Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hellraiser, or: Flay Me Once, Shame on You

Horror Month may be over, but what is the Blog Collab if not one extended Halloween experience? Especially when UK streaming platforms finally catch up with a horror reboot just in time for…Election Day. I would consider the kind of deal with demonic forces in this week’s film if I could never hear another campaign attack ad again.

The Film:

Hellraiser (2022)


David Bruckner

The Premise:

After stealing a mysterious puzzle box, a young woman discovers she has unwittingly become part of a demonic scheme that requires human sacrifice.

The Ramble:

When you’re a reclusive millionaire, what are you going to do with your resources if not host orgies and dabble with demonic entities? Roland Voight has no qualms about seeking favors from demons, especially when the best way to do this is through murdering unsuspecting party guests in rather S&M-inspired ways. Shockingly, not all goes to plan when Voight messes with a demon Rubik’s Cube and begins making demands of the mysterious Leviathan.

Several years later, Riley lives with her protective brother Matt and his boyfriend, while she actively dodges the L word with Trevor, a sobriety buddy from her 12-step program. Matt is rather stern with Riley as she struggles to get her shit together, making demands for her to find a better job and stop seeing Trevor…in sibling speak basically guaranteeing she will do the opposite.

One night, Riley hears about a scheme from Trevor to break into a shipping container and steal its contents. The container apparently belongs to a rich asshole who has so much money he’ll never notice when all of the black market goods inside go missing. Inevitably, the only thing inside the container turns out to be the demon Rubik’s Cube/puzzle box, which has some strange effects on Riley.

When Riley comes home, appearing to be drunk, Matt snaps and tells her to leave and never return, effectively. Having hit rock bottom, Riley pops some pills and works on the puzzle box, inadvertently summoning those demons we know and love, the Cenobites. And if Riley won’t go with them, they demand an alternate human sacrifice.

That sacrifice seems to be Matt, who has vanished after going looking for Riley. Searching for answers, Riley eventually learns that the cube takes the shape of six different configurations. When someone solves the puzzle, a blade emerges that draws blood, marking the unlucky for the Cenobites.

In order to uncover the truth, all roads lead to Voight’s creepy old mansion, which hosts a crowd very into the human leather scene.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This film makes us wait soooooooooo long for a Pinhead appearance, and I do not forgive this. Not only this, but Pinhead and all of the Cenobites have a weirdly sleek & stylish look rather than the gruesome appearance they sport in the OG franchise. It feels like all of the human skin leather was tanned and polished by expert leather makers rather than the DIY skin suits of old. This, along with some of the understated performances of the Cenobites and implied rather than onscreen gore, makes this edition of these demons less than terrifying. As worrying as it may sound, I prefer it when Pinhead & co. delight in human suffering; the Cenobites here go about the business of torture with a disappointingly detached professionalism.

I do really like Riley as a flawed protagonist and genuinely rooted for her to figure things out and best the demons. I can remember zero personality traits of Kirsty from the 1987 version, and on this Blog Collab we are actively team Julia. However, Riley takes an extremely long time to connect the dots, and she doesn’t get to perform many acts of badassery. Though she starts out strong, Riley is a bit of a side character in the film’s most dramatic scenes. I’m also not sure how we’re supposed to feel about Trevor as an audience, but he’s pretty boring IMO.

Some credit for this film: it does set up an interesting villain for a possible sequel (though as great as Julia??? Probably not), and Riley could very easily become a Hellraiser final girl. I also appreciate how there’s a lot of care taken to explain the origins of the puzzle box and the mythology behind it; as much as I enjoy the original film, it does kind of throw us into the fray with very little context.

This is so far from being the most torturous Hellraiser, but it doesn’t seem to savor the camp elements in the way that others in the franchise do. Overly long and without many cool scenes for either Riley or Pinhead, I sadly found this installment just ok.

Would my blog wife help this one clean all of those bloody whips and chains or go vegan? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Nightbreed, or: Button Eyes Will Haunt Your Dreams

I was excited about this hidden Clive Barker classic, which fits in perfectly with our theme this month.  Turns out there’s a reason this is a fairly obscure Clive Barker film.  It’s definitely no Hellraiser, but it’s so very Clive Barker-y.

