Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hellraiser 3: Hell on film

Welcome back Sporefans! This week we're taking a break from our Shop-Rite movie fest, as we here at Spored to Death publishing have had a chance to watch some classic horror this week. I'm referring to non other than the "Hellraiser" series of movies, and in our case only the first 3.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Hellraiser series, here's a little background information. Hellraiser is a cult movie that has spawned a series of sequels over the years, but the original concept and movie are the work of writer/director/visual artist Clive Barker. Barker endeavored to create a world with its own mythos, much like the work of H.P. Lovecraft.

There are similar themes between Barker and Lovecraft's works. They both allude to a world that exists parallel to our own, full of dark mysteries and wonders; as well as mind rending horrors and fates beyond imagining. Both allow everyday people to access these realms through a series of ritualistic actions. In both mythological paradigms, the beings that inhabit the other realms are beyond the concepts of good and evil; but unlike the ambivalent Lovecraftian elder gods who ignore humanity like a mammoth ignores fleas, the creatures from Barker's imagination take a much more personal and, uh... what's the word I'm looking for...

Sadomasochistic... that's it, a sadomasochistic view toward humanity.

Look at my exposed nipples. Loooooook!

After all, the original title of the movie Hellraiser was "Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave". This explains all the people wearing leather outfits with exposed nipples. We here at Spored to Death publishing have come up with the following analogy: What if Great Cthulhu wanted to give you a spanking?

Big Daddy Cthulhu.

Creeped out yet? Good.

Hellraiser, and its sequels revolve around creatures from another plane of existence, called Cenobites, who make no distinction between pleasure and pain. The cenobites can only cross over into our world when someone solves a mystical ornate puzzle box which opens the gate between the realms... and usually shoots hooked chains into the person holding the box.

The box!!!

Occasionally a soul that is taken by the centobites escapes back into our realm, and has to reassemble their body by taking the flesh of other people. This usually leads to having someone walking about without their skin on, and all the custodial nightmares you can imagine in a late 80's house with a primarily white interior with skinless inhabitants. Lets see if you can get those bloody footprint stains out of these white heavy shag rugs!

Uh, lady, could you stop bleeding all over my house? Please?

The first movie is written and directed by Clive Barker himself and is the truest representation of his vision... because, you know... he did it. If you've read any of Barker's works, you'll notice the recurrent themes of his writing being skillfully painted on the screen. Barker associates the intense sexual desires of his characters with a lust for life, and juxtaposes this with images of corpses in various forms of decay (usually covered in maggots) which represent the discarded shells which can no longer move as they have lost their desires. Ultimately Barker is stating that appetites and desires are the core essence of life, and the force which moves our bodies. This appetite if properly cultivated can survive even after the body has long decayed, and is the core of each of his otherworldly characters.

Nice and artsy, huh?

In the sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, most of the ideology is transferred, but the story is pushed in a new direction to give you a glimpse of what lies beyond the realm of human knowledge. The characters are given a chance to explore "Hell", although it is usually not referred to as such in the movie. More of the dynamics of Barker's world are revealed in this movie when the principle laws that bind the centobites and their interactions with the mortals are altered, creating an imbalance which removes most of the protections on the "mortal" realm. Considering that Barker only wrote this movie, and it was directed by Tony Randel, it came out fairly well.

Then Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth happened, and the whole thing became a world of pure dookie.

The movie starts just as the other 2 movies in the series have started, by bringing someone back from the dead. In this case, the person being brought back to "life" is none other that Pinhead, the lead centobite from the first two movies. This is accomplished in much the same fashion as the other movies, where an inanimate object has blood spilled upon it and the soul inside is gradually given flesh as more and more blood and flesh are fed to it.

However, in this instance, for some unknown reason, Pinhead has developed a sort of multiple personality disorder. In this case, physically (or spiritually???) as there is now that man who was once Pinhead who inhabits a realm all of his own and acts upon the dreams of the main character: Joey Summerskill, played by Terry Farrell (more commonly recognized as Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. On a quick side note here, the father in the first movie is played by Andrew Robinson, who also winds up on DS9 as Garak. Looks like your only way out of Hell here is to go onto a Star Trek spin off. Whooooooo! Scary! )

That symbiant can't save you from Pinhead!

Moving on, the man who was Pinhead who is now "good" exists as a spirit, and the evil monster that he was is given flesh and is now regarded as his "evil" half. So we're already getting away from the first two movies by labelling two characters as good and evil, a concept that was shied away from (but not completely omitted) from the first two movies.

