DVD Review: Hellraiser (1987)

APRIL 25, 2008


Anchor Bay owns the right to a great number of revered horror films, so it's no surprise that Blu-Ray support has been demanded from them ever since the format was introduced. And while some may wish they would be a bit less sporadic with their releases (where the hell is Hatchet?), you can't deny that they have done a superb job with the transfers, besting even some of the major studios' big ticket titles. At any rate, Hellraiser joins the growing club, and I am again satisfied with the quality of the picture/sound.

(I am not going to re-review the movie - you can read my thoughts on the film HERE. This review focuses on the new transfer as well as the extra features).

I've always thought Hellraiser looked better than the budget would have you believe, so to see it in HD was a treat. As always, I enjoy seeing the increased level of detail in smaller objects. Andy Robinson's sweater, the rat that Frank skins next to the bed, the wood on the floor where Frank is reborn... all of these things pop out to me now. I never even noticed, say, the pattern on Larry's sweater, but now I can see the actual fibers. Sure, this has zero to do with the movie, but it just gives you an example of how much added texture and detail you get with a Blu-ray transfer.

Now, to be honest, it does look a little softer than some of AB's other BR releases, such as Halloween. Perhaps the elements weren't as well preserved, or it was just that way to begin with, but a number of scenes, particularly daylit set ones, don't have that sort of nearly 3D vividness. Other scenes, however, like the first real appearance of Pinhead around the hour mark, look gorgeous. Again the detail is striking (the patterns on Pinhead's suit, for example), but also it has that sort of rich color and contrast that inspires people to switch to HD in the first place. It may not be a demo quality transfer, but it's a damn good one nonetheless.

I never got the 20th anniversary edition of the film, so most of the extras were new to me (there are no BR-specific features). Things start off with a trio of interviews that were created for the 20th anniversary release. The first is with Andy Robinson, and this is pretty interesting as you don't often hear from him on the film (as opposed to Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, and of course, Clive Barker). He explains his reasons for not doing the sequel (didn't like the script, but was willing to do it anyway until he learned he'd be getting less money to boot), and talks about the origin of the "Jesus wept" line. Next up is Laurence, who is a bit batshit at times, and seemingly bitter about her lack of an A-list career ("I found myself in strange European countries, talking to puppets" - not sure if this was for a movie or not). The 3rd and best is Christopher Young, who not only still has all of his marbles, but like Robinson, gets to tell a side of the film's creation we haven't heard ad nauseum from previous DVDs, Fangoria, etc.

The other extras are all quite old. There's the "Resurrection" retrospective from the previous release, an interview with Bradley from around 2004 (nothing you haven't heard), and the commentary with Barker, Laurence, and Peter Atkins. It's a decent enough track, but just about everything of note is covered in the other extras. There is also a "text trivia track", which just sums up the stuff in the commentary in quick little notes. So like, Barker will be talking about a scene that had to be reshot for technical problems, and will go in some detail about those problems, and the onscreen note just says "This scene was reshot for technical reasons". My advice? If you've seen the movie a bunch, just put it on for your first viewing of the Blu-ray. It's not very obtrusive, and it will save you the time of watching it again with the commentary.

Anchor Bay has also included the Blu-ray disc in a collection that comes in a large model of the Lament Configuration. You get 3 discs with the release: the Hellraiser 20th anniversary DVD, Hellraiser II 20th anniversary, and this Blu-Ray. Why anyone would want two copies of the film with identical extras, I don't know, but there you go. It's also a bit large (so the discs can fit), but the construction is nice, and the two parts fit together far better than their previous collector box (the Masters of Horror Season 2 skull). Region 2 gets cool shit like this all the time, so it's nice to see AB catering to the Region 1 fans (how bout getting that Phantasm Sphere set for us Americans?).

All in all, while it's not the type of release that would finally convince someone to upgrade to the new format, it's a solid package all the same. And if you only have the previous release (from 2001?) it's definitely worth the upgrade. Also, don't forget - sales of title A makes an HD release of title B all the more enticing to the powers that be, so get cracking!

What say you?


  1. Ashley Laurence, in addition to talking to puppets, ended up dancing with the Geico lizard.

  2. I'd have to say it is one of my top favorites. Even though it didn't leave me feeling shaken like a few other horror movies, it definitely freaked me out on a philosophical sense. Against the odds, Barker produced a unique, imaginative, if not somewhat stomach-churning, work that has since earned a place in the annals of horror cinema.

  3. I sawthis on the big screen in 1988 and it scared me stiff. Just watched it again last night and was horrified to see how it had dated. Hard to believe that this was one of the scariest movies going 23 years ago.
    I found myself more in a nostalgia trip as the scares really had gone. Great in its day with some really good ideas.I will always remember the scene when the pieces of Frank's face are put back together.


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