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

???  A young man seeks out Midian, a world that haunts his dreams, while a serial killer with button eyes commits a string of seemingly random murders.

The Uncondensed Version:

Aaron is a troubled soul, haunted by terrifying nightmares that have become better with the help of a psychologist, Dr. Decker.  I think it’s worth noting that Aaron is majorly channeling Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing through all of this, leather jacket and casually swept back hair included.

Meanwhile, a killer in a mask with creepy button eyes seems to be targeting families at random.  Aaron’s sessions with Decker come back to bite him since some of the terrible dreams he had involved very specific houses and faces…those of the killer’s victims! Could Aaron somehow be the murderer without even knowing?

A man swings a large knife, wearing a mask that fits his face closely and has buttons sewn over the eyes.
That just cannot be a very practical mask for slashing people.

Decker gives Aaron some mystery pills (which turn out to be hallucinogens), which leads him to show up at the bar where his girlfriend Lori is singing a pretty terrible song about codependency.  He ends up in the hospital after walking directly into the path of a semi.  At the hospital, Aaron meets a man referencing Midian, a place he becomes determined to find.  Unfortunately, before he reveals the secret location of Midian, he stabs himself in the face and tears his own scalp off.

This gives Aaron a chance to escape the police and his psychologist, fleeing to a graveyard that just happens to be (you guessed it) the secret location of Midian.  Night falls and he is confronted by inhabitants of Midian, who threaten him with death and also bite him.  Though Aaron escapes these creatures, he is shot by the police when Decker erroneously tells them Aaron is armed.

A man sits at the end of a table, with many knives lined up along its sides.
Having a few friends around for dinner…

Lori is devastated and keeps seeing ghost Aaron everywhere.  She’s convinced he’s still alive or at least believes there are extremely shady circumstances surrounding his death.  I (very wrongly) believed she was going to investigate the graveyard with the Julia of this film, Sheryl, who she meets in a women’s bathroom at a bar.  God, she’s fucking fabulous but, alas, not long for this world.

Two women with big hair stand in front of the mirror of a public bathroom; one is wearing large earrings and denim.
I didn’t get a good shot of it, but Sheryl is wearing AN ALL-DENIM OUTFIT here.

Meanwhile, Aaron is in Midian, joining the titular Nightbreed in a somewhat bizarre ritual.  The Nightbreed are an ancient group of shapeshifters, driven mostly to extinction as a result of relentless persecution throughout history.  Most of the Nightbreed are pretty pleased about Aaron’s status as one of them, with the exception of the guy who bit Aaron and his spiky conspirator/girlfriend.

Lori is determined to find Aaron, and receives some unexpected help from one of the Nightbreed after saving her child.

A man in a leather jacket and swept back hair walks in a graveyard.
Ok, but you get the Patrick Swayze vibe here, right?

Surprising no one, Decker is the button face killer, targeting the last of the Nightbreed for some reason or another.  He goes after Lori, which draws Aaron out of hiding.

Aaron is eventually arrested again, and it turns out the sheriff is a complete dickbag (but the police force here is mostly made up of assholes who do absolutely nothing to help seriously injured Nightbreed).  It just gets way more convoluted from here, and ultimately comes down to a battle between cops and demons (or whatever the fuck the Nightbreed are.  Shapeshifters, fine).

The battle goes on forever and has a somewhat shocking twist at the end.  Sort of.  If you actually care about any of the characters by then.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Look, I kept watching this and I genuinely did want to know where this was all heading.  There’s just way too much going on for any of the characters to be interesting or for any of this to be coherent, frankly.

It’s quite an ambitious film on many levels and (could be completely off on this) I saw the Nightbreed as a representation of LGBT people, especially in the wake of the AIDS crisis.  It can’t be a mistake that Decker is a psychologist and tries to vilify and kill Aaron as part of this “other” group of people who have been persecuted throughout history.  The police are complicit in this, as is organized religion to a certain degree.  Aaron has to make sacrifices in order to embrace his identity, and he still can’t go out during the day or ever return to the life he had before.

That being said, there needed to be a Julia in this who was just unapologetically and fantastically evil.  A good old-fashioned shoulder pad never hurts either.  Decker is close to this role, but with very little exploration of his motivations, he just doesn’t hold a candle to Julia.

