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DVD: Hellraiser (1987) - 20th Anniversary Edition (2007)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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Starz Home Entertainmant/Anchor Bay
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1 (NTSC)

October 23, 2007



Genre: Horror  
Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, Robert Hines, Anthony Allen, Leon Davis, Doug Bradley, and Simon Bamford.  



Directed by:

Clive Barker
Screenplay by: Clive Barker
Music by: Christopher Young
Produced by: Christopher Figg

The soul of a cursed brother returns from Hell to covet his brother's wife, his brother's skin, and the teenage niece coming into full blossom.

Film Length: 94 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  English Dolby Surround 5.1, English Dolby Surround 2.0
Special Features :  

Easter Egg [see Comments section] / Audio commentary track with writer/director Clive Barker, actress Ashley Laurence, and moderator/screenwriter Peter Atkins / Andrew Robinson Interview: “Mr. Cotton, I Presume?” (16:12) / Ashley Laurence Interview: “Actress from Hell” (11:58) / Doug Bradley Interview: “Under the Skin” (12:31) / Christopher Young Interview: “Hellcomposer” (18:18) / 15 th Anniversary Making-of Featurette from 2000: “Hellraiser: Resurrection” (24:23) / U.S. R-rated Theatrical Trailer + U.S. G-rated Theatrical Trailer + International Theatrical Trailer / 4 TV Spots / 4 Still Galleries with music: Behind the Scenes (3:16) + Make-Up and SFX (2:24) + Promotional Material (1:52) + Storyboards (3:03) / DVD-ROM: First Draft and Final Draft Hellraiser Scripts in PDF format

Comments :

Easter Egg: Go to the Extras menu. With Featurettes highlighted, move the cursor back, and a yellow silhouette of Pinhead will appear above. Press ENTER, and vintage merchandise bumpers (3:08) from New World's VHS release of Hellraiser will play, featuring an old lady, a stale cat, a top-loading VHS player, and bad puns meant to help sell T-shirts, jackets, and baseball caps surrounded by hooks and fleshy bits.


When it eventually arrived on home video, Clive Barker's feature-length directorial debut had already gained notoriety as one vicious, gory horror film that genre fans simply had to see, and as star Andrew Robinson rightly states in his own lengthy interview featurette - one of several new additions to this upgrade of Anchor Bay's prior THX DVD from 2000 - Hellraiser was a key horror film from the eighties, and remains pretty strong stuff, even after recent forays into retro seventies sadism have seemingly pushed the boundaries of violence off the cliff.

Feeling more like a low-key mini opera about domestic discord with its grotesque visuals and extreme bloodletting, Hellraiser isn't the most coherent film, but there's no denying Pinhead and the demonic Cenobites are among the most memorable villains ever burnt onto film, and the film's dream-like style – the colours, lighting, and soft-focus cinematography seem too pretty for a nightmare – transcends Barker's limitations as a screenwriter.

In “Hellraiser: Resurrection,” the lengthy featurette ported over from the 2000 DVD, Barker admits film directing was more of a hobby than a side-career, and since Lord of Illusions (1995), his final directorial effort, he's more or less stepped back and just conceived storylines, characters, or overseen the Hellraiser franchise to some degree; with rare exception, his producing efforts have been inconsistent, and lack the deliberate haunting quality that runs through Hellraiser, Nightbreed, and Lord of Illusions – far more personal and rewarding films, flaws and all.

Even for Barker, Hellraiser is a creation that he kindly regards as a work of its era, and perhaps of his own career after becoming a successful novelist, playwright, and short film director by the mid-eighties. This anniversary DVD will likely be his definitive word on the film's production, as he admits in the 2000 featurette that there just isn't more to say beyond the extant commentary track, itself quite entertaining and consistent with production memories and minutia. (A Region 2 DVD, which we'll get to shortly, contains an additional solo Barker track recorded in 2004, and likely offers more reflective views and contrasts on the series, albeit with likely factual and anecdotal repetition.)

