremes, pleasure and pain are indistinguishable from each other. Well folks, we’re less than halfway through this franchise and I’m definitely feeling the pain way more than any pleasure.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is the next in line of the progressively worsening Hellraiser films I’m trying to work my way through. It takes place some indeterminate amount of time after Hellbound, the second film, and generally has very little to do with its predecessors.
After being trapped in the Pillar of Souls at the end of Hellraiser II, Pinhead is trying to escape his prison so that he may roam free on the material plane, no longer bound by the rule of Leviathan, whom he served under in Hell. While physically weak, he begins to manipulate a local nightclub owner and general scumbag J.P. Monroe to fetch him human souls after attempting to beguile (and consequently slaughtering) some other, weaker-willed people. Once free, Pinhead must find and destroy the Lament Configuration, an occult puzzle box and the only thing that can banish him back to Hell. Joey, a young reporter has witnessed the aftermath of what the Lament Configuration can do, and after getting her hands on the puzzle box, is intrigued in following the story to its bloody ends.
So Hellraiser was pretty dope and I knowing myself as well as I do, I think I’ve resigned to watching all the Hellraiser movies now. It’s honestly the last big horror franchise I have to burn through, and then I’ll have the Big Four series of ’80s horror icons under my belt: Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Hellraiser. These are mammoth titles, sprawling between nine and twelve films. Not many modern horror franchises have managed to get up there in numbers yet. I’m sure they will, given enough time, but even a series as popular as Paranormal Activity only has six films. It’s been six films over six years mind you, so I don’t know how saturated audiences will get with Paranormal Activity, and when they’ll have had enough. A long running franchise is not necessarily a mark of quality, either. Look at Halloween, or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Those series both have more shitty movies than good ones in them. Point is that Hellraiser is a staple horror franchise that I feel like I need to fully experience, warts and all to really call myself a horror fan.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is obviously the sequel to the original Hellraiser, taking place hours after the wild events of the first film.
Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is admitted to a psychiatric hospital where she’s trying to convince the staff and the investigating police that her story about the Cenobites, her zombie uncle Frank, and Hell is true. Meanwhile, the head of the hospital is obsessed with the puzzle box and the mysticism surrounding it, and attempts to learn as much as he can about the afterlife. Unbeknownst to him, exposing himself to such knowledge brings with it rather devilish consequences. Once Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his gang of Cenobites show up, Kirsty and fellow patient Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) delve into and navigate through Hell itself to try and bring Kirsty’s dead father back. (more…)
The horror genre is typically dismissed as distasteful, uncultured schlock, and most of the time, it is. But every once in a while you get someone who crafts something a little off the beaten path, something that uses horror as a means to tell a story rather than just making another horror story. Clive Barker, known best as the author of such books as The Great and Secret Show, The Hellbound Heart, and Imajica used horror as a vessel and a tool to write compelling fantasy stories with intricate backstories and expansive worlds that live and breathe on their own. His stories had an air of sophistication about them. Sure there was blood spilled and guts strewn about, but the stories had human drama that was grounded in real world problems. From marital and family issues, to addiction and obsession (pick your poison: people, drugs, and faith were all under fire from Barker’s writing), to the cultural, class-based, and racial divide caused by the urban Chicago housing projects. Barker had a knack for weaving interesting, grounded tales together that used the macabre to elevate them. Also sex. Clive Barker stories have lots of sex in them.
Barker went through a film making phase in the ’80s and ’90s where he would adapt his own written stories to film. I think Barker’s thought process was that if his material was handled by anyone else, they would neuter it. They just didn’t know it as thoroughly as him. The Hellbound Heart was one of his most popular novellas at the time, so he adapted it into his debut feature length film: the 1987 horror masterpiece, Hellraiser.
This film is about the resurrection of Frank Cotton, a man obsessed with pursuing increasingly extreme carnal desires. After he purchases a mysterious puzzle box and solves it, he opens a gate to hell and promptly dies. His resurrection is brought about when his brother Larry injures himself while moving his family into Frank’s house. After cutting his hand on an old nail, Larry’s blood is spilled on the very floor where Frank held his last breath. Larry’s wife (and Frank’s ex-lover), Julia finds the rejuvenated-from-the-inside-out Frank, and decides to bring men back to the house and kill them, letting Frank consume their blood to slowly rebuild himself. All the while, Larry and Julia’s daughter, Kirsty has found the puzzle box and must deal with the Cenobites, a group of sadomasochistic inter-dimensional beings who cannot distinguish between pleasure and pain. The Cenobites are looking for Frank now that he is back in the material plane, and hope to find him to drag him back to hell once and for all.
Bartender, get me another Tarkovsky. Stronger, this time. For those of you sighing heavily, I promise I’ll get back to watching the trash Hellraiser sequels soon.
I gave my whole Tarkovsky spiel in my write up on his 1972 introspective sci-fi film, Solaris. After having missed Stalker at my local independent theater, I was disheartened that I wouldn’t get to see it, especially after one of my co-workers saw it and really enjoyed it. But alas, you can always count on the Criterion Collection to re-release old school art films for way too much money, and a couple weeks ago, they did just that. Talking about the value of films and how much they should cost is a debate for another day. Let’s just get to the Russian arthouse weirdness.
Stalker takes place in a strange world. Is it post-apocalyptic? Perhaps. Nothing grows in the non-specific country in which Stalker takes place. Buildings are ruined, and the earth is cracked beneath everyone’s feet. Is it a dystopian hyper-industrial future? There’s more evidence of this, with the militaristic police that seem to be patrolling every street corner and every back alley. Chemical factories and power plants make up the skyline. Whatever the case, the world of Stalker is a funereal one. Three men meet in a bar. We do not know their names, only their professions. The Professor, the Writer, and the Stalker, a man trained to bypass the military quarantine surrounding a mysterious area of lush greenery simply known as the Zone. These men are prepared to risk their lives for their mission into the Zone, as legend has it that within the Zone lies a room that can immediately grant the wishes of anyone who enters.