Hellraiser Wiki
Hellraiser Wiki

Directed by

Clive Barker

Produced by

Christopher Figg

Written by

Clive Barker

Distributed by

New World Pictures

Release date

September 11th 1987

Running time

90 minutes



Succeeded by

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellraiser is a 1987 horror film based upon the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. In the UK, the film is titled Clive Barker's Hellraiser. It is the first film in the Hellraiser series.


The film starts off in Morroco with a man named Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who purchases an antique puzzle box which is rumoured that when solved, spirits will come and ecstacy will rise and give pleasure. Frank, believing this, purchases the box from a chinese dealer and the Chinese Dealer (James Hong) says "Take it it's yours... it always was".

Frank takes the box back to his home and prepares to solve it, lighting candles around where he is sitting in his attic. As he forms different parts of the box, light comes through the walls and eventually, to Frank's shock, hooks fly out and grab Frank's skin and he is torn apart by a sadistic demon race known as the Cenobites. After Frank has been ripped to pieces, a group of Cenobites appear to survey the scene. The leader of the group observes the Frank's remains and then closes the puzzle box. The room returns to its original state, as if nothing happened.

Many years later, Larry (Andrew Robinson), Frank's brother and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins), go to look at the house. Julia had a romantic encounter with Frank, but chose to marry Larry. When Larry and Julia walk in the house, they find it to be a mess and Julia is not impressed. Larry goes to look at the kitchen, but finds maggots there, and Julia walks upstairs into a room that she sees is trashed. Larry discovers that Frank was there, and assumes he has made one of his famous getaways. Suddenly, the phone rings, and it's Larry's daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), but she is not Julia's daughter because her mother died years ago and Larry re-married. Meanwhile, Julia finds pictures of Frank and all the women he had shared romantic encounters with. Larry wants Kirsty to see the house, but Kirsty has already got a room to stay at. Julia takes the pictures of Frank and puts them in her pocket and comes out and agrees to move in. Larry says, "Great, we'll move in on Sunday".

When Sunday came, the moving men and Larry were bringing a heavy mattress into the house while Julia was unpacking stuff in a room. The moving men stopped as Julia came out and said, "Have you got any beer?". Julia tells them there's some in the fridge. Larry sarcastically says, "Well, why don't I get it? I've got nothing better to do". Julia walks up the stairs and the men begin to look at her in an erotic way.

Kirsty is walking to the house to have a look. When she arrives there, she greets Larry and Larry tells her to be nice to Julia because she hates moving. Kirsty goes to make some coffee in the kitchen. Julia is looking at a photo of Frank and water spills out of the tap in the kitchen and Julia is recapping her last encounter with Frank. Its pouring raining and Frank asks for a towel and states he came for the wedding. Julia lets him in and says he's very welcome. He says, "Do you have a towel?". Then Kirsty says, "Have you got a towel?" Julia says there's one in the bathroom. Kirsty tries to be friendly to Julia, but Julia is not interested and starts recapping more moments with Frank. It shows them having sex. Meanwhile, Larry is pushing the mattress up the stairs and a nail is sticking out of the wall. Larry's hand wipes right across it and cuts him. Larry walks into the attic where Julia is and is bleeding. Blood is dripping on the floor. Apparently, Larry hates seeing his own blood. Julia says it will need stitches so they go to the doctors to get it stitched. Kirsty comes with them. The blood that dripped on the floor is not just a normal bleed. Something underneath the floorboards sucks the blood through and becomes a skinless body. It appears that Frank is back to life.

In the night, Kirsty, Julia, Larry, Steve (Kirsty's boyfriend), and some family are partying. Julia shortly excuses herself and says she's going to bed. She walks up the stairs again and appears to want more memories of her and Frank. She discovers some rat guts on the floor in the attic and suddenly, Frank grabs her and says, "Don't look at me", and Julia is very scared not knowing its Frank. Frank says who he is, and explains that the blood on the floor brought him back and says he needs more. Kirsty, acting suspicious, comes up the stairs, and Julia comes out and Kirsty says goodnight to her. Kirsty and Steve start walking down the street, where Kirsty briefly exchanges glances with a derelict that makes her uneasy. She recomposes herself and soon she and Steve are talking about being too polite. They start kissing. Larry is asleep, so Julia goes to the attic and says to Frank, "Yes I will".