While co-star Ashley Laurence, composer Christopher Young, and several of the actors and special effects technicians have their say in the older featurette, “Hellraiser: Resurrection,” the new additions in this DVD should please fans wanting more candid and personal reflections, unhindered by fast edits, montages, and sound-bite reductions.

One does get a sense that the DVD producer's original intention was to craft a lengthy documentary, as the separate interviews with actors Laurence, Robinson, Doug Bradley, and composer Young are basically long replies to edited-out questions from an off-screen interviewer, but in keeping the segments loose and tangential, the subjects are able to reflect more personally on how Hellraiser affected their careers.

Amid the common accolades towards Barker and his gift for prose and weird imagery, there's also the positive, collaborative experiences the actors cite, which also extended towards composer Young. With the exception of Robinson, who'd been typecast for villains after his own fiery debut as Scorpio in Dirty Harry (truly one of the most repulsive killers ever portrayed on film), everyone else was making a major career jump after small roles, being stage-bound, or in the case of Young, having scored a pair of slasher films with a full orchestra ( The Dorm That Dripped Blood / Pranks, and The Power).

Robinson characterizes working with directors Barker and Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) as two of the most important and enjoyable experiences of his journeyman career, whereas Laurence cites the film as the beginning of a long line of exotic horror films which may not have been collectively notable, but fostered a painting career (of which two samples are shown in her segment. Laurence's interview is also bookended by a funny improv bit that has her replying as a valley girl who likes ducks.)

Bradley, who plays Pinhead, is far more at peace with his ongoing relationship with the character in the numerous sequels (of which two were made within months of each other in 2005), and that may be due to his creative relationship with Barker that goes back to performing in the author's plays prior to Hellraiser. Of chief interest is Bradley's recollection of scenes shot but never used in the film, involving graffiti-clad rooms where the Cenobites live.

For film music fans, the most intriguing interview is the long Young segment, which more than makes up for the brief sound-bite in the 2000 featurette. Young is allowed to freely discuss his own relationship with horror and sci-fi films, and he provides an amusing recollection of discovering Bernard Herrmann's classic London Phase 4 fantasy film score anthology in a record shop, and how each needle drop ultimately motivated the young composer to take a crack at film scoring.

Young also addresses his participation in the sequel, Hellraiser: Hellbound, although unlike the actors, his experience was far more rewarding, given producer/newbie director Tony Randel allotted more money for a bigger orchestra. Still cited as one of the composer's best scores by fans – after 20 years, it's a work of morbid majesty – Hellraiser's score has aged as well as Barker's film.

Of the cited interviews, the Bradley segment comes from Anchor Bay's Region 2 Hellraiser boxed set (released in 2004 in standard alpha packaging and a limited puzzle box, with uncut and extra-laden editions of the first 2 sequels, plus Barker's first 2 short films, Salome from 1973, and The Forbidden, from 1978).

In this British boxed set, Hellraiser apparently includes an additional theatrical trailer and TV spot, vintage on-set interview with Barker (glimpsed in the Bradley segment), and a second commentary track featuring Barker all alone.

As a contrast, in addition to the aforementioned Robinson, Laurence, and Young interviews, the new 20 th Anniversary DVD seems to add an extra draft of Barker's script, although the broad stills gallery seems consistent with the Region 2 release. The images in each gallery are very low-res, however, and lack the full-screen size and sharpness present on the 2000 Anchor Bay disc.

Starz Home Entertainment's new DVD is an attempt to bridge some of the gaps that lie between its Region 1 and Region 2 titles – a few of its Anchor Bay UK DVDs contain some unique extras not present on North American DVDs – and this new disc boosts the extras content, including a vintage merchandise promo also from the Region 2 set, hidden as an Easter Egg, as on the Region 2 disc (see top for further details).


© 2007 Mark R. Hasan

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