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 15+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 10 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.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHannibalPhil April 27, 2013

NOt for kids, only for mature audiense.

really disgusting film, I've scene lots of gory films but this one is not so bad. the plot was good, the character are great and would give people nightmar... Continue reading
Adult Written byjul885 November 11, 2019

Stylish & Inventive Horror Film - for Adults Only

Adults only for this film. I wouldn't let any under 16's see this film. It really is very scary, not just with the gore and graphic violence; the dark... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byGotALight June 17, 2020

Entertaining

It is an entertaining film with an interesting storyline. There are some intimate scenes in this, but if a child is mature enough then it should not be an issue... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 14, 2020

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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love chills and thrills

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