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"You solved the box, we came. Now you must come with us, taste our pleasures."
Lead Cenobite
Hellraiser - 20th Anniversary Edition poster.jpg
Title: Hellraiser
Directed by: Clive Barker
Written by: Clive Barker
Produced by: Mark Armstrong; David Saunders; Christopher Webster
Christopher Figg
Music by: Christopher Young
Cinematography: Robin Vidgeon
Edited by: Richard Marden; Tony Randel
Distributed by: New World Pictures; Anchor Bay Entertainment; Starz Productions
Released: September 11th, 1987 (UK)
September 18th, 1987 (US)
Rating: R
Running time: 94 min.
Country: UK
Language: English
Budget: $1,000,000
Gross: $14,564,027
Next: Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellraiser is a British horror film of the demonic occult subgenre. It was written and directed by Clive Barker and is an adaptation of Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart, which was first published by HarperCollins in 1986. The film was produced by New World Pictures and released theatrically in the UK on September 11th, 1987. It premiered in the United States on September 18th, 1987. The film stars Andrew Robinson as Larry Cotton - a man who returns to his family home in an effort to repair his disintegrating marriage to his English wife Julia, played by Clare Higgins. Playing the role of the primary antagonist of the movie, Frank Cotton is London-born actor Sean Chapman. The movie also stars Robert Hines as Steve and Ashley Laurence, making her feature film debut as Larry's daughter, Kirsty Cotton. The true stars of the film however are the Cenobites - a cadre of hedonistic demonic entities who come when summoned by those wishing to break boundaries of physical excess. Frank Cotton is the first to draw the attention of the Cenobites when he is pulled into Hell after solving the mystery of an intricate puzzle box, but when Frank finds a means of escaping the afterlife, the Cenobites come looking for him.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Frank Cotton plays with the box.

An American named Frank Cotton is in a small darkened restaurant in an undisclosed foreign country. He places several straps of moldy hundred dollar bills on a table before an old man who sells him a strange ornate looking puzzle box. The box is perfectly square with gold filigree designs interlaced across its contours. Frank returns to his old family home with the box and sets himself inside of an empty attic room to contemplate the puzzle. Several inter-locking pieces of the box slide and move until finally settling down into a specified pattern. The room grows cold and several lengths of hooked chain shoot out from the eye of the box piercing Frank's skin. The puzzle box has opened a doorway to Hell. Hell's champions, the Cenobites enter the room and collect Frank’s soul. His corporeal remains are bisected and nailed to a rotating wooden pillar. The lead Cenobite, Pinhead reverses the configuration of the puzzle box and closes the doorway.

Some time later we find Frank's brother Larry. Larry and his wife Julia have moved from Brooklyn into the old Cotton family home. The two are struggling through a failing marriage and Larry believes the change in venue will help to give each of them a fresh start. Larry begins puttering around downstairs while Julia approaches the second floor. We learn at this time that brother Frank has quite a sordid reputation and has been known to travel the world in search of dark misadventures. There is evidence in the house of Frank’s habitation. Larry finds a plate of maggot-ridden food in the kitchen. Julia finds a damp upstairs bedroom containing an old mattress and several of Frank’s old possessions.

Julia is not impressed with her new home.

It is here that we learn a little bit of back-story on the Cottons. Apparently, Julia first met Frank the week of her wedding to Larry. Although Larry never knew, the two had a twisted affair with one another in the attic room. Julia contemplates this for a while before finding several old photographs of Frank with other women (including her). She tears the pictures up so Larry doesn't see them.

The following Sunday, the Cottons begin to clean up and move into the house. Larry’s daughter Kirsty telephones him and tells her father that she is renting a room nearby. (Kirsty is Larry’s daughter from a previous marriage. Julia and she never got along) Larry tries to convince Kirsty to live with Julia and he but the young girl is adamant against living with Julia. She agrees however to come over to help with the move.

