Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 11th, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: UK, 1987 (Hellraiser), UK / USA, 1988 (Hellbound: Hellraiser II), USA / Canada, 1992 (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth)
Directors: Clive Barker (Hellraiser), Tony Randel (Hellbound: Hellraiser II), Anthony Hickox (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth)
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Doug Bradley (Hellraiser), Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham, Imogen Boorman, Sean Chapman, William Hope, Doug Bradley (Hellbound: Hellraiser II), Kevin Bernhardt, Lawrence Mortorff, Terry Farrell, Ken Carpenter, Sharon Ceccatti, Paula Marshall, Doug Bradley (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth)
BluRay released: October 26th, 2015 (UK)
Approximate running times: 94 Minutes (Hellraiser), 99 Minutes (Hellbound: Hellraiser II), 93 Minutes (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth)
Aspect Ratios: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English (Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II), DTS-HD Stereo English (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth)
Subtitles: English SDH (All Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: OOP (UK)
Out of all the genres of cinema, the Horror film genre is the one that most often gets looked down upon. With the majority of its naysayers getting caught up in the blood and guts on display and all but forgetting anything of substance that does rise to the surface. Fortunately every now and then come along an innovative filmmaker who gives the genre a much needed shot in the arm.
This brings us to Hellraiser and 1980’s Horror cinema. Though the boom for Horror cinema started much earlier in the decade. It is safe to say that by the time Hellraiser came around that the number of truly iconic Horror films from the 1980’s could be counted on one hand.
Hellraiser: An unfaithful wife resurrects her deceased lover by luring in victims which he feeds off their flesh and blood. Unfortunately their new found bliss is cut short, when demons known as the Cenobites who previous consumed his soul come looking for him.
Hellraiser was adapted from Clive Barker’s novella ‘The Hellbound Heart’. And with Hellraiser Clive Barker would make his feature film debut. Unfortunately after Hellraiser, he would only go onto to direct two more films, Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions. Key collaborators on Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II include, cinematographer Robin Vidgeon (The Fly II, Nightbreed) and composer Christopher Young (The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Gone with the Pope).
What is it about Hellraiser and to a lesser extent its sequel’s that continues to draw us into it perverse web of pleasure and pain? The answer is simple, everything begins and ends with the characters which populate this film. And though they are well defined entities whose motivations are never in doubt? Also another strength of this film is that there is no balance in regards to good verse evil as the overwhelming majority of characters are generally up to no good.
At the dark heart of every great Horror film is an iconic villain with whom the audience forms an odd bound with. And though these creatures that go bump in the night are meant to be feared. It is hard to root against many of them due to inability to not fall prey to familiar trappings. With that being said, what was originally to be no much more than a background characters the Cenobites and more specifically their leader Pinhead. They quickly took on larger presence that thrust them past the character who was originally intended to be this film’s villain.
For a first time filmmaker Clive Barker does not disappoint as he creates an utterly tangible world that perfectly captures the essence of the original written source. And when it comes to pacing there are no issues as the film is constantly moving forward at a break neck momentum. Performance wise the entire cast are exceptional in their respective roles. With this film’s standout role being Clare Higgins in the role of Julia, the wife whose resurrection of her deceased lover sets everything in motion. Also though the Pinhead character is now known as the main villain of the series, originally the Julia character was to have been this film’s main villain. Another performance of note is Doug Bradley in the role of Pinhead.
Hellbound – Hellraiser II: After the death of her family a young woman named Christy is put in a mental institute that is run by a doctor obsessed with the occult. Her sanctuary is short lived as the doctors’ obsession with the occult reunites Christy and the Cenobites.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II was directed by Tony Randel whose other notable films include, Ticks and a live action adaption of the Fist of the North Star. This time around the screenplay for this sequel was written by Peter Atkins. He would go onto write the screenplays for the nest two Hellraiser films, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth and Hellraiser: Bloodline. Key collaborators on Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Hellraiser include, cinematographer Robin Vidgeon (The Fly II, Nightbreed) and composer Christopher Young (The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Gone with the Pope).
Hellbound: Hellraiser II literally picks up right where its predecessor left off and though the majority of the key talent behind Hellraiser return for this sequel. The major change creatively would be Tony Randall taking over the directing duties from Clive Barker.
Content wise, though this sequel contains all of the ingredients that made its predecessor so successful. It also falls into the bigger is better trap that countless other sequels have succumbed too. And though there are handful of areas in this film where this approach does succeed. This film’s lack of intimacy that its predecessor had is its greatest failing. With that being said, there is one area where this sequel outdoes its predecessor and that is in its execution of gore related moments.
From a production stand point the film’s visuals are consistently strong, especially when it comes to its depiction of hell. As mentioned before this film often excels during gore related moments and this is also true in regards to its use of sadism. Also when it comes to pacing there are no issues as things move along briskly form one shocking moment to the next? And when it comes to the performances, the cast are once again excellent in their respective roles.
Hellraiser III – Hell on Earth: An investigative reporter gets the story of a lifetime, when a victim of the Cenobites arrives in the middle of the night at the emergency room. Will she find the answers she is looking for or will her soul be consumed by the Cenobites?
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth was directed by Anthony Hickox whose other notable films include, Waxwork and Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat. The screenplay for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth was written by Peter Atkins, who also wrote screenplays for two other Hellraiser films, Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Hellraiser: Bloodline. Key collaborators on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth include, cinematographer Gerry Lively (Return of the Living Dead III, Friday) and composer Randy Miller (Witchery).
As the series progressed, the focus shifted more towards the exploits of its villain Pinhead. And with this third installment we are finally given a chance to see the man before he became the monster. Unfortunately this is one of those rare times where more back-story does not enhance the story at hand. With that being said, this is just minor blimp in a series of things that went wrong with this film.
