Review: Hellraiser -The Scarlet Box
Blu-ray: Hellraiser – The Scarlet Box (2015)
There are 2 films that I’ve always dreaded having to write about; Blade Runner and Hellraiser. The reason I’m adverse to discussing these particular films is because they have such a deep emotional meaning to me that I am incapable of being objective about either of them, as I regard them both equally as films elevated above all other movies and works of true genius. High praise indeed!
At 60 Minutes With we have shared the honours in talking about the first 3 Hellraiser films as included in ‘The Scarlet Box’ from Arrow Films; myself for Hellraiser, Ramrod for Hellbound: Hellraiser II and finally Chris for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.
Hellraiser; a much misinterpreted film by being placed solely into a horror ‘box’, tells the tale of a man who is constantly seeking to push the boundaries of life, sex and death, who enters a Faustian pact with the ‘other worldly’ Cenobites, who tear his soul (and body) to pieces and take him to ‘hell’.
Yes, horror, but at its heart is a story of love, longing, obsession, lust and the abject boredom and the familiarity of marriage. It could be interpreted as a feminist fantasy, and thanks to Clive Barker’s writing and direction the backbone of the story is a woman. This is a family saga that is more akin to Macbeth than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the stars of film may be the briefly glimpsed Cenobites, throwing hooks on chains and obeying the steadfast rules of their leader ‘Pinhead’ (or as the character himself prefers ‘The Hell Priest’), but for me the real stars are the ménage à trois of Larry, Julia and Frank; their secrets, and how Julia will do literally anything for her man.
Instead of analysing this film (it would be a really LONG review) I’ll instead tell you of the Hellraiser two-part special podcast that we are going to do (hopefully in the next few months), where we will talk at length about the first 3 films. Arrow have released ‘The Scarlet Box’ which includes a book, artwork, postcards, a small book of Clive’s artwork from the first film and the first 3 Hellraiser films on Blu-ray, as well as a slew of new extras (including an edited version of ‘Leviathan’ – all details below). Yet another box set I hear you sigh, yes. Why bother when I already have the Anchor Bay tin, The Puzzle Box set, the LaserDisc, the 25th anniversary edition and the terrible £6.99 Blu-ray off Amazon? WHY? Well, easy, even if you aren’t too bothered by the extras, the 2K restoration on all 3 films is worth the £50. Arrow love to leave a bit of grain in, and there’s plenty of it here, but all films look like they’ve been polished, making the blood just that little bit ickier, and the blue of Clare Higgins gorgeously murderous eyes all the more startling.
Normally the films we review here at 60 Minutes With are check discs, plain discs with none of the ‘extras’ such as the book included with this set. However, being such a fan I bought the set so am delighted to review the book. Written and compiled by Phil and Sarah Stokes who are Clive’s official archivists, this is quite a nifty 196 page (and good looking) book containing synopsis, press kits, and is an entertaining read that can be read in a few hours.
The set is piled with extras, not only on each individual disc, but also as an extra disc. Barker’s early works of Salome and The Forbidden are included on the extra disc and are so arty they will undoubtedly give you a ‘posh’ headache, and for years now all I’ve ever had in my mind after seeing The Forbidden is the sight of Clive with a proud erection bouncing up and down and it’s mesmerising. Horror author David Gatwood gives us the 101 on Barkers works of fiction, and finally 2 new films about the evolution of the Hellraiser franchise and The Hellraiser Chronicles. Alongside the edited ‘Leviathan’ this is without a doubt the most comprehensive package about Hellraiser, perhaps the only thing that’s missing is…. dare I say…. the other films? (Mmm maybe not). Personally I would have loved this to be a complete set DESPITE the quality of the other films, though I would definitely have left out Gary Tunnicliffe’s short movie, made to keep the franchise with the studio. The less said about that the better.
Earlier this year Clive excitedly wrote online that there was chance of him rebooting this story, beginning the story with LeMarchand’s puzzle box. After several years of ill health and personal difficulties it would be fantastic to see Clive grab the reins of his most iconic creation and bring The Priest of Hell into this century. I hope it happens.
As I write this (the day after The Scarlett Box is released), Arrow have already sold out as have Amazon. At the moment Amazon have it on sale at £150. Shame, as I’m sure a lot of fans will miss out on this really great box set. An essential purchase, if you got in there early (Tina).
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Making a horror sequel more often than not can produce something on par with and sometimes better than the original. The great thing with horror and fantasy is that you can go in fantastical directions and expand upon these limitless new dimensions. Such films as Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead II and Aliens are prime examples of horror films that dared to be different and to many, are better and more original than the first films.