The movie progresses fairly well until we reach the last third of the film, where Pinhead is given flesh and allowed to walk amongst the residents of our world free of the constrictions of the laws of his own world. Predictably, Pinhead begins killing off people in a local night club, but unlike the previous movies Pinhead attacks in gimmicky, almost comical at times. The DJ is impaled with CD's that fly on their own accord, the bartender who served flaming drinks is set aflame, and the TV cameraman has his head ripped off and a camera shoved on his stump of a neck.

Duh! I'm coming for ya, duuuhhhiiieee!

Now for those of you who haven't seen the first movie in a while, this is actually a 180 for the character Pinhead; because in the first two movies... he's the hero. Er... sort of.

In the first movie Pinhead shows up in time to rescue Kristy (played by Ashley Laurence), the main character of the first two films, from her abuse Uncle Frank who has come back from the dead to sleep with her step-mother and sexually molset her while wearing her Father's skin. Likewise, in the second movie, Pinhead rescues Kristy again from a new Doctor Centobite that ultimately leads to Pinheads somewhat heroic death. So by comparison, Pinhead is not actually the bad guy. But in Hellraiser 3, they decided that it was time that Pinhead just killed a whole lot of people, because bodycount = cash!

Hello Kristy. Its your Uncle Frank. Come to daddy!

Then it gets worse.

As Pinhead pursues Joey to claim the puzzlebox (which must now be given to him voluntarily, for no apparent raisin he takes the corpses of the nightclub victims and transforms them into a new troop of centobites. Unfortunately, unlike the first set of centobites from the previous movies, these centobites are infused with the ironic and peculiar humor of the 1980's!

Now, I don't know what was going through Tony Randal and Peter Atkin's minds when they were writing this screenplay, so I've taken the liberty of writing up what I think happened at the jam session while the two were writing the script. Lets have a look, shall we?

A: "Dude, and then he like totally makes some new centobites, and they're like awesome and stuff!"

B: "Oh yeah, totally. Like the cameraman has, like, a camera eye, and like, totally kills someone with it!"

A: "Awesome! And like, the nightclub guy, could have like pipes in his head. Cause he was all, like, layin' pipe and stuff!"

B: "Dude, no! Pistons! Cause they pump!"

A: "Aw, radical! And like, the bartender who served the flaming drinks, could like breathe fire!"

B: "We need some more dude... lets see, what about the DJ? He could like kill people with sonic waves or something..."

A: "No, no wait! We could totally make him shoot CD's, like in that movie, "I come in Peace". That was totally an awesome movie, dude, you gotta see it."

B: "Yeah. All right. And like, the girl who was, like Joey's friend she could like.... uh..."

A: "Uh... Dude... Uh...."

B: "Well, she smokes, right? She could, I dunno, burn people... with cigarettes..."

A: "Uh... yeah. That really hurts... I guess."

So as this shallow artistic well runs dry in my little sketch, I hope you can see what I mean when I say that they applied the dazzling veneer of the 1980's. Further deliniating from the path, the ending sequence starts with Pinhead and the new centobites chasing Joey down the middle of a crowded street, flinging manhole covers at her and killing off the police and everyone else who gets in their way. This is a pretty far departure from the old Pinhead, who would just make barbed chains fly out from no where and tear you to pieces. No chasing, no games of cat and mouse, you just get ripped apart.

The movie ends when Pinhead tricks Joey into giving her the box, and is re-united with his "better" half. Joey then changes the puzzlebox into its "pointy" configuration and stabs Pinhead in the chest, sending him back to "Hell", as it is now openly referred to.

So what have we learned today children? I know that I've learned that sequels can and usually do exponentially degrade the quality of a story. I've also learned that people without skin make an awful mess, and that you should never play with ancient puzzle boxes... unless your into that sort of thing.

Remember Sporefans, my suffering is legendary, even in Hell, so your's doesn't have to be.


fnord12 said...

So is the first movie actually good, i.e., worth watching? Or do they all fall into the "you watched them so we don't have to" category?

And the last time this guy showed up at my house, i was able to remove all but one pin from his head. However, the last pin was not in the center, leaving me with a score of "Very Smart - 50 points"

Spored_to_Death said...

Well here's the thing: The first two movies are good. The 3rd movie goes is crap. So this review contrasts what might have been with what is. The 3rd movie had the potential to at least stay in the same league as the other two movies, but it fell into the toilet about half way through. So the 3rd movie is what pushes this film into my domain.


