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Hell's bells and Pinhead!
Member Name: sunmeilan
Advantages: Highly entertaining
Disadvantages: Some wooden acting
Julia and her husband, Larry, move to an old house that used to belong to Larry's family. While wandering around upstairs, Julia comes across her lover, Larry's brother Frank, who has become a zombie-like creature after giving up his body to a pack of demons called the Cenobites. Frank enlists Julia to help him recover his body by feeding on the blood and tissue of men that Julia manages to ensnare. However, Larry's daughter, Kirsty, who dislikes her step-mother, is suspicious of her behaviour and starts to investigate. Before long, she has become involved with the Cenobites and the magical box that seems to control them. Can she save her father and escape with her own life?
British actress Clare Higgins plays Julia and I think she played the role just right. It is no Oscar-winning performance, she is even a little wooden at times; nevertheless, this is exactly what the role needed. Julia is deliberately not a particularly nice woman, although she isn't a complete baddie - it is obvious that Frank seduced her with his charms and she is unable to pull away from him, even when she thinks he is long gone. Higgins manages to switch between fear, anger and desperation very nicely, with a portion of cheese thrown in for good measure. Her husband, played by Andrew Robinson is less impressive, but that is partly because his role is kept relatively brief and he did what he needed to, if nothing more.
Ashley Laurence plays Kirsty. She did a perfectly competent job as a daughter afraid for her father and, apart from the cheesy aspects, which again, fitted in perfectly with the film, there is little to criticise. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but feel that any young actress could have played the role and done just as good a job. There was very little personality involved. In a way, the fact that an older woman, Clare Higgins, took on the role of who I see as the main character, is what makes this film a cut above the usual horror - watching a pack of teenagers putting themselves in ridiculous positions becomes deeply tiring after a while. Sean Chapman plays Frank, but as he is covered in a really nasty body suit of human tissue most of the time, it is hard to say how good he is in the role. Certainly when he plays the 'before the box' Frank, he is horribly wooden.
Based on a story by Clive Barker, he is also responsible for the direction and screenplay and, although the story is now over twenty years old, he has done a rather remarkable job. Much as I love horror, I prefer it when it has a realistic touch, which this does not. My expectations, therefore, were low. Nevertheless, the supernatural element adds a touch of originality and it is never clear exactly where the film is going, which leads the viewer on an exciting ride. There are parts of it that are very off-the-wall, yet Clive Barker has managed to pull the film off perfectly, finding the perfect line between complete madness and a realistic family who have been torn apart by infidelity.
Eighties horror films are known for their dodgy special effects. To a certain extent, that is the case here - the Cenobites with their strange, twisted heads and patchwork faces held together with pins look like they could have come straight out of a comic. There are some really good parts though - I thought Frank's transformation into a half-human being, with all the stickiness and gore that it involved, was well-done and very creepy. There is also a scene where someone's face is pulled apart by a series of chains, which I found rather shockingly realistic. This is definitely not a film for the children.
At the same time, the film isn't as horrific as I thought it might be. It is classified as an 18 in the UK, which is probably quite right - nevertheless, some of the gory bits could have been a lot worse, and instead we are left to guess what is going on. This does, instead, add an eeriness to the film that might not otherwise have existed and a little touch of class that so many films of this genre are lacking. It may seem odd to associate 'class' with a film like this, but in comparison to other films, it really is towards the top end of its type.
There are a number of extras with the DVD, although nothing of great interest. The first, a behind the scenes featurette with the director, a couple of the production crew and some of the actors and actresses is worth a watch, but it is only about five minutes and I think should have been at least twenty to have been of any value. There are a couple of other features though that make up for this - actually they make it totally pointless, unless you just want a very quick explanation of what goes on. The second feature focuses heavily on Doug Bradley, who plays 'Pinhead', one of the Cenobites, and is probably the most recognisable character in the film, although he barely features. On top of the features there are trailers, pictures of the storyboards, a stills gallery and a draft screen play, which can be accessed via a computer.
I am a big fan of eighties horror; nevertheless, I've overdosed recently and didn't have particularly high hopes for this one. I was pleasantly surprised. The pacing is great and, for once, it is original. It isn't going to appeal to anyone who doesn't like horror, but if you are a fan, and haven't seen it yet, then it most definitely is worth a watch. Just keep it away from the children. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £1.99.
Running time: 94 minutes
Summary: Eighties' horror at its best