For the first two films there had always been a good balance between melodrama and Horror. Then with this film someone decided to take an abrupt turn that goes against all the things that made the first two films so endearing. With no change more glaring then transforming Pinhead into caricature of his former self. Gone are the nuances that made his character so memorable and now he is nothing more than a blood and flesh devouring entity who says clever one liners.
From a production standpoint the visuals in this one are at their strongest during moments of gore. In other areas of this production, the narrative is predicable, the characters are one dimensional and when it comes to pacing there are a few lulls that slow momentum down. And performance wise the cast are best describe as adequate in their respective roles.
Each film comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay and all three films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Also for this release all three films have been given brand new 2k masters from which their transfers are sourced.
When compared to their previous Blu-Ray releases, Hellrasier and Hellraiser II show a marked improvement in every way. Colors have never looked as vibrant as they do for this release, black levels are remain solid throughout and there is a tremendous amount of improvement in regards to image clarity. Hellrasier III also gets a strong transfer that blows away all of its previous home video releases. It should be noted that while watching the longer version of Hellraiser III that the reinserted footage comes from a lesser source and there is a noticeable drop in quality. Also all three films boast natural looking grain and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
Hellraiser and Hellrasier II, each film comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English, and a LPCM Stereo English and Hellrasier III comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD stereo mix in English. All the audio mixes sound clear, clean and balanced throughout. Range wise these audio mixes sound robust when they need too and the ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. Also included with each film are removable a DTS-HD stereo English.
The extras are spread over four Blu-Ray discs.
Extras for the disc that has the feature film Hellraiser on it include, draft screenplays [BD-ROM content], an image gallery, four T.V. spots, three trailers – theatrical trailer (1 minute 37 seconds), Red Band trailer (1 minute 36 seconds), International trailer (3 minutes 27 seconds), the original EPK for Hellraiser (5 minutes 58 seconds), a vintage featurette titled ‘Hellraiser: Resurrection’ (24 minutes 26 seconds), three interviews – the first one with actor Sean Chapman (26 minutes 24 seconds), the second interview with former Coil band member Steven Thrower who discussed Coil’s abandon score for Hellraiser (18 minutes 11 seconds) and the third interview with actor Doug Bradley (12 minutes 31 seconds), a documentary titled ‘Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser’ (89 minutes 18 seconds) and two audio commentaries – the first audio commentary with director Clive Barker and the second audio commentary with Clive Barker and actress Ashley Laurence.
Extras for the disc that has the feature film Hellraiser II on it include, draft screenplay [BD-ROM content], an image gallery, two T.V. spots, two trailers – theatrical trailer (1 minute 52 seconds), Red Band trailer (1 minute 33 seconds), behind the scenes footage (1 minute 51 seconds), the Surgeon scene (4 minutes 49 seconds), a vintage featurette titled ‘Lost in the Labyrinth’ (17 minutes 3 seconds), onset interviews with – Clive Barker (3 minutes 18 seconds) and cast & crew (4 minutes 45 seconds), two interview – the first interview with Sean Chapman (11 minutes 35 seconds) and the second interview with Doug Bradley (10 minutes 53 seconds), a documentary titled ‘Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II’ (2 hours 46 seconds) and two audio commentaries – the first audio commentary with director Tony Randel and screenwriter Peter Atkins and the second audio commentary with Tony Randel, Ashley Laurence and Peter Atkins.
Extras for the disc that has the feature film Hellraiser III on it include, two image galleries, a theatrical trailer for the film (1 minute 52 seconds), the original EPK for Hellraiser III (5 minutes 12 seconds), FX Dailies (23 minutes 49 seconds), three interviews – the first interview with actress Paula Marshall (14 minutes 55 seconds), the second interview with director Anthony Hickox (14 minutes) and the third interview with Doug Bradley (13 minutes 46 seconds), a documentary titled ‘The Story of Hellraiser III’ (32 minutes 1 second), the unrated version of Hellraiser III (96 minutes 38 seconds) and two audio commentaries – the first audio commentary with screenwriter Peter Atkins for the theatrical version and the second audio commentary with Anthony Hickox and Doug Bradley for the unrated version.
The extras for this release are extensive as all three films. Topics covered include, pre-production, on set memories and post-production, the cast, the music, special effects, the look of each film and critical reaction for each film. Needless to say that these extra cover all the basis and leave no stone unturned.
Extras on the fourth Blu-Ray disc include, a featurette titled ‘Books of Blood & Beyond’ (19 minutes 25 seconds), a documentary titled ‘Hellraiser: Evolutions’ (48 minutes 17 seconds), a short film titled ‘The Hellraiser Chronicles: A Question of Faith’ (31 minutes 40 seconds, with an optional audio commentary track) and two short films directed by Clive Barker ‘Salome’ (18 minutes 29 seconds) and ‘The Forbidden’ (42 minutes 59 seconds). Both of these short films have an introduction for them with Clive Barker.
The extra titled ‘Books of Blood & Beyond’ is an in-depth discussion about Clive Barker’s written work with author David Gatward.
The extra titled titled ‘Hellraiser: Evolutions’ is a condensed overview of the Hellraiser series.
Rounding out the extras is a fold-out reversible poster, a set of 5 exclusive art cards, a twenty page booklet featuring never-before-seen original Hellraiser concept art and a two hundred page hardback book with with new writing on Hellraiser and the Barker universe from Barker archivists Phil and Sarah Stokes – including chapters looking at Barker’s early work, the genesis and production of the first 3 films in the Hellraiser series and much more, all illustrated with stills and rare material from the Barker archive. Overall another exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.