This may also be one of the tamest R movies I’ve seen?  Ok, there are boobs, but they are the least sexualized boobs I’ve ever seen except maybe in a morgue scene.  The face ripping part was gross, but there was nothing else I can remember being quite as gross/gory.  However, this could be a sad reflection of my own desensitization.  The f bomb is thrown around a few times, but by no means is this The Departed.  Visual effects are somewhat dated, but pretty flipping creative at times.

Would Christa bite this and make it one of our own or send it back to hell (wrong Clive Barker film)?  Find out in her review here!

a man with a large false beard and a pipe holds a medium-sized dog
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Beginners, AKA Experts at Fashion and Shredding My Heart into Little Pieces

Last film of Hellraiser vs. McGregor month tips the balance squarely onto the McGregor side of the scales.  Pretty wins over evil.  Plus a Julia-less Hellraiser is #notmyHellraiser.

This week my pick is Beginners, which I was planning to watch this weekend and weep into my keyboard either way.  As the blog collab proves, it’s better not to attempt that kind of thing alone.

Can I just preface this by saying I went to see this in 2010 in Dayton’s indie theater whilst under the impression that it was a comedy?  The film’s poster does nothing to discourage the notion that there will be a lot of smiling, laughter, and adorable interactions between our 3 leads.  From the trailer I remember Ewan McGregor, a dog, a romantic relationship, and Ewan McGregor’s discovery that his father (Christopher Plummer!) is gay.  All of the aforementioned are elements of this film, along with his father DYING OF CANCER.  It is very sweet and honest about how complex family is, but significantly more heartbreaking than I was led to believe.

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

An artist comes to terms with learning his father is gay, dating a much younger man, and has terminal cancer while pursuing a romantic relationship of his own.

The Uncondensed Version:

This film alternates between several past storylines during Oliver’s childhood, his father’s terminal illness, and the “present” (2003).

In the present, Oliver is clearing out his father’s house and helping his dog, Arthur, adjust to a new life.  I’m not even a dog person, but the dog is fucking adorable.  Oliver, still reeling from the loss of his father, holds conversations with Arthur and introduces him to Oliver’s place.

Oliver is also still trying to make sense of the last few years, when his mother died, his father (Hal) revealed that he was gay, started dating a younger man, and became heavily involved with the gay community.  Also in the present, Oliver meets a young woman at a costume party (Melanie Laurent!) and wants to pursue a relationship with her but fears becoming his parents.

an older man in a club dances among a group of men
This looks way too boring to be a gay club.

So let’s move chronologically or this is going to get really fucking confusing.  Oliver remembers very little of his father during childhood, a consequence of his father both (a) working all the damn time and (b) actively concealing a major part of his identity.  As a result, Oliver mostly remembers his mother being alone and getting drunk at art galleries.  She always dodges questions about where Hal is and whether she is happy or not, but memorably tells him about the cathartic power of screaming.  When Oliver says he doesn’t feel like screaming, she tells him “You will.”

Bringing it forward to Hal’s big gay reveal, Oliver is really uncomfortable as it makes him question his parents’ relationship and his entire childhood.  Plus Hal’s boyfriend, Andy, is basically Oliver’s age, which has to be a bit strange for both of them.  Either way, Hal has many visitors, the most dedicated being Oliver and Andy.  When Hal gets the stage 4 cancer diagnosis, he hides the truth from Andy and, at a certain point, seems to forget he’s dying.  Hal buys a lot of nice clothes, books, and throws a lot of parties.  He really wants to see Oliver settle down, but offers the somewhat disheartening advice of “Don’t wait for the lion when you can settle for the giraffe.”

This part is way more heartbreaking than I’m making it sound.

And leads us to the present, in which Oliver is trying (and failing) to throw himself into his work as an artist so he won’t have to think about his father’s death.  Finally, upon the insistence of his friends, he attends a costume party (it seems like it should be a Halloween party, but it’s unclear if it actually is) as Freud, bringing along Arthur so he doesn’t get lonely.

a dog sits in the corner of a bathroom, thinking "Tell her the darkness is about to drown us unless something drastic happens right now"
Also because Arthur is a great wingman.

