experience sexual pleasure with her husband Larry (Andrew Robinson). It's a different story when it comes to her husband's brother, Frank - a loner and explorer in the realms of pain, pleasure and the flesh.
Larry promises Julia a life of happiness upon moving into (the now deceased) Frank's house, only for her to relive - in flashback - the pleasures that Frank once gave her. Part of the thrill is that Frank was aggressive and in control, and Julia liked that.
It is Julia's obsessive, uncontrollable desire for Frank that triggers many of the events in Hellraiser, and Clive Barker utilises the technique of fast cross-cutting to demonstrate. While Julia reminisces in the attic about how Frank dominated her with such passion, the film cross-cuts to Larry downstairs lifting a mattress up the stair with the movers. The frenzied motions of Frank and Julia, are entangled with Larry's hand dragging the mattress further up the stairs. Then, as Julia orgasms, Larry's hand scrapes against a rusty nail in the wall - another well-timed cross-cut of bodily fluid to match that of his brother reaching orgasm with his bride. Larry goes into the attic to see his wife, and while there, his blood drips on to the attic floor, which ultimately brings Frank back to life. Her husband's split blood - the 'wound' inflicted upon Larry - is the very thing that brings Julia's lover back to her.
Frank is revived by Larry's blood, but he soon figures out that he needs more of it. He promises to be with Julia again sexually, if she helps him attain the blood he needs to fully regenerate. This promise is all Julia needed as incentive to begin bringing unsuspecting male victims back to the attic - to 'feed' her one-time lover. "Every drop of blood you spill puts more flesh on my bones... and we both want that, don't we", says Frank. And spill blood, Julia does.
The first murder scene in the film shows Julia bludgeon a man to death with a hammer, in a brutal and shocking attack. Over time, we see Julia finding it easier to commit murder, as Frank desperately tries to regenerate fully so he can experience pleasure and sensation again. Julia's sexual pleasure derives from being dominated, and Frank manipulates this secret fantasy only too well.
By contrast, Larry is subtly suggested to be inadequate in bed. "Don't mourn him" says Frank of his newly murdered brother, "He was dead long before we ever touched him." Frank clearly defines his life by pleasure and pain - and Julia does also. She begins to accept Franks disgusting feeding habits and they are - as are most things in this film - nauseating on a level comparable with the finale of The Fly - a squishy, wet film which reminds the audience that we are all simply bags of liquid that can be punctured, ripped and deformed!
Hellraiser obsesses on the ways desire can become obscene - how the need to feel and experience pleasure can drive one to do monstrous things. Sex is just a means to an end. Cue the Cenobites!
These are explorers in the realm of sensation, "in the further realms of experience," and their experience and appetites make a mockery of Julia and Frank's petty human desires. "Demons to some, angels to others," they rend flesh, rip out organs and tear souls apart - all in the pursuit of pleasure. They are former human monsters - led by Pinhead (Doug Bradley) - who are exploring the furthest realms of pleasure and sensation.
Doesn't sound all that appealing though, does it?! Frank did say that certain things must be endured so the pleasure is sweeter. When we see Frank first making love to Julia, he noted that the orgasm was "never enough", indicating why he went in search of the Lament Configuration - the puzzle box that would attract the Cenobites. Life's pleasures had become meaningless to him, and so he needed to explore other realms and dimensions.
Why We Heart: Hellraiser
By Andreas Charalambous - 30th October 2013
The question asked throughout this deeply frightening film is "What's your pleasure, sir?"
Hellraiser is a film about obsessive lust and pleasures, and the lengths humans will go to in order to satisfy these very things. What I love about this film (and the second, Hellbound: Hellraiser II), is the fact that they focus on ideas that are simply monstrous and inhuman - whereas the later instalments took a turn for more mainstream ideologies. The Cenobites in Clive Barker's stunning directorial debut, are both grotesque and beautiful creations, clad in leather - extremists in sadomasochism. However, with such creatures present throughout the film, the focus is solely on the human.
"Some things have to be endured and that's what makes the pleasure so sweet", says the hedonistic uncle Frank (Sean Chapman) to Kirsty. This is a theme that will surface again throughout the film. Ashley Laurence is centre stage as the innocent, young Kirsty. However, the most compelling character is Julia (Clare Higgins), who is a frigid woman unable to
Flesh is an important ingredient in Hellraiser. It's the human bridge to the outside world, the part of our bodies that experience everything. It is a restoration of flesh that Frank seeks. It is flesh that the Cenobites wish to experience, and it is the sensations - and limitations - of the flesh that begin Frank's journey into the further realms. As the film approaches its climax, Frank proclaims, "Jesus wept", in a mockery of the crucifixion. Christ died carrying the sins of others, but the desires of the flesh have turned Christ's flock - men and women like Frank and Julia - away from the "love thy neighbour" ideals. As an alternative, they wield hammers and suck blood and other such trespasses against God, in the name of hedonism.
Everything in Hellraiser comes back to the opening question - "What's your pleasure, sir?" The Cenobites, Julia and Frank all care only about finding out. The innocent Kirsty, wanders into this perverse scenario and is the film's clever final girl, but ultimately she's just a bystander in the play about passion, the addictive quality of pleasure, and the ever-escalating need to top the previous pleasures. In looking at the perverse quality of human nature, Clive Barker fashions a dark, brooding and very bloody horror film. It tells the audience something about humanity and human nature.