|Date of Release:||September 11, 1987 (UK)|
September 18, 1987 (US)
|Followed by:||Hellbound: Hellraiser II|
Hellraiser is a 1987 British supernatural horror film written and directed by Clive Barker, and produced by Christopher Figg, based on Barker's 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart. The film marked Barker's directorial debut. Its plot involves a mystical puzzle box which summons the Cenobites, a group of extra-dimensional, sadomasochistic beings who cannot differentiate between pain and pleasure. The leader of the Cenobites is portrayed by Doug Bradley, and identified in the sequels as "Pinhead".
Hellraiser was filmed in late 1986. Barker originally wanted the electronic music group Coil to perform the music for the film, but on insistence from producers, the film was re-scored by Christopher Young. Some of Coil's themes were reworked by Young into the final score. Hellraiser had its first public showing at the Prince Charles Cinema on 10 September 1987. The film grossed $14.6 million.
Since its release, the film has divided critics but generally received praise; initial reviews ranged from Melody Maker calling it the greatest horror film made in Britain, to Roger Ebert decrying its "bankruptcy of imagination". It was followed by nine sequels, the first seven of which featured Bradley reprising his role as Pinhead.
In Morocco, Frank Cotton buys a puzzle box from a dealer. In a bare attic, when Frank solves the puzzle, hooked chains emerge and tear him apart. Later, the room is filled with swinging chains and covered with the remnants of his body. A black-robed figure picks up the box and returns it to its original state, restoring the room to normal.
Some time afterward, Frank's brother Larry moves into the house to rebuild his strained relationship with his second wife, Julia, who had an affair with Frank shortly before their wedding. Larry's teenage daughter, Kirsty, has chosen not to live with them and moves into her own place. Larry cuts his hand carrying a mattress up the stairs, and lets his blood drip on the attic floor. The blood resurrects Frank as a skinless corpse, who is soon found by Julia. Still obsessed with Frank, she agrees to bring people back for him to drain so that he can be fully restored, and they can run away together. Julia begins picking up men in bars and bringing them back to the house, where she mortally wounds them. Frank sinks his hand into the dying bodies, draining their life, regenerating his body. Frank explains to Julia that he had exhausted all sensory experiences and sought out the puzzle box, with the promise that it would open a portal to a realm of new carnal pleasures. When solved, the "Cenobites" came to subject him to the extremes of sadomasochism.
Kirsty spies Julia bringing a man to the house; she follows her to the attic, where she interrupts Frank's latest feeding. Frank attacks her, but Kirsty throws the puzzle box out the window, creating a distraction and allowing her to escape. Kirsty retrieves the box and flees, but collapses shortly thereafter. Awakening in a hospital, Kirsty solves the box, summoning the Cenobites and a monster called the Engineer, which Kirsty narrowly escapes from. Pinhead, the Cenobites' leader, explains that although they have been perceived as both angels and demons, they are simply "explorers" from another dimension seeking carnal experiences, and they can no longer differentiate between pain and pleasure. When they attempt to force Kirsty to return to their realm with them, she informs Pinhead that Frank has escaped them. The Cenobites agree to take Frank back and, in exchange, say they will consider giving Kirsty her freedom. The catch is that Frank must confess to escaping them. They warn her against any treachery, threatening to 'tear her soul apart'.
Kirsty returns home, where Frank has killed Larry and taken his identity by stealing his skin. Julia shows her what is purported to be Frank's flayed corpse in the attic, locking the door behind her. The Cenobites appear and, not fooled by the deception, demand the man who "did this". Kirsty tries to escape but is held by Julia and Frank. Frank reveals his true identity to Kirsty and, when his sexual advances are rejected, he decides to kill her to complete his rejuvenation. He accidentally stabs Julia instead and drains her without remorse. Frank chases Kirsty to the attic and, when he is about to kill her, the Cenobites appear after hearing him confess to killing her father. Now certain he is the one they are looking for, they ensnare him with chains and tear him to pieces. With Frank out of the picture, the Cenobites decide to take Kirsty. Ripping the puzzle box from Julia's dead hands, Kirsty banishes the Cenobites by reversing the motions needed to open the puzzle box. Kirsty's boyfriend shows up and they both escape the collapsing house.
Afterward, Kirsty throws the puzzle box onto a burning pyre. A vagrant who has been stalking Kirsty walks into the fire and retrieves the box before transforming into a winged skeleton-like creature and flying away. The box ends up in the hands of the merchant who sold it to Frank, offering it to another prospective customer.