A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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 ...
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?
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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.