It turns out to be a fateful night, as he meets Anna, who looks impeccable in a suit and is very perceptive despite laryngitis leaving her without a voice.  After the party, Oliver calls her and they have a sort of date, which mostly involves Anna pointing at places where Oliver should drive.

The two begin dating for real even though Anna is an actress and due to return to NYC for an audition shortly.  It gets personal when Oliver tells her about what he’s been dealing with during the past few years, and Anna tells him her dad calls her when he’s having suicidal thoughts.  She used to find her life freeing, but now hates being in hotels all the time now and how easy it is to leave people.  Oliver very wisely tells her you can stay in the same place and still find ways to leave people, which is a blow below the emotional belt.

A man and woman lean over a book surrounded by disorganized shelves in a used bookstore. A dog sits at their feet.
This is pretty much porn to me.

After bonding over graffiti-ing a billboard, Oliver asks Anna to move in, which doesn’t go as smoothly as anticipated.  It’s a big step for both parties, and Oliver says this isn’t what he’s supposed to feel like.  Taking the hint, Anna decides to move back to NYC.  To borrow a page from Christa’s book and leave you hanging with a question, is that it for Anna and Oliver?  Will they change their minds or go their separate ways for good?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I love this film and I would probably get into a fistfight about it.  The characters have very real reactions to their circumstances.  Oliver and Hal become closer during the last years of Hal’s life, but they never have a perfect relationship.  Throughout the film, Oliver carries around the burden of guilt and regret for the unhappiness and imperfection in his parents’ lives; however, he can acknowledge the past without becoming it.  Or can he???

You may be able to find out here in Christa’s review!  But maybe not.  She will probably leave you with a similar string of questions, won’t she???

On a side note, it’s only fair to warn you that Ewan has an American accent in this, which just isn’t as beautiful as his Scottish accent.  However, he does look really good in stripes, and that basically makes up for it.

a man looks off-camera while wearing a striped sweater

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hellbound, or: Pinterest Is a Downward Spiral

Hellraiser pre-dates the Great Blog Collab, but I feel it’s one of the films that brought Christa and I together. We are both in love with the film, yet we haven’t seen any of the sequels, so it was kind of inevitable we’d review Hellraiser 2 during Horror Month. The sequel should be fun even if it’s exceedingly unlikely to be as good as the first. Let’s find out, shall we? You know the drill: Christa’s thoughts here all day, every day.

The Film:

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

It’s the sequel to Hellraiser, guys. There are Cenobites and demon Rubik’s cubes.

The Uncondensed Version:

This film gives you a convenient recap of Hellraiser in case you haven’t seen it or have forgotten what it’s about. So in Hellraiser there’s a demon Rubik’s cube that Kirsty uses to send Pinhead and the other Cenobites back to hell. Before that can happen, she loses her father because her stepmother is trying to resurrect Kirsty’s uncle through blood sacrifice, and Kirsty’s father just happens to be one of the victims.

It’s probably surprising to no one that this whole experience was pretty traumatizing for Kirsty. As our film opens, she has been institutionalized. (Some of the asylum scenes inevitably reminded me of The Pink Panther Strikes Again, so it was difficult to take them seriously.) This seems to be bad news as (a) Kirsty’s stepmother is kind of living in the mattress she died on and can still be resurrected, (b) one of the doctors at the asylum seems to perform some really unethical surgeries and likes to talk about the final solution, and (c) Kirsty has repetitive nightmares that her father is in hell and she must save him.

A bloody human body, skin stripped from the flesh, lies in a pool of blood. Bloody letters on the wall spell "I am in hell. Help me."
Not subtle as far as a cry for help goes.

However, Kirsty’s probably not getting out any time soon, esp. as she keeps shouting things like “You have got to destroy that mattress!”

Two people who are going to be important: Kyle, a sympathetic doctor, and Tiffany, aka Puzzle Girl. Kyle decides to help Kirsty after witnessing Julia, the stepmother, resurrect in a rather disturbing manner and sort of eating some dude’s brain. Julia has basically everything she needs except skin, so in a rather Silence of the Lambs­-y move, she makes herself a suit from the skin of other women. This is where the timeline gets a bit screwy to me b/c presumably Kyle doesn’t wait days to weeks to help Kirsty after realizing she was telling the truth about her stepmother being demonic. But it would be hard to kill and skin half a dozen people really quickly even if you’re undead, right? Like it would probably take you at least 3 or 4 days I would think, not including sewing time? Whatever, it’s not super important to the plot I suppose.

