Just in time for Halloween Arrow Films release Hellraiser: The Scarlett Box. As ‘80s screen monsters go The Cenobites might have fallen by the way side to the likes of Freddy Krueger but they are equally as inventive as the dream killer but minus the dark comedy musings they’re arguably more terrifying.
From the moment they are summoned in the first Hellraiser they peek the interest. Creator, and director of the first film, Clive Barker offering the tantalising prospect of them being; “Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others”. That the first film touches upon this but the sequels never explore it to its fullest is to the series detriment.
The first film, and easily the best of the Hellraiser saga, teases this concept to perfection. If anything The Cenobites are little more than a subplot to begin with, evil entities that lurk in the shadows waiting for some hedonistic type looking for the next big high to unleash their sadomasochistic ways. In truth the first film is a dark and twisted little love story that manages to include a soap opera style family drama.
It is here that Barker’s imagination runs riot. Long before the gore-fests of the Noughties Barker was literally ripping the flesh from bodies. The recurring motif of all the Hellraiser films is wonderfully realised corpses without their skin which will shock and have you hiding behind a cushion just as much as the Cenobites wonderful design. A constant dread beats throughout Hellraiser, Barker’s direction might be raw at times but he underscores everything with an grand soundtrack that unsettles more than any of the gore on offer.
The other two Hellraiser films in The Scarlett Box are not a patch on the first film. There are moments of interesting ideas but they feel the need to first humanize and then unleash The Cenobites in ways that undermine what Barker originally intended them to be.
Where this latest edition of the Hellraiser release really comes to screaming life is through the inclusion of a host of extras. The highlight of these being Leviathan: The Hellraiser story which looks at how Barker took a minimal budget and not only created a hit franchise but something truly iconic in the pantheon of cinema.
Fans of anything Clive Barker and Hellraiser will revel in The Scarlet Box but for the uninitiated the first film is what it’s all about. That being said if you like your horror inventive, covered in claret and daringly inventive Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box is worth opening.