A couple of movers are vainly trying to squeeze a large mattress through the front door and up the first floor landing. Larry struggles to help them and ultimately tears his hand open across an exposed nail. Larry is very squeamish at the site of blood and he races upstairs to find Julia. Julia meanwhile is in the attic room where Frank died. She is reminiscing of their affair as her husband bursts into the room. A large drop of blood spills from Larry’s hand and splatters across the floorboards. It lands in the exact spot where Frank solved the puzzle box. Julia rushes him to the hospital to get stitches.

Apparently the blood of Larry has a strange and unpredictable effect. It mingles with some of the human detritus left behind by Frank and succeeds in slowly regenerating him. We see him begin as a pulsating heart beneath the floorboards that grows into a gruesome half-formed man thing that is barely recognizable as being human.

Skinless Frank enjoys a smoke.

Later that evening, Larry hosts a dinner party. He regales his guests with the story of his misadventures at the hospital. Kirsty is present and takes a liking to a young boy named Steve. Steve impresses Kirsty by doing some weird trick with a cigarette. Julia is suitably unimpressed with Larry's pontificating and decides to retire. She goes up into the attic where she finds the mushy remains of the resurrected Frank Cotton. Frank scares the hell out of her until he convinces her of who he actually is. Julia doesn’t understand what has happened to him but Frank is convinced that blood is the key that will revitalize him. Every little drop makes him more human. He commands Julia to help make him whole again.

Now we have some superficial scenes to help flesh out the character of Kirsty. Kirsty and boy toy Steve drunkenly walk home from Larry’s. An ugly looking homeless man with a long beard and dark eyes watches them. The two begin to make out at a subway station and eventually end up back at Kirsty's flat. Kirsty later has a bad dream concerning her father and calls him up to make sure he is okay.

The following day, Larry is at work leaving Julia at home to nurse the invalid Frank. She decides to go out to a single's bar in order to bring home a victim. Julia picks up a 'John' and returns home with him. She takes him up to the attic under the pretense of a sexual escapade. But once they enter the room she brains him with a hammer and the guy drops like a ton of bricks. Frank's little flipper body scuttles out and partakes of the man's vitals. (Although it's never really shown, I assume consumption is the key to resurrection here.) Julia is disgusted by what she has done and goes to the bathroom to wash the blood off her hands. When she returns she finds that Frank is more formed and capable of walking. By this point, he is much more human looking and appears similar to those cut-away diagrams of the human body that are peppered throughout most college biology books. But he still needs more. Julia reluctantly agrees to continue helping him. Larry returns home from work, just as Julia hides the body in a different unused room in the house.

This guy's seen better days.

Now we cut to the day after that. We see Kirsty working at the pet store. The creepy homeless guy comes in and begins chomping down on handfuls of crickets.

Julia meanwhile is scouting prey down at the local singles bar again. She finds lonely man #2 and brings him back to the Cotton house. Different victim, same results. She cracks him across his head with a hammer and feeds him to Frank. Julia is starting to get the hang of this whole murder thing. She has a much easier time dealing with it and a small part of her almost seems to be enjoying it. Frank now explains what happened to him to Julia. He shows her the box and tells her how he solved its riddle and opened a doorway to Hell. He goes on about the Cenobites and details how they took his body to new extremes of perversities and pain that he never could experience in the normal world.

Later that day, husband Larry and Julia are watching a boxing match. Larry is surprised that Julia isn't repulsed by the sport. She used to hate violent spectacles such as boxing. As they continue watching TV, Frank begins going berserk upstairs. His nerve endings are starting to grow back and it's driving him insane. He pounds on the walls and the excess noise alerts Larry. Larry gets up to investigate but Julia tries to distract him. After all, she knows what's making the noise and certainly doesn't want her husband to find out that she's conspiring to resurrect his late brother.

Frank skins a rat.

