Review by David Paul Hellings
“Stephen King was once quoted as saying: “I have seen the future of horror… his name is Clive Barker.” That future became reality when, in 1987, Barker unleashed his directorial debut Hellraiser – launching a hit franchise and creating an instant horror icon in the formidable figure of Pinhead.
Barker’s original Hellraiser, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, follows Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) as she comes head-to-head with the Cenobites – demonic beings from another realm who are intent on reclaiming the soul of her deviant Uncle Frank.
Picking up immediately after the events of the original Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II finds Kirsty detained at a psychiatric institute and under the care of Phillip Channard, a doctor who abuses his position to realise his own dark aims. In Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, a reporter investigating a mysterious death at a nightclub finds herself in the way of Pinhead and the Cenobites, who plan to bring their horrifying world into our own.
Coming at a time when the genre was degenerating into self-parody, Hellraiser offered a fiercely unique vision that approached its horrors with a far greater degree of seriousness than many of its contemporaries. Along with its sequels, the Barker-produced Hellbound and Hell on Earth, Arrow Video is proud to present some of the most terrifyingly original films in the history of horror in brand new 2K transfers”.
-via Arrow Video.
A Disc 4 preview copy was not available from the distributor. As a result, this review is for the three discs of the films and no comment can be made regarding the quality and/or content of Disc 4.
For Clive Barker fans, Christmas has come decidedly early with the release of the superb set “Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box”, containing 2K restorations of the finest of the series Hellraiser 1-3, plus a wealth of extras.
Barker’s “Hellraiser” brought to audiences an exercise in pure horror, full of dread, grotesque characters that would become iconic within the genre. A film in which one of the protagonists meets with a foul conclusion that was both unexpected, genuinely horrific, and a relief from the easy going horrors of the period. It was a Faustian story in which the rewards are hellish beyond expectation and brought Barker’s dark imagination to a world beyond his readers. Barker’s world is one in which the soul may be damned, but the sight of flesh being ripped apart in demonic rituals, by horrific characters such as the now iconic Pinhead, was a shattering experience for viewers used to an element of camp in teen horror. “Hellraiser” introduced us to a dark landscape from which there was seemingly no escape. A place where one curious puzzle box would lead the hapless owner into the depths of the abyss and a world of ultimate nightmare.
Barker’s artwork is full of distortions of humanity, a modern day Bosch, a garden of earthly delights that has become a shadow world of infinite pain and torture. The dark priests of lost souls that return once the puzzle box has been unwittingly opened present some of the most physically shocking characters even seen in the horror genre; characters that implant themselves in the mind and refuse to leave. Even after all these years, the images of the Hellraiser world remain as clear and as terrifying as they were on first viewing.
Whereas audiences had witnessed confrontations with the Devil (“The Devil Rides Out”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Exorcist”, and “The Omen”, to name but a few), Clive Barker’s demons are no age old goats or jackals, but the victims of physical alterations that connected with a new age of tattoos and piercings as though performed by the sickest, deranged minds of every level of the Inferno. Dark and cynical, the world of “Hellraiser” sees the selfish temporarily rewarded, the good punished, and a blanket of evil descend upon the lives of those who find themselves in possession of the puzzle box and in confrontation with Pinhead and his cohorts.
If Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees were essentially one trick characters that descended into camp, Pinhead (compellingly portrayed by Doug Bradley) was both hunter and hunted, damned to an eternal world of blood and flesh sacrifice, whilst wrestling with his own past, creating a character that remained fresh and utterly unpredictable.
The first three “Hellraiser” films remain the strongest of the franchise due to Barker’s involvement; a vision of suburban and urban horror that have never been bettered by any horror films that followed. The Scarlet Box must be the definitive release in terms of quality of the film presentations themselves and the amount of special features (including the infamous “Surgeon” scene that Barker, himself, wasn’t aware was still in existence), and a first rate 200 page hardback book that includes new writing from Barker, as well as respected archivists Phil and Sarah Stokes.
Along with their previous “Videodrome” set, and the soon to be released “Deep Red” Box set, Arrow Video’s “Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box” is available in limited numbers, and is bound to sell out very quickly, and is another excellent release in another highly successful year for the British based distributor.
Beyond recommendation, this is a must buy for any fans of Clive Barker and his work.
“Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the release of Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box, a limited edition run of 5,000 deluxe box-sets featuring Clive Barker’s iconic and seminal horror classic Hellraiser. Arriving in time for Halloween on 26th October 2015, this exclusive box set will include the first three films in the Hellraiser saga alongside an abundance of bonus materials and never-before-seen footage.