Anonymous said...

Still, just wait until your fans get a load of Hellraiser: Bloodline; Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave in Spaaaaaaaaaace and also the Middle Aaaaaaages!!!

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

Characteristics of Cenobites, as established in Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2:

1) They are the cream of the amoral crop. Cenobites are selected by Hell's agents to be brought to Hell and modified, body and soul, to be the perfect torturers.

2) They begin as human, which allows them, despite their status as demons, a level of internal conflict. Cenobites, however, are not just any goofball off the street; they are, as mentioned, chronically amoral, intelligent, and driven, as well as highly experienced (the quest for the secrets to the universe requires a lot of travel.)

3) They are awesome. Each has his own style in terms of both fashion and preferred methods of torture. It is not clear how much say each Cenobite has in his own mutilations, but they are apparently performed during their conversion, and are largely aesthetic. Barker himself told his design team to make the Cenobites both grotesque and glamourous at the same time, and they pulled it off.

Now put in the DVD for Hellraiser 3 and then go wash your hands. The Cenobites recruited by Pinhead in this movie literally are any goofballs off the street. There's no idea of choice or of destiny; they are reduced to the status of zombies, often even shambling like such. There's nothing glamourous about them, or even very interesting.

Also, it should be noted that Cenobite mutilations, unique as they are, in the first two films have little to nothing to do with their preferred methods of torture. True, the Doctor in Hellraiser 2 makes tentacles and spears with surgical tools on the tips, but he's new at it, still excited to explore his new potential; the older Cenobites have long since gotten bored with their duties and their routine. In the third film, the new Cenobites get (supposedly) cool new powers from their modifications: throwing sharpened CDs, breathing fire while throwing bar-tumblers full of gasoline... impaling people with a camera's telescopic lens...

Seriously, that last one is just silly. More to the point, the Cenobites' duty is to cause pain (well, sensation, but their idea of pleasure is pretty screwed up.) That is very hard to do when you, say, stab somebody in the heart or the head. They tend to just die. The third movie's Cenobites - sadly including Pinhead himself - are presented more as walking war-machines than torturer-lords.

But it's okay. They're not really the Cenobites we all got to know and love (in the weirdest ways) in the first two films. This movie is so shitty Clive wouldn't even let them use the term (or they underestimated their audience's intelligence, but what director would ever do that?) We get to see archive footage of Kristy in an asylum on a grainy, unfocused black-and-white videotape, which might or might not be stock footage from the second movie. While it plays, we hear an actress, whose voice is much clearer than the quality of the accompanying video and who sounds NOTHING like Kristy, shouting: "I didn't kill anyone! It was the demons! IT WAS THE DEMONS!"

Yeah. Great line, huh? Still, if nothing else - and believe me, there really is nothing else - all of the Hellraiser movies give us Doug Bradley delivering another great line. For this one:

"Don't debate with me, girl! Just come here and die while you still have the option of doing it quickly!"

Sporing magic.

Anonymous said...

Alright, so I looked up the full title of Hellraiser 4, and I was wrong. The real title as it turns out is: Hellraiser: Bloodline: Pinhead in Spaaaaace! And in the Middle Aaaaages! I mean, the Aaaaage of Enliiiiightenment! And the present daaaaay! Meaning nineteen-ninety siiiiix! As if yooooou gaaaaave a craaaaap!

Edward said...

I will bite the bullet and address the existence of hellraiser 4:BLOODLINES!

Now first thing first this is not the steaming pile of dung of hell on earth is and my tv but its oh so close.

The quickest way to recap the story is hellraisr meets The Fountain. The inventor of said puzzle box - Hell opener (Pinhead: Toy Maker!!!!). Spends his life making said box and his ancestors spends there trying to destory it (and they all look alike, funny like that).

So you go through watching each incarnation of the toy maker meet his just ends at now evil (yuck) Pinhead hands.

Fast forward to the year 3000 where the lastest toy maker has invented the ultimate Pinhead holder. Which succeeds for the most part.

This movie though not as bad as 3 was not good. It did feature the Polish brothers has twin Cenobites. the Polish brothers are real twins and good directors. Twin Fall Idaho for example.

Spored_to_Death said...

You know there's a bunch of other Hellraiser movies out there after Bloodlines, right? There's Inferno, Hellseeker, Deader, Hellworld and Prophecy. I think I need to see them all.

What sweet suffering!

min said...

i think i saw this on an episode of the grimm adventures of billy and mandy.