Hellraiser

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Hellraiser Movie Poster Image
Gore-torture-horror-ghoul fantasy from the '80s.
  • R
  • 1987
  • 94 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Without spelling it out in detail, the film trades heavily on the concept of erotic sado-masochism -- that some people can find pain, torture, and even mutilation a sexual turn-on. Recurring religious imagery that makes a subtle connection between Jesus and Frank.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kirsty is a brave and resourceful heroine (rather comically, her boyfriend just stumbles over himself in any of his attempts to help her). Julia fits the wicked-stepmother stereotype, as well as the notion that women are attracted to bad boys.

Violence

Lots. Killing and mutilating of both humans and rats. Several men clubbed bloodily to death with a claw hammer. A closeup stabbing. Piles of meat are supposed to be human remains. Cenobites and their victims suffer hooks through their flesh and peeled-back skin. One character is a fleshless ghoul who shows viscera, bone, tendon, brain, and ooze as he slowly regenerates.

Sex

Bare breasts in short sex scenes and in still photos of apparent sex acts. Julia is unfaithful to her husband in assorted discreet and indiscreet sex scenes. There's a hint that ghoul Frank, in addition to all his other faults, lusts after his niece.

Language

"F--k," "damn," and "God" as an exclamation.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Meanie stepmom Julia and living-corpse Frank smoke cigarettes. Drinking happens regularly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hellraiser is extremely gory. Killing and mutilating befalls both humans and animals (rats), with bloody death by knife, hammer, and hooks. Nightmare imagery includes a vampire-like man without skin cannibalizing others to regenerate, and the cyborg-like demons called cenobites. Characters smoke, drink, have sex (some nudity) and swear (including "f--k"), and a villain incestuously lusts after his niece. Scattered  religious icons might offend some viewers in this context.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLo_Anschell November 17, 2014

Bloody awesome horror flick

This movie is very graphic compared to many if the typical slasher movies that were coming out around this time. Definitely not for younger teens and children,... Continue reading
Adult Written byRocky Balboa December 31, 2015
Teen, 13 years old Written byashowiscool April 5, 2011
The only concern I really have about this movie is the violence. But, I don't think it's anything compared to what kids already see now. I know six ye... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byAeryn_Hutto April 4, 2011
OMG I loved this movie and the series. Seriously yes there is a bit of graphic sex and torture, but if you think that your kids are mature enough to handle it,... Continue reading

What's the story?

The grisly directing debut of horror-fantasy author Clive Barker, HELLRAISER proposes that a fist-sized decorated box is a paranormal puzzle, literally the Rubik's Cube from Hell, opening gateways to nasty places beyond death. Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman), a globetrotting thrillseeker, solved the puzzle and was torn to shreds (which he perversely enjoyed) in some grim underworld. His estranged brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into Frank's abandoned house with his wife Julia (Clare Higgins), who secretly had a kinky adulterous affair with Frank. To Julia's not-exactly-displeasure, Frank reappears -- portions of him anyway- - in the house, a skeletal, blood-dripping ghoul. Frank has Julia sexually lure a series of victims for him to devour and more fully regenerate. Meanwhile Larry's daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), who hates stepmom Julia, senses something ominous and finds the puzzle box. Unwittingly, she summons Frank's ghastly former captors, sadistic supernatural torturers called cenobites.

Is it any good?

Hellraiser made a mint at the box office when it was released in 1987, in part, perhaps, because it really pushes the envelope (not to mention limits of human anatomy) in depicting the gruesome. But more so than just being a boo! spook show, Hellraiser conveys creepy family betrayal and spiritual evil just as bad as the obviously grotesque violence. When the special-effects ambition goes beyond the filmmakers' talent and budget -- puppet monsters, cartoon energy bolts -- the horror gets a bit comical. Still, the slicker, more CGI-laden The Mummy also had a dead guy reconstituting himself, and it wasn't half this disturbing. Several ripoff sequels followed, some just as gross, none as effective.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what were the scariest parts of the movie, and why. Did the violence and horror go too far? What is the appeal of horror movies?

  • Is it possible, as some fans of this movie claim, that the savage cenobites are beautiful? What is the appeal of the "goth" look of black vinyl, pallor, and piercings? What are some stereotypes people have about the goth look?

Movie details

For kids who love chills and thrills

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate