Hellraiser Trilogy Blu-Ray from Arrow Video (2016) Review
UK Release January 25th 2016 from Arrow Video
Directed by Clive Barker
Starring Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence and Claire Higgins
By this point in time nearly everyone in the modern world has seen at least one Hellraiser film and if not, knows the character of Pinhead at least. He has become woven into modern culture and has spawned sub cultures and numerous sequels. The film where it all began, Clive Barkers’ Hellraiser, is a stone cold classic. The musical theme that opens the film is recognisable but not hummable ala a John Williams or John Carpenter. The film is infused with set pieces, that although aged, are a sight to see, from Frank rising from the floorboards in Harryhausen stop motion to Skinless Frank staring into the moonlight (a favourite shot of mine). There is subtext if you dig deeper, the horrors that lie upstairs and the domestic middle class bliss of a dinner party downstairs. Unlike most horror films today the script is tight, scenes are there for a reason, not just to lengthen the running time. The film is a classic, seek it out.
Arrow Video released the Hellraiser trilogy in a ‘Scarlet Box’ limited edition set only a short amount of months ago. I couldn’t find this for love nor money in local shops or supermarkets which was a shame as it was an excellent collection. Now Arrow have seen fit to release a boxset of the trilogy. Hellraiser has also been remastered in 2K, approved by the DOP Robin Vidgeon. I watched the film on a 40” Samsung Full HD TV and unfortunately the disc did not hold up. The grain over the film in certain scenes makes the film worse than VHS and I expected better.
Arrow Video are renowned for presenting films with generous extras, you can almost call them the UK version of Criterion. Each individual film comes with a plethora of extra which I have summarised below:
Audio Commentaries –
1) Clive Barker – a well spoken thoughtful track with the director alone in the booth. Some stories are supplemented in other areas but the track is highly enjoyable. The track is only dated by him mentioning the track is being recorded days before Hellraiser – Bloodline comes out. This would date it around 1995/96.
2) Clive Barker, Ashey Laurence and Moderator – another lively track, helped in parts by the moderator. Clive Barker seems a lot more energised by having other people with him. Again an enjoyable track. Well worth a listen.
Making Of – Leviathan
A feature length documentary behind the first Hellraiser, missing only Clive Barker. Most of the interviews are modern and represent a good portion of the cast that are not present on the commentaries. The only downside is a wholly unnecessary ‘trailer man’ voice over which spoils it some what.
Being Frank – Sean Chapman on Hellraiser
The actor who plays Frank is given time to speak about the role and how it came about
A well known historical fact is that the music of Hellraiser could have been so much different. An industrial 80’s band called Coil were supposed to score the film before a more ‘Hollywood’ composer cam onboard. This featurette interviews a former member about the scoring and the removal of the band from the film. We also get to hear some themes played over the opening to the film which is a nice touch.
Vintage Featurette – Resurrection
An of its time featurette with interviews including an on set Clive barker looking scarily like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame.
Trailers and TV Spots
Interesting trailers including the original voice of Skinless Frank (it was dubbed with an American accent in the final film)
Overall the package from Arrow is sumptuous and will take any horror fans days to get through. Although the picture quality of this first outing isn’t the strongest which is a disappointment for this HD outing I highly recommend it.
Hellbound – Hellraiser II
Directed by Tony Randel
Starring Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence and Kenneth Cranham
With most sequels the saying goes, make it bigger, better and darker. Hellbound – Hellraiser II certainly ticks each of those boxes. Rather than try and remake the original again, the creative team behind the mega hit Hellraiser decide to go further and look further into the world of the Cenobites, where they come from and their origins.
I’ve seen Hellbound a handful of times and I have mostly watched it while its on in the background. This time was different. I watched it with no distractions and, rather than feel it was characters running down endless corridors, I got a lot more from it. It’s a worthy sequel. Most, if not all, of the creative team are back, from the writer to the make up and effects team. Scenes with skinless characters are excellent and hold up in the this début 2K HD product, unlike the original Hellraiser which looked awful in parts. Special consideration should be to Kenneth Cranham and his character of Dr. Channard, his death howl still gives me shivers to this day. An enjoyable and well made continuation of the Hellraiser saga.
Again, like before, Arrow have released a disc bursting with extras. My notes are below:
1) Director Tony Randel and Writer Peter Atkins – a enjoyable commentary especially when talk turns to when they start talking about the late great ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. Also of note, they do say Laserdisc at one point which must mean this commentary is from a long long time ago.
2) Director Tony Randel, Writer Peter Atkins and Star Ashley Laurence – bringing a different dynamic to the group, star Ashley Laurence joins the conversation and talks of her time on set
Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Made by the same team from the Hellraiser disc, another well made, in depth discussion of the sequel and the series as a whole. The same annoying voice over is present though, it is unneeded.
Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound
Actor Sean Chapman talk about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in this film.
Surgeon Scene – the holy grail of deleted scenes. In the Under The Skin featurette, Doug Bradley says “we did not film the scene”. Sorry Douglas, yes you did! Here it is in all its glory, but it is terrible, doesn’t work and is rightfully been hidden away all these years.
Lost In The Labyrinth – Vintage Featurette – what is says on the tin, looks like it was filmed through a film of Vaseline though, oh how we loved VHS quality.
Under The Skin – Doug Bradley on Hellraiser II – discussion from the main man on why he returned to the role and its legacy.
On Set Interviews – Clive Barker/Cast and Crew – Clive Barker still looks like Trent Reznor and is very articulate/Cast and Crew are excited about the sequel and the new blood coming in.
Hellraiser III – Hell On Earth
Directed by Anthony Hickox
Starring Doug Bradley and Terri Farrell
Each of the original trilogy films are of their time Hellraiser and Hellbound are almost one continuous film as the British creative team were kept on but with Hell On Earth the location was changed to sunnier climes of LA. It sounds like the move overseas shouldn’t work but, for me, it does. In fact, I would go as far as saying this film is the most accessible and fun. The first two films have no humour or brevity in it, and are serious as hell, but Hell On Earth does and it works.
Doug Bradley returns again as Pinhead but this time he is mostly confined to a pillar with his head stuck in it. It weirdly works. The film again is of its time, when grunge and heavy metal were popular. Seeing the fashions and music infused into the film is a good call back to a time of fun and excitement in America, before we all became too self aware and afraid to go out our front door.
The inclusion of different Cenobites is a good addition and takes the pressure off Pinhead. Scenes set within a nightclub are gory and well done. A scene where Pinhead sheds a victims skin right off her body is a gross moment but fun at the same time.
Hell On Earth is a different beast from the first two films. Some may not like the location and tone shift but if you ride the wave, its an enjoyable ride. Also, the late great Lemmy sings a song called ‘Hellraiser’ over the end credits, its a great song. I’ve been singing it to myself since I finished the film.
1) Writer Pete Atkins – a solo discussion from the Liverpudlian Atkins and how he was kept on from Hellbound.
2)Director Anthony Hickox and Star Doug Bradley – a deep discussions about the behind the scenes filming
Alternate Unrated Cut of Hell On Earth – a longer cut of the film. Doesn’t really add anything of note.
Hell On Earth – The Story of Hellraiser III – a shorter, sharper look at the behind the scenes making of the film.
Terri’s Tales – an up to date interview with actress Paula Marshall
Under The Skin – Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III – Hell On Earth – further discussion with the legendary actor under the make up of Pinhead.
Raising Hell On Earth – archival interview with the director Anthony Hickox
On Set interviews with Barker and Bradley – what is say on the tin.
Rare Dailies – a fun look at the raw materials that made up the film.