Back from Hell
To better understand the fictional contexts shown in a full-blooded horror movie, it would be appropriate to go back to the roots, i.e. to the point where it all began. Well, the film is based on the novel by Clive Berker entitled Back from Hell. Interestingly, the same author is responsible for the screening of the work. So it is a kind of self-narrative, which was not very popular in the past, although there have been cases where literary authors have attempted to bring their novel to the screen. An example of this is also Stephen King and his famous three-episode series The Shining. As it turned out later, it was not the only installment of the horror film, because later it had as many as 9 more parts (including the latest one from 2018), more or less related to each other. But as it is with film anthologies – the farther into the forest – the worse.
The land of pain and pleasure
Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) lives a lewd, dissolute life. He is an eccentric and aggressive man who has a soft spot for beautiful women. He secretly has an affair with Julia Cotton (Clare Higgins), the wife of his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson). While traveling through Morocco, he acquired a mysterious item – the Lemarchand’s Cube. After returning to his home in London, he went to the attic to unravel the secret of the artifact and learn about its mechanism of operation. After many attempts, he managed to achieve his goal, but he did not foresee their consequences, because the object opens a portal to the world of Cenobites – a hellish dimension in which pain and pleasure create unity. Completely unknowingly in this way, he summoned bloodthirsty demons, for whom sadomasochistic raptures are a natural nourishment, and therefore they tear Frank’s body to shreds with chains and take him to their world. However, over time, he manages to break out of the demonic dimension, taking the magic cube with him, but returns to earth as a monster needing human blood to survive. He is hiding in the nooks and crannies of his old apartment, where his brother Larry and his wife Julia have moved in. A woman in the attic discovers Frank’s presence and learns a terrible story. After this meeting, her old feelings for a cold, ruthless man are awakened in her and she decides to help him regain her former body, which regenerates itself with every blood sucked out of people. Their evil dealings don’t last long, however, as their secret relationship is discovered by Cotton’s daughter Kristy (Ashley Laurence) and tries to end their plot.
Sadomasochistic vision of the world
Hellraiser: Hellraiser is one of the few horror films that deal with the subject of sadomasochism.The most famous horror film of this type is Martyrs, directed by Pascal Laugier. The film by Barker and the aforementioned director has many common features. In addition to escalating cruelty, we also have bold scenes of sadomasochistic torture to achieve metaphysical sensations, pain and bliss, as well as alluding to religious symbolism. The vision of the world presented in Hellraiser is also consistent with another production, well-known to fans of horror, in which the writer – David Cronenberg was involved. We mean the Oscar-winning remake of Mucha starring Jeff Goldblum. There was also a love theme there. Love that is inaccessible, impossible, forbidden from the point of view of its nature. There is also a cult of ugliness typical of the second half of the 20th century, i.e. a turpistic vision of man present in literature and smuggled into film.
Is the movie haunted after many years?
Definitely not. Hellraiser: Hell’s Messenger is a forgotten horror movie with only dust left behind. Despite attempts to revive the series, it still remains in the shadow of its fellows. It is one of those productions that have not aged with proper dignity, and horror retroseans can be treated as having fun and a sentimental journey through special effects before the period of computer-generated images. However, that doesn’t mean that Clive Barker’s horror is a thing of the past forever. In pop culture, we still find references to the film, and in the United States, Pinhead figures and Lemarchand’s cubes are still popular. Also in contemporary horror literature we can find inspiration from the themes shown in horror. The fact that in its heyday it was an appreciated position among horror movie fans is evidenced by several nominations, including the prestigious Saturn award in the horror film category of the year. After all, it is worth returning to this production from time to time, for example out of sentiment and love for such a convention.