A human missing all skin hunches over, looking over its shoulder. It's really creepy, trust me.
To be fair, pretty disturbing.

Anyway, since Tiffany can’t resist solving puzzles, the doctor and Julia give her the Rubik’s cube of doom to solve. She inevitably does, which of course summons the Cenobites, including Pinhead (who I can’t stop mentally calling “Pinterest”). Two points here: (1) I don’t remember Pinhead speaking at all in the first one, so it was surprising when he started talking in this really deep, booming voice, and (2) the word “Cenobite” is just brilliant, isn’t it?

A demon with many pins emerging from his face and head stands in a misty blue haze.
Obviously you can’t mention Hellraiser without including a still of Pinterest. Pinhead. Damnit.

So since solving the cube opened the portal to hell, everyone is pretty much just wandering around hell at this point. OF COURSE there’s a carnival part with the creepiest baby ever with its lips sewn shut. Shudder.

A woman faces a gigantic floating fetus that looks shiny and sticky.

This might be spoiler-y, but I think it’s pretty obvious that Julia is just using the doctor. I don’t think it should surprise anyone when Julia betrays him and sacrifices him to the Leviathan, which is…a box. With sort of vine/tentacle hands. This leads to the doctor becoming a Cenobite with pretty cool snake hands and truly terrible lines about the doctor being in.

Ultimately, everyone is pitted against everyone else: Kirsty/Tiffany vs. Julia, Cenobite Dr. vs. Other Cenobites, Julia vs. Cenobite Dr., Kirsty/Tiffany vs. Cenobite Dr., etc.

I’m going to be honest, most of the fight scenes are pretty lame. I feel like most of the budget went into animating the snake hands. Surely you’d rather find out for yourself what happens? You can probably guess—I believe in you.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherHalf Pink Panther head 3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Largely for consistency. I gave Hellraiser 4/5, and I don’t think this is quite on the same level. The plot made way less sense, and the doctor was kind of disappointing as an antagonist. Julia and Pinhead deserved way more screen time. Realistically, Hellraiser deserves a higher rating, but we are moving forward, not backwards.

You know Christa has a lot to say about this one in her review here!

Film Reviews

Cursed, or: Long Live the ’90s

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix, Amazon Prime

The Premise:

Siblings must contend with a werewolf curse in LA while surrounded by 1990s pop culture references.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our movie opens with a Bowling for Soup cover of that uncomfortable song about Little Red Riding Hood (also memorably covered by Joey Fatone).

Abruptly, we cut to the gypsy prediction of doom present in basically every werewolf movie. Because it’s Wes Craven, the girls who receive the gypsy’s dire warning call bullshit: “You can’t tell people this shit.”

Then we meet our protagonists, Jesse Eisenberg (playing a bullied nerd [duh]) and his older sister, played by Christina Ricci (CR). The two live alone since their parents died (killed by werewolves???). CR is dating a guy who is opening a wax museum that also features a number of horror movie artifacts (because it’s LA, and that’s what you do in LA). Her night out is cut short when JE (for Jesse Eisenberg, not Jane Eyre) calls and asks her to pick him up. As they drive home, they’re involved in a terrible crash with an animal and one of the girls who is supposedly cursed.

CR attempts to help the girl trapped inside her car, but the animal returns, attacking and dragging her away. JE is convinced the animal was a werewolf, but CR remains skeptical. In a scene that appears almost identically in Twilight, JE researches werewolves by looking at a bunch of shitty GeoCities pages. Or, you know, so I’ve heard. From a friend who’s seen all of the Twilight movies.

a simple webpage about werewolves shows a stock photo of a wolf next to werewolf clip art
Facebook was really started so Mark Zuckerberg could determine whether or not you’re a werewolf.

Meanwhile, Christina Ricci hears creepy noises in the house. When she goes downstairs to investigate, her boyfriend shows up. She bites him, and suddenly wakes up. Although the entire sequence was a dream, we still learn not to trust the boyfriend (it’s a Wes Craven movie, after all). Don’t trust a bro, Christina Ricci.

