Clive Barker’s Hellraiser was a game changer for horror movies. Iconic, influential, and inspiring numerous knockoffs and parodies, both Hellraiser and its sequel Hellbound rank high among the greatest modern horror films ever made. Part I of this two-part documentary is available to watch for SHUDDER subscribers and covers all the bases of the first film.
Director John McDonagh (Idol of Evil, No Filter) and his team interview cast and crew of the two films, interspersed with behind the scenes footage and classic scenes from the films. The first section of the documentary covers pre-production, then moves on the cast, followed by a wide-ranging look at the groundbreaking special effects for the film. It’s worth noting that you will not find any new interview footage with Clive Barker or Ashley Laurence (Kirsty Cotton) in either part of the documentary, but their lack of participation is compensated by extensive discussions with the other members of the cast that have carved their mark on our imaginations forever.
Beginning with the writing of the script, we get excellent insight on Barker’s ultimate design for his novella, The Hellbound Heart. Barker’s theater background played heavily on getting the film into pre-production, as he relied on his friends and coworkers from that arena to get the gears in motion. We get production designers and special effects teams breaking down the several versions of the Lament Configuration, aka “the box”, used to summon the cenobites, the development of The Engineer seen at the end of the film, the almost-used puppet of ‘skinless’ Frank Cotton, as well as the birth of ‘skinless’ Frank. If you like the behind-the-scenes footage of special effects, then you’re definitely in for a treat.
As mentioned above, Clive Barker and Ashley Laurence were not involved in the testimonials for the documentary, and the lack of their participation is sorely missed. If there’s one complaint, that’s it. Fortunately, we get documentary footage with literally every star in the films, including Andrew Robinson (Larry Cotton) and Clare Higgens (Julia Cotton). Doug Bradley (Pinhead), Barbie Wilde (Female Cenobite, Hellbound: Hellraiser II), Simon Bamford (Butterball), Kenneth Cranham (Dr. Philip Channard, Hellbound: Hellraiser II), Nicholas Vince (Chatterer), and Oliver Smith (skinless Frank), among others, figure heavily in the feature. It’s refreshing to see most of the cenobites represented here as their interviews can be difficult to find elsewhere.
The film ends with a section covering the soundtrack of the production, including interviews with members of Coil, the band Barker wanted to use for the film, and Christopher Young, the composer who eventually got the job. Young’s score for the film is one the most recognized film scores in horror history, but one wonders what Coil would have done beyond the demo-tapes that you can find online if you dig deep enough. Though only Part I of this documentary is available to stream online at SHUDDER, the entire 6-hour film is available on DVD for a ridiculous price—definitely something for die-hard collectors only. Regardless, Part I is worth it if you’re a subscriber, and is a must see for fans of the Hellraiser films.