Larry takes off upstairs. Julia tries to divert him and realizes that the only way to keep him from going into the attic room is by seducing him. She plants a kiss on Larry and the two go into their bedroom. While in the middle of lovemaking, Julia realizes that Frank had moved from the attic room and was hiding in the closet in the bedroom. He has a knife and plans on killing Larry with it. Julia screams, “No!” and Frank demonstrates his dominance over her by skinning a rat next to the bed of the copulating couple. Larry is truly Captain Oblivious here. He thinks that Julia screaming “No!” is in reference to him. The two stop and Frank stealthily leaves the room.

The next day Larry meets Kirsty for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. He can’t understand why he can’t make his marriage work. Once again he tries to convince Kirsty to move into the house with him. The two talk for a while and eventually leave the restaurant.

Now while all this is going on, Julia seduces victim #3. But she gets a little sloppy and Kirsty spots them as they enter the Cotton house. Like the other contestants, Julia takes him to the attic and cracks him with the hammer. Frank takes to him quickly. Kirsty enters the house and finds Frank upstairs. She is completely freaked out and Frank keeps trying to calm her down by saying, "Come to Daddy". They chase each other around the attic and Kirsty fends him off by ripping out a piece of his gooey innards. During the melee, she comes upon the box. She doesn't know what it is but its obvious that Frank wants it back from her very badly. She throws it out the attic window on to the street below. Kirsty races downstairs and out the house picking up the box as she leaves.

The Chatterer is the first to arrive.

She is completely drained by this point and has a difficult time understanding the events that have taken place. She finally collapses from exhaustion and wakes up inside of a hospital room. During her convalescence she begins to tinker with the box. She gets really into it and inadvertently solves the puzzle that opens the doorway to Hell. The wall of the hospital cracks open revealing a long otherworldly corridor. Kirsty walks into the passage where she is greeted by a huge hideous creature. This is the engineer and it is responsible for the creation of the Cenobites. The engineer chases Kirsty down the corridor until she passes the breach back into the normal world. Before long, the rest of the Cenobites arrive. The leader is Pinhead who looks exactly like his name describes. There is also the Chatterer who has an over-sized mandible, which keeps clacking together. There is Butterball who is an obese bald creature with sunglasses. And lastly, there is a nameless female Cenobite who is bald and has a large pin lodged through the bridge of her nose. The Cenobites want to take Kirsty to Hell with them. She finally realizes Frank's significance in this whole affair and strikes a deal with the Cenobites. If they agree to let her go, she will take them to Frank who has escaped from them. Pinhead is skeptical, as no one has ever escaped from the Cenobites before. But if he hears the confession from Frank himself he will agree to Kirsty’s bargain. The Cenobites fade away and Kirsty is left to leave the hospital.

Larry Cotton. Or is it?

Meanwhile, Larry has come home from work. Frank is tired of messing around and decides to take care of Larry. He kills him and skins his body. Larry's remains are left in the upstairs attic while Frank dons Larry's face as a mask. The face grows upon Frank's own features and he is a 'near' perfect replica of his brother. Frank and Julia then to commence to have sex.

Kirsty finally gets to the house and bangs on the door. Julia enters but she pushes past her. She finds her father (Frank) in the nearby study. The fake Larry tells Kirsty that everything is going to be all right. He says that he was forced to kill Frank and that he's going to explain everything to the police. Kirsty demands to see Frank’s body. Reluctantly, Julia takes her upstairs. Since the body is skinned, she has no reason to believe that this isn’t the same man who attacked her earlier. At this point, the Cenobites arrive at the house. Pinhead points at the body and demands to know who did this. Kirsty doesn’t understand and she runs back downstairs into the arms of her ‘father’. The fake Larry says, "Come to Daddy" and Kirsty now realizes the grisly truth behind what has happened. She tears at Daddy's face and is shocked to discover how easily the chunks of mask fall away. Frank comes after her with his knife. In trying to stab Kirsty he misses and stabs Julia through the heart. He then takes her body upstairs. Lying her down on a mattress, he leaves the puzzle box in her cold dead fingers. Now its time to take care of Kirsty.

