Film & TV

Anti-Advent Calendar #21

Christmas. Only a few days till it’s time to unwrap presents. As long as you’re not unwrapping the box behind the 21st door in our calendar…

Spawning a character that has far surpassed Clive Barker’s singular and infamous story in the pop culture lexicon, Hellraiser is so much more than just Pinhead and a puzzle box. It is also quite possibly the most affecting concept for a contemporary horror story conceived in the 20th century.

Concerning the quest for the pinnacle of extreme sensations and its ultimate flaying consequences, Hellraiser presents Frank Cotton, an unpleasant individual searching for new pleasures at the expense of everything else; Frank’s brother Larry and his family living in a well-to-do England (including Larry’s wife Julia, who has a sexual history with Frank); the Cenobites, former human-entities who find people like Frank to experiment on, and the Lament Configuration – the iconic puzzle box which spawns them.

Hellraiser presents a rare vision of hell, one completely divorced from and uninfluenced by any religious mythology. Only briefly glimpsed in the 1987 classic, the sequel explores Hell as a vision of extreme S&M (as well as being the last time the Cenobites stayed true to their original purpose – Pinhead soon after became a slasher villain).

While some of the practical effects have lost their punishing visceral quality, what hasn’t dissipated is the uncomfortable power of the events, ideas and themes; the notion of apathetic individuals striving for the ultimate sensory experience, to the point pleasure and pain blur into intolerable sensation, is still a frighteningly alluring one.

Tom Watchorn

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Film & TV

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