Hellraiser is like watching a demonstration of how to legitimately scare an audience. Modern horror films use updated sound and cheap jump scares to generate a brief gasp from the audience. Hellraiser doesn’t generate a gasp because you’re not breathing.
In an era filled with slashers who run around killing brain dead teenagers, Hellraiser was vastly different. It was older, more mature, with the true killer played by a middle-aged woman, Clare Higgins.
Hellraiser is about more than kills. Like any true horror film, the best moments are not filled with grisly gore (although Hellraiser has plenty of it), but the subtle, creepy ones.
Higgins is laying on the couch as her on-screen husband (Andrew Robinson) watches a boxing match. He remarks that watching a particularly brutal fight used to make her sick. Higgins replies, “I’ve seen worse.”
Truer words have never been spoken, and it is especially creepy given the smirk on her face. The character has turned from remorseful to insane due to her dead lover (Sean Chapman) being brought back from the dead. In order to fully restore him, she is forced to kill. Her weapon of choice? A hammer, and it never works with one hit.
The practical effects, despite the budget, are fantastic. The gruesome creations, including the now iconic Pinhead, are masterpieces of horror. Ample gore will make even a veteran genre fan squirm, and a freakish creature at the end of the film will give anything in John Carpenter’s The Thing a run for its money.
Hellraiser is not terrifying because of those creations; it is terrifying because of its concepts, ideas, and images. If the monsters portrayed here are not even allowed into hell (as stated in the movie), what is then?
Anchor Bay has done a wonderful job with the movie’s first hi-def transfer, delivering a crisp AVC encode. While black crush is a common problem throughout, detail does come through. Facial details, the shine of bloody make-up, and general texturing show beautifully.
Sharpness is impressive, at times dropping off with few ill effects. Some intentional blooming is not the fault of an otherwise bright contrast. However, it seems artificially pumped up, showing noise within the blacks that would likely not be there otherwise.
Anchor Bay wins again with an impressive audio mix, presented in TrueHD. Surrounds are consistently active, and there are numerous moments of positional dialogue. Hellraiser scores from the start, with chains rattling in all channels.
Fidelity is strong, and the mix feels natural. Bass is non-existent, leaving the audio somewhat flat. Still, the film benefits greatly from added positionals, creating an accurate that captures all cues.
A commentary from Clive Barker, actress Ashley Laurence is moderated by screenwriter Pete Atkins. A string of five featurettes follow, which flow nicely as one piece that lasts nearly 90 minutes. Interviews are candid and honest, a wonderful departure from the usual studio promotional garbage. A pop-up trivia track, still galleries, and BD-Live support round off this excellent selection.