BLU-RAY REVIEW: Hellraiser

Clive Barker’s film Hellraiser spawned a successful franchise, and it has experienced several blu-ray releases over the years. In 2016, Arrow Video released the best version, yet, as part of its Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Trilogy, and while individual editions of that set’s Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II had been released in Europe, individual releases of those two have remained unavailable for American fans…until now. Arrow has recently released that collection’s parts I and II as special editions.

For those who have not yet experienced the original film, it has stood the test of time pretty well.

The story revolves around a certain puzzle box, which, when solved, opens up a doorway to another dimension / hell. This portal provides a means for the S & M-styled monsters / demons, the cenobites, to appear and take the user of the puzzle box back to their dimension, where they proceed to expose their victim to the extremities of pain and pleasure, while tearing their body and soul to pieces. I won’t give away the specifics of the plot because it is quite a fun puzzle to watch unfold. Suffice it to say that the film has substance as well as viscera. Intrigue, sexiness, and grotesqueries permeate the narrative to make Hellraiser a most unique entry into the annals of classic horror films.

Arrow’s 2K restoration of the film, presented in high definition (1080p) at the film’s native 1.85:1 aspect ratio is a solid video presentation, but there is definitely a lot of grain, especially in some of the darker sequences. The uncompressed PCM stereo 2.0 and lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio presentations are both very good, but the 5.1 mix does an especially good job of highlighting Christopher Young’s score and the various grisly sound effects. The proverbial icing on the cake is provided in the form of this edition’s extra features. Included are extras new and old, with the older ones being culled from previous editions and the newer ones having been produced by Arrow for the Scarlet Box Trilogy.

The extras include: two older audio commentaries, one by writer / director Clive Barker and one with Barker and leading lady Ashley Laurence (moderated by Pete Atkins); a documentary on the making of the film, called Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser, which features interviews with cast and crew members; a featurette called Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellraiser; Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score, featuring an interview with Stephen Thrower of the band Coil; Hellraiser: Resurrection, a vintage featurette including interviews with Barker, Laurence, Doug Bradley (the principal cenobite, popularly known as Pinhead), make-up effects artist Bob Keen and others; Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser; a vintage EPK (electronic press kit), featuring additional interviews of cast and crew; screenplay drafts; trailers and TV spots; an image gallery; and a reversaible disc cover sleeve.

Hellraiser was a unique horror film when it first premiered in 1987, and while it is not a perfect film — especially because of some exposition-heavy moments, a few rather two-dimensional characters, a few awkward special effects sequences, and an occasionally 80’s-saturated vibe (which may resonate positively for some) — it remains a very unique story with iconic imagery and fiercely imaginative horror elements. For fans of the film, this is the best individual edition yet.

About Scott Feinblatt

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