Arrow Heads Vol. 68: Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER

Arrow has such sights to show you in this new release

It’s been 30 years since the Lament configuration first opened a portal to a hell dimension, bringing Pinhead and his Cenobites into our world, along with the pain and suffering they herald. Time and a plethora of diminishing sequels have done nothing to take the edge off of Clive Barker’s mythology and directorial debut, which, with this new Special Edition from Arrow Video, has never looked more stunning, or horrifying.


Stephen King was once famously quoted as saying, “I have seen the future of horror…his name is Clive Barker.” That future was realized in 1987 with the release of Barker’s directorial debut Hellraiser.

Based on his own novella The Hellbound Heart, Barker’s Hellraiser sees Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into their new home, unaware that something evil lurks beneath the floorboards of the dilapidated house — something that wants human blood…

Introducing the world to the iconic Pinhead and his sadistic band of Cenobites, Hellraiser became an instant genre classic upon release and remains one of the most frighteningly original visions in horror.

Events kick off through the actions of Frank (Sean Chapman), a man drawn into hell after he finds a mystical key opening a door to that realm. Therein he finds himself held in bondage (literally) to the Cenobites, masochistic demons that blur the lines between pain and pleasure, always on the hunt for new flesh to join their ranks, or populate hell. Moving into the family home years later is Frank’s brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) along with his wife and former flame of Frank, Julia (Clare Higgins). An accidental spilling of blood draws forth Frank’s partial, bloody corpse from an old mattress. Reconnecting with his former lover, Frank needs to feed on blood to rebuild himself, something Julia is all to happy to help with, leading men she picks up in bars to an awful fate. Larry’s teenage daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) starts to suspect her stepmother of having an affair, but her investigations not only reveal the horrifying truth of what is happening in their house, but also see the Cenobites return to reclaim Frank and anyone else unfortunate enough to fall into their path.

Barker once remarked that he wanted to call the film “Sado-Masochists From Beyond The Grave,” and the final product isn’t far off that. These Cenobites, once human and now turned into dark twisted versions of their former selves, try to tempt and torture those foolish or fortunate enough to open up the doorway to their hell. “Demons to some, angels to others,” they say, seductive, reasoned, blurring the lines between pleasure and pain, championing lust and sensuality. For Clive Barker, his vision and direction made an undeniable impact on horror. His intention was to craft something distinct from the slasher flicks that so dominated the genre in the ‘80s. Hellraiser was low budget, raw, but innovative and boundary pushing, with grubby, seductive performances, and, in Pinhead, the leader of the Cenobites, an icon that would soon stand alongside revered figures such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees.

The Package

Arrow brings a transfer sourced from a new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon. Having dark and dingy memories of the film, the visuals here are more vibrant, showing a greater color range, with impressive detail, contrast, and black levels. There is a consistent quality of image with only a few minor artifacts/blemishes evident, presumably from the film source. Extra features are impressively plentiful:

• Audio commentary with writer-director Clive Barker: A really great commentary that goes into a lot of detail about various aspects of the production, including special effects, costumes, lighting, specific sequences, as well as how the film turned out and was received by the horror community.

• Audio commentary with Barker and actress Ashley Laurence: Similar content to the Barker solo, but it’s nice to have Laurence for him to bounce off, who provides some personal anecdotes from the shoot.

• Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser — brand new version of the definitive documentary on the making of Hellraiser, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members: Running nearly 90 minutes, this is a in depth and essential documentary that looks at Barker’s script, the making of the film, and its cultural impact. Clips and interview with key players make up the bulk of a very worthwhile extra feature.

• Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellraiser — actor Sean Chapman talks candidly about playing the character of Frank Cotton in Barker’s original: Another personal feature, one that sheds some light on Barker’s methods and approach to filmmaking.

• Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score — ex-Coil member Stephen Thrower on the Hellraiser score that almost was: Christopher Young ended up scoring the finished film, but apparently there were plans to record a version with Brit rock group Coil. The band and Barker detail what their vision would have sounded like.

• Hellraiser: Resurrection — vintage featurette including interviews with Barker, actors Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence, special make-up effects artist Bob Keen and others: An archival piece comprised of interviews with Clive Barker, special effects designer Bob Keen, Doug Bradley, composer Christopher Young, and special effects artist Steve Johnson. A good breadth of content covering multiple aspects of the film.

• Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser: A personal reflection from the actor on his relationship with Clive Barker and the film series.

Original EPK featuring on-set interviews with cast and crew: Short piece with some behind the scenes footage from filming, accompanied by interview audio from select cast and crew members.

Draft Screenplays [BD-ROM content]

• Trailers and TV Spots

• Image Gallery: Production stills and promo images.

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx”

The Bottom Line

Clive Barker set out to shake up the horror genre with this low budget, high impact affair. It’s a seductive, raw, unnerving work that takes on the most twisted of taboos. There’s no better way to celebrate 30 years of Hellraiser than by picking up this release from Arrow Video, an absolutely stuffed release for a timeless slice of horror.

Hellraiser from Arrow Video is available from September 24th, 2019.

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