Hellraiser: 20th Anniversary Edition

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

You expect something to happen when you solve a puzzle, such as the pieces forming an image or at least some type of reward for your hard work. But this particular puzzle was solved, the reward was a portal to Hell and that’s the kind of situation where you wish you have what’s behind the curtain, you know? So the man who solves the puzzle is taken into the other realm and terrorized by these strange sadistic creatures, but there is a potential light at the end of this tunnel. His former lover has returned and she discovers a way to bring him back, but it won’t be pretty and it won’t be easy. The sadistic little devils, the cenobites are ready to dish out pain & suffering like there’s tomorrow and that is bad news for all parties involved. As if dealing with the cenobites wasn’t enough, our team also has to contend with special needs for our puzzle solver, which I will let you discover on your own. I have tried to be vague here in case you haven’t seen it, but rest assured, this is one cool movie from start to finish.

Pinhead is back for the 20th Anniversary of Hellraiser and of course, Anchor Bay has marked the occasion with a new release, with both old & new materials on deck. This movie marks the start of the popular Hellraiser series, which has now become a direct to video franchise. The later sequels leave a lot to be desired, but the original is terrific and deserves a place among the better horror films of this time. I think most people will remember this movie thanks to Pinhead, but the main reason this movie works is the mixture of suspense and intense visuals. The visuals add a lot to the film’s tense environment, which of course leads to an eerie atmosphere and better scares & such. This is often lumped in with the slasher flicks from this time, but it is doesn’t really belong in that genre. Yes, there is some blood and gore, but I think this is more of an atmosphere based movie than slasher picture. But even if it was, as long as Pinhead is doing the killing, that’d be fine by this reviewer. This new 20th Anniversary Edition offers some improvements, so if you want to own Hellraiser, this is the best version out there.

When you think of Hellraiser, your thoughts probably move toward one person, Pinhead. This is with good reason, as old Pinhead is a cool looking guy and with all those spikes in his head, he is hard to forget. So we all know his makeup and other effects make him look scary, but would he be very spooky unless he played with such skill by Doug Bradley? This was his first turn as this character and he nailed it, also returning in all four sequels to continue his performance as Pinhead. As scary as that pale face paint and plethora of pins are, Bradley makes this character even scarier by playing him with an almost noble edge, which makes him seem so cold blooded. You need a good villain in a film like this and Bradley is more than up to the task. The cast also includes Andrew Robinson (Cobra, Child’s Play 3), Sean Chapman (Hellbound: Hellraiser II), Clare Higgins (B. Monkey, Thin Ice), and Ashley Laurence (A Murder Of Crows). Hellraiser was written & directed by Clive Barker who also helmed such films as Salome, Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions, and The Forbidden.

Video: How does it look?

Hellraiser is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This doesn’t look much different from the previous transfer, but its been a while since I’ve seen that release. The full frame option has been dropped this time around, which is excellent news. I was pleased to find a very clean source print, as well as razor sharp black levels, which are vital to a film like this. The previous edition didn’t handle the contrast that well, but here the shadow depth is dead on and detail is high, but never overexposed. I also thought the colors looked rich and bright, without any smears or bleeds and flesh tones were natural as well.

Audio: How does it sound?

This disc sports the same Dolby Digital 5.1 option as before and while it is a little flat at times, the end result is still better than average. I was glad to find that the surrounds were not forced into use, which means the audio retains a rather natural sound. Sometimes these remixes pressure surround use and the mix suffers, but that is not the case with this one. The musical score is very good and sounds even better in this mix, which allows it to wander through the surround channels. I also detected some subtle surround use at times to enhance the atmosphere, but that much in the end. The dialogue is crisp and always clear, which means you’ll never struggle to hear what’s being said in this film. You can also choose a 2.0 surround track, which is better if your system isn’t as expansive.

Supplements: What are the extras?

In terms of supplements, back from the previous release is an audio commentary with writer/director Clive Barker & actress Ashley Laurence, which is moderated by Pete Atkins. This is an informative track and has few pauses, which means plenty of behind the scenes info, anecdotes, and stories can be found within the running time. This is one of the better horror based tracks I’ve heard, as Barker has a lot to share about this film and how it was made. Also back is Resurrection, a twenty minute featurette which contains interviews with Barker and various other members of the cast & crew. Very cool and worth a look if you’re a fan of this movie. And we also have the tv spots, storyboards, and the film’s theatrical trailer. New to this release are several interview featurettes, which might not be landmark, but are welcome inclusions.

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