So here we have Hellbound: Hellraiser II, he sequel to 1987’s game changing original Hellraiser. A film that pushes the boundaries of its own depraved origins. In my opinion one of the best horror sequels ever made.
Arrow Films have put together a spectacular new boxset of the first 3 films in the Hellraiser series. I’m here to talk about Hellbound; released in 1988 quickly after the worldwide success of Hellraiser. Clive Barker would oversee first time director Tony Randel and script collaborator Peter Atkins as they delved deeper into the twisted depravity that was hell and all its forbidden pleasures.
The story takes place after the events of the first film as we see Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) committed to an asylum under the care of the classy yet perverse Dr Channard (played exquisitely by British stage actor Kenneth Cranham) who throughout the film establishes his character as one of the most twisted and memorable in horror cinema. Channard has struck gold after hearing Kirsty’s story and has designs to see what is beyond the trappings of the flesh and after a particularly gory scene involving a straight razor and a mattress, opens ‘THE BOX’ with the help of mute inpatient ‘Tiffany’ (Imogen Boorman) and delves deep into the labyrinth of hell. Returning as ’Julia’ is Clare Higgins. Higgins once again revels in the malice and control of Julia’s character, alongside her is Sean Chapman as the ever sweaty sex pest ’Frank’ and of course Doug Bradley as the iconic ‘Pinhead’. Also William Hope (Aliens) gets a meaty role as a constantly shocked onlooker.
The plot of Hellbound is so bizarre that anymore explanation would not only be spoiling things, but to be honest, quite difficult to pin down….let’s just say that we SEE what hell looks like and just what being turned into a ‘Cenobite’ physically involves! For my money, Hellbound is one of the most original and brilliantly written sequels in cinema. It still manages to disturb and excite. The special effects are magnificent, even the collector’s item of some stop motion animation (a real lost art).
Treat yourselves to this stunning version of a true horror classic. Arrow has given Hellbound a stunning 2K HD transfer and HD audio (Ramrod).
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
When the decision was taken at 60 Minutes With towers on who would review which Hellraiser movie, I almost breathed a sigh of relief when I got Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth. The reason being the weight of expectation for reviewing one of the all time classic horror movies would have been almost too much for me to bear. I’m happy that particular honour has gone to Tina and Ramrod and I very much look forward to reading their thoughts.
I’ve seen Hellraiser 3 a few times and it generally isn’t held in as high regard as the first or second in the series, so it’s the perfect time to venture into hell with this incredible package from Arrow Films.
Joey (Terry Farrell) is a frustrated reporter and during a seemingly boring night reporting at a local hospital she witnesses a victim literally get torn apart. A chance meeting with the victims friend leads her to a nightclub called The Boiler Room.
The owner of the nightclub, JP Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) buys a mysterious statue containing more than he can possibly imagine. Monroe is a real scumbag who treats women like objects. He even smokes a cigarette whilst having sex! He is easily seduced by the promise of immortality, pleasure and power yet not fully understanding the consequences or the price he will have to pay.
JP’s girlfriend Terri, (Paula Marshall) hooks up with Joey after coming into possession of the iconic puzzle box. Meanwhile Joey is haunted by dreams of her father who died in Vietnam as they start to investigate the origins of the mysterious box.
Hellraiser 3 brings its own ideas and vision to the series but is sensible enough to remember its roots. For example; blood needs to touch the statue to bring Pinhead to life and he needs more victims which is very much like Julia bringing victims to her lover Frank in the original Hellraiser.
Speaking of Pinhead he is undoubtably the star of the show. Doug Bradley is absolutely mesmerising in the role! He’s sneering, charismatic, deceitful, manipulative yet playful with the character. The one thing he doesn’t do is turn Pinhead into a parody like Freddy Krueger became in the later Elm Street movies. He expertly walks the line being a terrifying monster whilst delivering cutting one liners with confidence and not damaging the brand or heritage in the process.
First off you have CD Cenobite who naturally fires CD’s at his victims. Bartender Cenobite who carries a cocktail mixer and uses it to throw gasoline at victims before breathing fire on them. Then there is Camerahead Cenobite who has a camera for an eye which he uses to impale victims.
The producers wanted to reach a wider audience with these new additions but all they really achieved was reduce the impact of the movie and in turn make it a bit gimmicky. As always though, Pinhead manages to salvage it from becoming too silly.
The one thing I will say in their favour is that the make-up and practical effects are fantastic. Hellraiser has always been famed for its gruesome and grotesque special effects and 3 is no exception. No matter how many times I see Doug Bradley in his “normal” clothing and then in character as Pinhead, the difference is so stark that they almost seem like two different people. It just goes to show how amazing his make up and performance is. The visual effects haven’t aged particularly well but I can’t be too critical based on the budget of the film.
