With a lot of super-scary, high-tech movies coming out this summer, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some “classic” horror flicks from the 80s. I wonder…will they still hold up? Scare me now like they did (or threatened to) when I was a kid?
This will be the first in a series of posts. I’m open to suggestions as to what to check out next – feel free to comment here or email.
Hellraiser came out in 1987. I was eight. Pictures of the white-faced Hellraiser guy with pins sticking out of his head sent me running. Literally running, from the TV or the poster or wherever I saw him glare at me.
So I didn’t see it when it was first out. I also never sat down to watch it on one of the late-night showings on HBO. I always thought it would terrify me.
I missed it…back then.
Last Friday, my husband and I decided to change that. These are my impressions.
First off, the opening sequence? The weird Claymation portrayal of giant hooks rending human flesh? Classic! I can’t say for certain but I do think eight-year-old me would have run for the hills at the first squirt of red corn syrup! And then I’d have crept back for more.
My most important question of the early minutes of the movie is: is the stepmom supposed to be hot? The men seem to be a-droolin’. But with that hair and those shoulder pads? Clearly I underestimate the power of the 80s power suit!
So far as plot goes, I can only assume there’s not much budget for a horror movie script. This one has a basic plot (couple moves to home, accidentally re-animates mostly-dead brother), and a couple small sub-plots (pretty daughter conflicts with stepmom; mostly-dead brother is also stepmom’s ex-lover). There’s also a gate that opens, controlled by a puzzle box thing that seems to give a decent static-electricity jolt to all who touch it. Through the gate are the (God help us) Cenobites. They torture people…to bring them pleasure. And pain. Because obviously! It’s all a little ridiculous.
And let’s be honest. We’re writers and readers here. Before writing this column, I went to IMDB with the sole purpose of finding the official name of the pinheaded Cenobite. Surely his name couldn’t just be Pinhead. But his name…actually is…Pinhead the Lead Cenobite. Another? “Butterball Cenobite.”
Oh dear. This is 80s camp horror if ever I’ve seen it.
So. Does Hellraiser stand the test of time?
I’d say no. Its reliance on outdated special effects reduces its scare-factor to subterranean levels. But I also sort of loved it. It was so terrible, I sort of had to love it. The ending sequence where (spoiler alert!!) the teenage daughter destroys each Cenobite by (gasp!) by pressing down on the puzzle box…I almost cried.
So it’s definitely worth a watch, if only to laugh.
Take THAT, you evil Cenobites!