As I frequently do with my friends, it’s time to begin the watching and review of another classic horror film series. This time (and soon to follow, others) it’s the Hellraiser series, the brainchild of Clive Barker. In the vein of sadomasochistic pleasure and pain in the extreme, this movie explores the avenues of prosthetics and stop-motion animation in a way to frighten and disturb. With a new chapter in gore created, Stephen King said it best. “I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker.” Ebert might not believe this statement, but what does he know, right?
At the start of this movie, we encounter Frank (Sean Chapman), a two-bit, no good, gangster of a hoodlum. He has found this box on the other side of the world and plans to use it to explore the extremes of pleasure and pain. Upon solving the box in his “zen temple of an attic”, the Cenobites (creatures from Heaven and Hell) come to him to show him the way of the flesh. As Pinhead (Doug Bradley) says, “We have such sights to show you.” Upon ripping his flesh and bones from his body and dragging him to a Hell brought on through a wall, Frank says bye-bye to the world.
Ahhhh, the Cenobites...
Years later, and for no perceivable reason, Frank’s brother Larry Cotton (Andrew Robinson) brings his strangely detached wife Julia (Claire Higgins) and rebellious daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) to live in merry ole London town. Although only his wife is English. And there may or may not be an issue with accents in this movie for people perceived to be residents of the U.K. You make the call.
Have you learned anything, Frank?
While here, Larry Cotton absolutely destroys his hand on a rusty nail (check dat shizz for tetanus!) and accidentally brings back the remains of Frank’s body from the other side. It is then up to Julia and her past affair with Frank to reanimate his body, Imhotep/Mummy style. Bring on the parallels. Oh, and it’s up to Kirsty and her “boyfriend/interested bystander” (Robert Hines) to stop them. Get it goin’.
There were a few things that, after watching this once before at night, that I was in love with. I loved the reanimation scene of Frank’s body. It was absolutely grotesque and ballin’, all at the same time. Stop-motion animation, like in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, just gets my horror juices flowing. I wish more movies went back to the days of the clay. Accompany this with a Mummy worthy stand in of Oliver Smith as Frank’s decayed, yet regenerating body and you have the creepy crawlies when you see his muscles moving over bone.
The images of Hellraiser.
There were a few things that doesn’t work either. The believability of Frank and Julia’s affair. I liked the tie in to the sadomasochism with their violently physical relationship, but there was no real sizzle at any point in the movie. Yes, you get a bit creeped out when she kisses Frank’s unfinished body, but what can you do? Another thing. The strangely over the top acting from Larry Cotton. I don’t know what this guy was shooting for, but it really was absurd. Thank God for the Cenobites coming in to bring some acting chops (pun intended with Chatterbox) to this film. Kirsty wasn’t too bad, I mean, they invited her back for the second…
So pair these lacking parts with a breakthrough into the genre of gore/horror, and you have my favorite genre. When you can overload someone’s senses with horrifying images and a few jump scenes, what’s better than that? And the simple fact that Clive Barker’s vision for this film sparked 7 other movies? Let me get a piece of that action. With these cult classics comes some of the best horror of its time, and one of my favorite horror series in the collection. Thanks Netflix! A solid 7.3 out of 10 for this groundbreaker.
As most gigantic film buffs know, this movie is top dog when it comes to classic films everyone has to see. And how long did it take me to see since I’ve been really into movies? 10 years. I know you may be thinking I might as well shut down my review website, but hold your horses Seabiscuit. It wasn’t like I wasn’t going to see it and shrug it off as some dumb flick not worth my time. (Although… a bit lengthy.) This movie is across the board considered one of the best of all time, and it came out a mere 17 years ago. And there’s quite a few movies that would rival that from more than 50 or 60 years. But no, this movie, paid with a dollar to Stephen King with a single dollar bill, is now considered a masterpiece.
This movie in particular holds quite a bit of significance to me, but more to my father. So yeah, it’s pretty special. My father grew up in Mansfield, site of the Ohio State Reformatory, located just outside of downtown Mansfield. Coming from a low budget movie filmed in one location (Mansfield), I would call the achievement of this film phenomenal. And turning the old reformatory into Shawshank State Penitentary in Maine, and thus turning Mansfield into a hotspot location for film buffs: fantastic. The streets of Mansfield, some family friends staring down the camera, yeah, this film has some history with me.
Okay, basic plot. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of killing his wife all the way back in 1947. His wife was cheating on him with a golfer (naturally Tiger Woods) and she got what was coming to her. And it’s never really clear whether or not Andy committed the crime. Anyways, Dufresne is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine, home of the writer of this short story, Stephen King. While there, Andy keeps his head down, stands up for others, and makes friends with Red (Morgan Freeman) the narrator of this fine film. Despite his status as convicted or not (all Shawshank inmates are innocent!), Andy Dufresne must stick by his beliefs and not get Shawshanked. Overused pun? Or am I the first? Let me know.
Of course, as expected with a great movie, there’s some great acting in it as well. It is Morgan Freeman. Known simply to most as “The Voice of God”, it was roles like The Shawshank Redemption that gave him the opportunity to narrate beyond a prison story. Tim Robbins, as I’ve figured from this movie, got into highly acclaimed, Oscar worthy roles because of this movie. Although Morgan Freeman won for best actor, it doesn’t demean Tim Robbins any that he was in a movie that was up for 7 academy awards.
Who else, you may ask, deserves a nod from this acclaimed film? I would tip my hat to William Sadler as Heywood, the bumbling idiot and all around good guy, just trying to get through prison life. The only life most of them know, and that comes across in this movie with James Whitmore’s performance as Brooks Hatlen, a role that would later be ironically poked fun at by a Robot Chicken sketch. (Get busy livin’, or get Kraken.) Come to think of it, there’s always the occaisional homage or spoof that comes up about this film, and now I can enjoy them more thoroughly.
So I give the biggest nod to Frank Darabont and his screenplay from the words of Stephen King, utilizing his Dollars to Direct program of all his short stories. I do wonder though if he’s kicking himself about missing out on this cash cow. But all-in-all, I’m sure this was a wonderful film to be a part of, and I know I’ll be watching it again in the future. 9.7 out of 10.
I also wanted to throw on this little clip from Seth Green’s Robot Chicken for a little quirky spoof that got me interested in The Shawshank Redemption. Enjoy!