Hellraiser 30th anniversary poster

“I thought I’d gone to the limits. I hadn’t. The Cenobites gave me an experience beyond limits. Pain and pleasure, indivisible.”


Although Clive Barker’s Hellraiser received a relatively poor critical reception on release, it has maintained a deserved cult following in large part for the the Cenobites, its varied group of travelling torture demons summoned through a puzzle box. The film’s strengths lie in its disquieting ideas and Barker’s vivid imagination for organic body horror. The story, with hastily sketched characters and largely constrained to a single nondescript house, is so thin as to be inconsequential next to the concepts and encroaching hell world it evokes. Thirty years on, around half of the make-up special effects still hold up remarkably well which is either surprisingly impressive or woefully inadequate depending on your perspective. There are definitely moments that break the immersion entirely ⁠— stretching skin looks comically bad ⁠— but the level of make-up creativity on such a constrained budget is to be commended. Provided you are able to look beyond those limitations and immerse yourself in the atmosphere, there is much to enjoy.