At work the next day, one of CR’s co-workers can’t help noticing she seems a little different today. (Also don’t trust any dude who finds you attractive. It’s all a lie. He just wants to tear your face to shreds.)

Judy Greer is CR’s boss, playing essentially the same character as in 13 Going on 30, aka backstabbing bitch. Apparently Judy Greer used to date CR’s boyfriend. CR and her boyfriend have a serious talk, in which he claims that what they have is special and he doesn’t want to lose her. SERIOUSLY, don’t trust this dude. Their conversation is cut short when CR notices it’s a full mooooooooooon and excuses herself.

Moments later, the other girl who received a warning from the gypsy is attacked by THE WOLF. She does a reasonably good job at hiding: taking off her high heels, making sure the wolf can’t see her feet when she hides behind a car. And then she decides hiding in the elevator will end well, so she’s doomed.

a werewolf lunges at the open window of a house

The next day at work, CR begins transforming in the bathroom. She manages to avoid killing one of her co-workers (which would be an impressive feat even on a good day).

JE is undergoing some transformations of his own. When he shows up at school, he has “cool” ‘90s hair and stands up to one of the homophobic bullies. He then wrestles his bullies, thereby impressing his crush, Brooke.

a teenage boy with spiky gelled hair faces another person while pouting slightly
I understand that the ‘90s were your golden age, Wes Craven. But they’re over.

After JE returns home, the homophobic bully arrives at his house and professes his love for JE (of course). At this point, JE realizes that his DOG is a werewolf, so he and the bully have to make a quick escape. The two head to the opening of the wax museum to find CR.

Just before the opening, CR has a creepy confrontation with her boyfriend. He’s THE WOLF (duh). However, he reveals there’s another werewolf that has been killing people. He was born with the curse and has learned to control it, but the new wolf hasn’t. CR doesn’t trust him at all. Thank god.

At the opening, THERE’S A CAMEO BY LANCE BASS. There’s also a cameo by Pinhead, which is pretty spectacular.

a man smiles on the red carpet amidst many paparazzi

Of course a werewolf attack disrupts the party, leaving CR and JE trapped in the wax museum with the wolf. Pretty sure the wolf hides behind a wax model of Dustin Hoffman from Tootsie at one point.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the wolf turns out to be CR’s bitchy boss, Judy Greer. So there’s this extended fight scene in which CR and JE fight her werewolf boss. Then CR’s boyfriend shows up and helps them. THEN the police show up and shoot her.

a bear-like creature with large teeth faces a mirror
So she’s not so much a werewolf as Smokey the Bear on steroids.

After all this, CR and JE’s lives return back to normal. …OR DO THEY?

On the next full moon, both siblings begin to TRANSFORM. CR’s ex(I presume)-boyfriend arrives at the house, telling her that she needs him to help her through the transition. He doesn’t mention that he plans to kill her brother because there’s only room for one alpha male. We get another lengthy fight scene that ends with CR killing and decapitating her ex, whose body bursts into flames and disappears.

Finally, JE’s crush, Brooke, and his former bully arrive at the house. JE and Brooke make out, which causes a lot of embarrassment for all witnesses.

The Critique:

I love Scream, so this film is pretty disappointing. Apparently Wes Craven was contractually obligated to direct this movie, so it makes a bit more sense that it’s incredibly bland and generic. I still wish there had been some kind of major twist as there usually is with the Scream series. Or that the “curse” had been someone’s period a la Ginger Snaps.

Biggest takeaways here (as with all Wes Craven films): 1. The ‘90s were truly the golden age of civilization. 2. Don’t trust a bro. Please.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 2/5 Pink Panther heads

Just not a particularly memorable film.  It could’ve been worse, but it could’ve been so much better too.

Blogging 101, Film Reviews

Hellraiser, Or: The Rubik’s Cube of Doom

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix, Youtube

The Premise:

Clive Barker directs this horror film in which a man’s dead brother begins to resurrect himself by feeding on the corpses of his murder victims.

The Trailer (soooooooo ‘80s-tastic, guys):

The Uncondensed Version:

Clive Barker supposedly writes really creepy horror stories; the only thing I’ve read of his is Abarat, which he also illustrated. Both Abarat and Hellraiser are characterized by Barker’s terrifying nightmare monsters.