Pinhead is in a Hell of a mood.

The two play round robin across the house again before finally ending up back in that attic room. Kirsty is pretty much stuck and Frank relishes over how he has beaten death. This was all that the Cenobites needed to hear. They now know that they have found their man. Barbed chains fire from the walls hooking themselves into Frank's/Larry’s skin. A large blade comes down from the ceiling slicing a vertical gash across his back. The chains pull taught and the Frank’s new body is literally torn into pieces.

Kirsty flees into the next room and finds Julia’s corpse on the mattress with the puzzle box. She takes the box and runs downstairs. The doorway between Earth and Hell has been open too long and it’s now taken its toll on the Cotton house. The building begins to slowly shake and collapse. Kirsty's boyfriend Steve shows up tries to help Kirsty. The Cenobites try to get the box from Kirsty but she uses its energy to spirit the Cenobites away. Even the Engineer shows up again to try and wrestle the box from Kirsty’s control.

Kirsty and Steve seal up the portal to Hell for good and the entire house collapses in a blaze of fire. Hours into the night, the house is little more than a pile of smoldering remains. Kirsty and Steve toss the puzzle box into the flames.

The strange homeless man from the pet shop shows up, shambles along and places his arm into the fire. Collecting the box he transforms into a large skeletal demon. Flapping its wings it flies away with a screech. The old man was in actuality some puzzle box guardian.

Some time later, we see another poor hapless soul willingly spending good money to buy this puzzle box from a merchant in a restaurant in some foreign land.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Main Cast[edit | edit source]

Supporting Cast[edit | edit source]

Notes & Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The tagline for the film is, "We have such sights to show you."
  • The central demonic antagonist is referred to as the "Lead Cenobite". Fans of the series coined the term "Pinhead", which later became part of the franchise's official canon. The Lead Cenobite however never refers to himself as Pinhead and the name is only used in one film, Hellraiser: Hellseeker.
  • The Asian gentleman who sells Frank Cotton the Lemarchand puzzle box is uncredited in this film. In the novella, The Hellbound Heart, he is identified as Kircher. In Hellraiser: Deader, Matthew Delamere plays a character named Doctor Kircher, though they are distinctly separate characters.
  • This movie is referenced in the "Everything Changes" episode of the science fiction television series Torchwood. In the episode, a hospital porter sees an alien called a Weevil and compares it to Hellraiser.

Explicit material[edit | edit source]

  • Female rear nudity: Julia Cotton's rear is seen after her sex scene with Frank Cotton in flashback.
  • Female topless nudity: A photograph can be seen of Julia Cotton topless with her face obscured. In a flashback scene, Julia's right breast is briefly exposed.
  • Male partial nudity: Frank Cotton is sitting on some blankets naked post-coitus. Nudity is implied, but not overtly seen. There is also a porcelain figurine of a couple having sex with the man's penis partially visible.
  • Profanity: Larry Cotton says "shit" once. Kirsty Cotton says "shit" once and variations of "fuck" twice. Frank Cotton says "damn" once.

See also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

1980s; 1987; 1st victim; 2nd victim; 3rd victim; 55 Hillcrest; Butterball Cenobite; Chatterer; Cenobite; Corpse; Demons; Dismemberment; Doctor; England; Female Cenobite; Female rear nudity; Female topless nudity; Flashbacks; Frank Cotton; Frank the monster; Hammer; Hell; Impalement; Insects; Julia Cotton; Kirsty Cotton; Larry Cotton; Lead Cenobite; Lemarchand puzzle box; Maggots; Male partial nudity; Moving man; Mutilation; Nightmares; Nurse; Occult; Order of the Gash; Pillar of Souls; Pinhead; Profanity; Rats; Severed face; Skull; Smoking; Stabbings; Steve

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This article relates to the films within the Hellraiser franchise. This template will categorize articles that include it into the Hellraiser films category.
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This article relates to the works of Clive Barker.
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