The movie adds extra lore to the series making reference to the Channard Institute and Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence). We also get to see more of Captain Elliot Spencer before he became Pinhead.
In my opinion Hellraiser 3 is the weakest out of the first 3 movies, in fact when I first saw Hellraiser 3 upon its original release I really didn’t like it. It was missing the power and lasting memory of 1 and 2 and seemed cheap and dumbed down. Watching it again for review I have to say that Hellraiser 3 hasn’t aged as badly as I was expecting, and I acknowledge its strengths and weaknesses. It is very silly in places but there are also things to admire and appreciate. A scene in the nightclub springs to mind where there is sheer terror and panic on an epic scale. Pinhead appearing at a church in a Jesus Christ pose is also a really powerful and stark image. Doug Bradley is wonderful and the film lights up whenever he is on screen, whether as Pinhead or Captain Spencer. The final shot of the movie is also excellent.
My favourite of the special features is Hell on Earth: The Story of Hellraiser III. The actors and makers share their stories and experiences and it is a fabulous insight into the movie. Arrow Films have knocked it out of the park again and although the movie isn’t the best in the series you will definitely take pleasure in this excellent package (Chris).
4-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
- Brand new 2K restorations of Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
- Uncompressed PCM Stereo 2.0 and Lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound for Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II
- Lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
- English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for all three films
- Limited Edition bonus disc
- Exclusive 200-page hardback book with new writing from Clive Barker archivists Phil and Sarah Stokes
- 20-page booklet featuring never-before-seen original Hellraiser concept art
- Limited Edition packaging with new artwork from Gilles Vranckx
- Set of 5 exclusive art cards
- Fold-out reversible poster
DISC 1 – HELLRAISER
- Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon
- Audio commentary with writer/director Clive Barker
- Audio commentary with Barker and actress Ashley Laurence
- 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
- Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellraiser – actor Sean Chapman talks candidly about playing the character of Frank Cotton in Barker’s original
- Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score – Coil member Stephen Thrower on the Hellraiser score that almost was
- Hellraiser: Resurrection – vintage featurette including interviews with Clive Barker, actors Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence, special make-up effects artist Bob Keen and others
- Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser
- Original EPK featuring on-set interviews with cast and crew
- Draft Screenplays [BD-ROM content]
- Trailers and TV Spots
- Image Gallery
DISC 2 – HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II
- Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon
- Audio Commentary with director Tony Randel and writer Peter Atkins
- Audio Commentary with Randel, Atkins and actress Ashley Laurence
- Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II – brand new version of the definitive documentary on the making of Hellbound, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members
- Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound – actor Sean Chapman talks about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in the first Hellraiser sequel
- Surgeon Scene – the home video world premiere of this legendary, never before-seen excised sequence from Hellbound, sourced from a VHS workprint
- Lost in the Labyrinth – vintage featurette including interviews with Barker, Randel, Keen, Atkins and others
- Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellbound: Hellraiser II
- On-set interview with Clive Barker
- On-set interviews with cast and crew
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage
- Rare and unseen storyboards
- Draft Screenplay [BD-ROM content]
- Trailers and TV Spots
- Image Gallery
DISC 3 – HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH
- Brand new 2K restoration of the Original Theatrical Version [93 mins]
- Alternate Unrated Version [97 mins]
- Brand new audio commentary with writer Peter Atkins
- Audio commentary with director Anthony Hickox and Doug Bradley
- Hell on Earth: The Story of Hellraiser III – making-of documentary featuring interviews with Atkins, Keen and actor Ken Carpenter
- Terri’s Tales – brand new interview with actress Paula Marshall
- Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
- Raising Hell on Earth – archival interview with Hickox
- On-set interviews with Barker and Bradley
- Never-before-seen Hellraiser III SFX dailies
- Theatrical Trailer
- Image Gallery
- Hellraiser III comic book adaptation [Disc gallery]
DISC 4 – THE CLIVE BARKER LEGACY – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
- Clive Barker short films Salomé and The Forbidden
- Books of Blood & Beyond: The Literary Works of Clive Barker – horror author David Gatward provides a tour through Barker’s written work, from the first Books of Blood to the recent The Scarlet Gospels
- Hellraiser: Evolutions – a brand new documentary looking at the evolution of the hit horror franchise and its enduring legacy, featuring interviews with Scott Derrickson (director, Hellraiser: Inferno), Rick Bota (director, Hellraiser: Hellseeker, Deader and Hellworld), Stuart Gordon (director, Re-Animator, From Beyond) and others
- The Hellraiser Chronicles: A Question of Faith – short film
200-PAGE BOOK – ‘DAMNATION GAMES’ – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
- Exclusive 200-page hardback book 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