Our film opens with the man we later identify as Frank opening a puzzle box and being transported to hell (only during the ‘80s could a horror movie about what is essentially a demonic Rubik’s cube have been produced). In hell, he experiences both extreme pleasure and extreme pain. Frank’s only objection is that he also happens to be dead.

In the land of the living, Frank’s brother, Larry, and his wife, Julia, move into the historic family home. Hidden upstairs, Julia discovers evidence that Frank had been living in the house until recently, smoking cigarettes and shooting dirty pictures of himself with various female partners. As she looks through the photos, Julia uncovers one of her with Frank. EARLY PLOT TWIST: Julia had an affair with Frank!

Meanwhile, Larry is helping move their bed upstairs when he suffers a nasty cut on his hand. When his blood falls, the floorboards soak it up, steam and ooze bubble up, the rats are kind of freaked out and…Frank is resurrected! Sort of.

The gruesome remians of a human brain and body decompose on the floor, covered in sticky-looking slime.
Not bad for an ’80s special effect, eh?

Julia goes upstairs and, upon discovering Frank, agrees to help him become completely alive again (through blood sacrifice. Duh). Basically, Julia dresses up all ‘80s glam and hangs around in bars (“I put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars!” But literally). After she lures them back to the house, Frank kills them and eats them.

A woman with teased '80s hair and a shoulder-padded jacket sits at a bar, downing a drink and holding a cigarette in her hand.
No man can resist the ’80s shoulder pads of doom! She also has gigantic plastic star earrings.

Larry’s daughter, Kirsty, who has never been a fan of Julia, figures all of this out and freaks out a little (a lot). Kirsty grabs the cube and runs, but kind of has a breakdown in the middle of the street. She gets sent to a hospital, where she accidentally opens the door to HELL. The Cenobites (essentially sadomasochist punk demons) appear and tell her she must go with them. Kirsty manages to make a deal with them: she will help them catch Frank, their only victim to escape, if they allow Kirsty to go free.

3 demons with grotesque faces stand, wearing leather suits. Pinhead, a demon with many pins emerging from his face and skull, stands in the middle.

Kirsty returns to the house to find Larry…or, rather Frank dressed up in Larry’s skin, who tries to kill her. Frank stabs Julia for no apparent reason, then goes after Kirsty. He is just about to kill her when the Cenobites appear and take him back to hell.

However, the Cenobites do not keep their promise to leave Kirsty alone. Each one tries to send her to hell. Luckily, Kirsty manages to get hold of the cube again. She twists the cube in different ways to solve it and make each Cenobite explode into light/return to hell.

Close-up of hands holding a mystical object that looks like a golden Rubik's cube, with a sliver of light creeping out from the box
Demonic Rubik’s cube in action.

Her boyfriend shows up, and the two escape the burning/collapsing house. Kirsty throws the cube into the fire, hoping to destroy it.

Then this homeless guy who has been showing up at random intervals walks into the fire, TURNS INTO A FUCKING DEMON DRAGON SKELETON, and flies away with the cube. THE ETERNAL QUEST TO SOLVE A DAMN RUBIK’S CUBE CONTINUES…

The animated skeleton of a dragon stands threateningly, surrounded by flames
…Yeah. That really just happened.

The Critique:

I unabashedly enjoyed this movie. Some of the effects were actually really disgusting, and most of the monsters were pretty creepy-looking. Although Kirsty was kind of annoying in a generic ‘80s heroine kind of way, she could have been worse. I kind of wanted Frank to successfully come back to life. Is that weird? What does it say about me as I person that I sympathize with demon-worshipping sadomasochists who kill and cannibalize other people?

Apparently there are 8 sequels involving Pinhead, the latest of which came out in 2011. I had no clue this was such a big franchise. Sorry, but there’s no way I’m watching all 8. Maybe 1 or 2.  A remake is also in the works; if this ever actually happens, you know I’ll be critiquing it.

Favorite piece of IMDb trivia about this film: It was originally entitled The Hellbound Heart after the Clive Barker novella it was based upon. The studio thought this title sounded too much like a romance and wanted to change it (I don’t know what kinds of “romances” these people read/watch). Barker’s suggestion? Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther4/5 Pink Panther heads