These terrifying and original films will boast brand new 2k restorations along with hours of archival content and newly produced extras including audio commentaries and interviews with Clive Barker, Doug Bradley and Sean Chapman in his first interview on the Hellraiser films in decades.
The 4-disc set will also include the newly edited version of Leviathan, the definitive documentary on Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. A new documentary, Hellraiser: Evolutions, will also be included and will look at the evolution of the hit horror franchise and its enduring legacy.
These features will sit amongst a host of rarities and never-before-seen footage from the movies including the legendary ‘Surgeon’ scene from Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, the subject of fierce debate amongst fans for many years, now finally unearthed for its home video debut.
This limited edition Blu-ray comes with an illustrated 200-page hardback book featuring new writing from Clive Barker archivists Phil and Sarah Stokes and a 20-page booklet featuring never-before-seen original Hellraiser concept art. The limited edition packaging is adorned with incredible new artwork from Gilles Vranckx alongside a set of 5 exclusive art cards and a fold-out reversible poster”.
4-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
Brand new 2K restorations of Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth .
Uncompressed PCM Stereo 2.0 and Lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound for Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for all three films.
Limited Edition bonus disc
Exclusive 200-page hardback book with new writing from Clive Barker archivists Phil and Sarah Stokes.
20-page booklet featuring never-before-seen original Hellraiser concept art .
Limited Edition packaging with new artwork from Gilles Vranckx.
Set of 5 exclusive art cards.
Fold-out reversible poster.
DISC 1 – HELLRAISER
Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon.
Audio commentary with writer/director Clive Barker.
Audio commentary with Barker and actress Ashley Laurence.
Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser – brand new version of the definitive documentary on the making of Hellraiser, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members.
Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellraiser – actor Sean Chapman talks candidly about playing the character of Frank Cotton in Barker’s original.
Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score – Coil member Stephen Thrower on the Hellraiser score that almost was.
Hellraiser: Resurrection – vintage featurette including interviews with Clive Barker, actors Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence, special make-up effects artist Bob Keen and others.
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser.
Original EPK featuring on-set interviews with cast and crew
Draft Screenplays [BD-ROM content].
Trailers and TV Spots.
DISC 2 – HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II
Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon.
Audio Commentary with director Tony Randel and writer Peter Atkins.
Audio Commentary with Randel, Atkins and actress Ashley Laurence.
Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II – brand new version of the definitive documentary on the making of Hellbound, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members.
Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound – actor Sean Chapman talks about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in the first Hellraiser sequel.
Surgeon Scene – the home video world premiere of this legendary, never before-seen excised sequence from Hellbound, sourced from a VHS workprint.
Lost in the Labyrinth – vintage featurette including interviews with Barker, Randel, Keen, Atkins and others.
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
On-set interview with Clive Barker.
On-set interviews with cast and crew.
Rare and unseen storyboards.
Draft Screenplay [BD-ROM content].
Trailers and TV Spots.
DISC 3 – HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH
Brand new 2K restoration of the Original Theatrical Version [93 mins].
Alternate Unrated Version [97 mins].
Brand new audio commentary with writer Peter Atkins.
Audio commentary with director Anthony Hickox and Doug Bradley.
Hell on Earth: The Story of Hellraiser III – making-of documentary featuring interviews with Atkins, Keen and actor Ken Carpenter.
Time with Terri – brand new interview with actress Paula Marshall.
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.
Raising Hell on Earth – archival interview with Hickox.
On-set interviews with Barker and Bradley.
Never-before-seen Hellraiser III SFX dailies.
Hellraiser III comic book adaptation [Disc gallery].
DISC 4 – THE CLIVE BARKER LEGACY – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
Clive Barker short films Salomé and The Forbidden.
Books of Blood & Beyond: The Literary Works of Clive Barker – horror author David Gatward provides a tour through Barker’s written work, from the first Books of Blood to the recent The Scarlet Gospels.
Hellraiser: Evolutions – a brand new documentary looking at the evolution of the hit horror franchise and its enduring legacy, featuring interviews with Scott Derrickson (director, Hellraiser: Inferno), Rick Bota (director, Hellraiser: Hellseeker, Deader and Hellworld), Stuart Gordon (director, Re-Animator, From Beyond) and others.
The Hellraiser Chronicles: A Question of Faith – short film.
200-PAGE BOOK – ‘DAMNATION GAMES’ – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
Exclusive 200-page hardback book with new writing on Hellraiser and the Barker universe from Barker archivists Phil and Sarah Stokes – including chapters looking at Barker’s early work, the genesis and production of the first 3 films in the Hellraiser series and much more, all illustrated with stills and rare material from the Barker archive.
This review originally appeared on SFFWorld at: