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This review originally appeared in issue 14 of THE CINEMA LASER.


HELLRAISER ($40) is an intelligently written and truly disturbing piece of horror cinema by Clive Barker, which has finally been given a respectable Letterbox release by the folks at Lumivision. HELLRAISER was author Clive Barker's directorial debut, and his lack of experience behind the camera causes many sequences to not fulfill their full shock potential. Had this project been placed in the hands of someone more experienced, like John Carpenter, HELLRAISER would have been a horror classic instead of just a cult favorite. I don't want to make it seem as if HELLRAISER were ineptly directed, it just lacks the visual styling which would have made a much greater impact. The plot concerns an ancient puzzle box, which when solved opens a doorway to hell summoning demons, known as Cenobites, who thrive on inflicting unimaginable pain. The latest unfortunate victim of the Cenobites manages to find his way back into our world, only after a bit of blood is spilled upon the spot where the Cenobites literally tore him apart. Unfortunately, it will take a great deal of flesh and blood to completely restore the victim’s physical form. HELLRAISER also introduced the Cenobite character of Pinhead, who became the icon of this franchise, and returned in all the film’s sequels. The cast of HELLRAISER includes Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and Doug Bradley.

Lumivision has done a very good job transferring HELLRAISER to Laserdisc. The Letterboxing restores the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the compositions appear reasonably well balanced. The transfer, while not perfect, is head and shoulders above the original theatrical prints of HELLRAISER. When I saw HELLRAISER in the theater, I was struck by what an awful looking film it was. The colors were poor and everything was terribly grainy. In this incarnation of HELLRAISER the image remains somewhat grainy and soft, but it is more detailed than it was in the theater and the colors are infinitely superior.

The digitally encoded Dolby Surround soundtrack is effectively mixed for a low budget film, and is well worth amplifying. The Pioneer pressing had only minor specking.


Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1997 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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