Meanwhile, Kirsty is dreaming and and there appears to be a bed full of blood and Kirsty pulls the sheet off it and sees her father with blood on his face and screams. She wakes up in the middle of then night. Steve goes to ask her if she is all right. She said, "I was dreaming". She then calls Larry. Larry answers the phone and explains to Kirsty that he's all right. He said, "You sleep well okay... I love you sweety". Frank is at the top of the stairs and says, "Kirsty".

The next day, Julia heads out to what appears to be a pub. She looks as attractive as she can. A man approaches her and says, "Not much fun is it? Drinking alone". Julia says, "Not much". He invites her to have a drink with him alone. Julia agrees and takes him to her house. The man can't stop kissing her and says, "You're very beautiful". Julia tells him to come upstairs with her. He come upstairs and is somewhat puzzled that there's no bed in the attic. Julia asks him to take his clothes off. He does and and is in his underwear. Julia locks the door. He says he has to go to the toilet and makes it to the door. Julia grabs a hammer and hits him over the head with it. He shouts, "Please". He falls to the floor and has a broken jaw. Frank starts to get his blood and Julia goes into the bathroom. She cleans herself up. Larry arrives back home and calls for Julia. He knocks on the bathroom door. Julia lies and says she feels sick. She asks Larry to get her a brandy and says she'll be down in a minute. She goes back into the attic and Frank is looking better. He says, "I'm hurting... my nerves are beginning to work again". He believes that another body or two will be needed. Julia says, "Not again". Frank tells her that he needs to so the Cenobites won't be able to follow and he wants to get away from there. Larry calls for Julia again. Julia tells him to put on some music.

Meanwhile, Kirsty is working at a pet shop and a demanding customer wants to see the manager. Kirsty sees a street guy coming in and he starts to eat crickets. She says, "You get out of here". He leaves. Steve comes up to Kirsty and asks if anything is wrong. Kirsty says, "Something weird".

Julia brings her second victim to the house and Frank gets his blood and flesh. Frank can now taste. He has a cigarette. After Julia demands an explanation (as promised), Frank shows her the puzzle box and explains what happened. Julia sees visions of Frank being torn apart by the Cenobites and is shocked. Frank says, "I'm going to live and you're going to help me yes?". Julia says, "Yes they'll never find us not in the whole wide world".

Later, Larry and Julia are watching the boxing on TV. Larry is shocked that it's not making Julia sick because it usually does. Julia says, "I've seen worse". Suddenly, Frank starts banging on the wall. Julia says she left a window open upstairs. Larry goes to check along with Julia. Julia tries to stop him and says its nothing. She distracts him by kissing him and they go into their room and get on the bed. Frank comes in and has a knife through a rat's body. Julia says, "Please don't I can't take it please". Frank walks back into the attic. Larry thinks he's done something wrong and can't understand why she's sulking. He walks out of the room, much to Julia's relief.

Kirsty and Larry are at a restaurant having something to drink. Larry tells Kirsty his concerns about Julia. He asks Kirsty to stop by and try to be friends with her, and Kirsty agrees.

Meanwhile, Frank is wanting another body - more specifically, Larry's. Julia says no, so Frank says, "Then find me somebody else before they come looking... now". Julia brings a man into her house. Kirsty is at the end of the street looking at the man walking into the house. The man walks in and says he gets lonely sometimes. Julia takes him upstairs and into the attic and he is puzzled about what's going on. He says, "What is this, a game?". He sees Frank and he holds Julia so Frank can't get him. Frank pushes Julia out of the way and takes the man's flesh and blood. Kirsty walks into the house and walks upstairs and sees Frank feeding off the man. Frank tries to grab Kirsty and says, "Kirsty, it's Frank, it's Uncle Frank. You remember? Come to Daddy". Kirsty goes into the attic and tells him not to touch her. Kirsty then punches through his stomach and grabs the puzzle box. When Kirsty sees that the item holds value to him, she throws it out the window and runs as fast as she can out of the house and into the street. Kirsty faints. Someone picks her up and takes her to the hospital.

When she arrives at the hospital and wakes up, she wants to call her father, but the doctor insists she gets back into bed. He shows her the puzzle box and Kirsty has no memory of how she got to the hospital. The doctor leaves the puzzle box on the table and walks out. Kirsty is unable to get out of the hospital room. She decides to play with the puzzle box and forms different sides of it. Suddenly, the wall opens up. She walks through it and finds a Cenobite creature. The creature chases her and she narrowly manages to make it back to the hospital. The Cenobites appear and one of them puts his fingers through Kirsty's mouth. The Lead Cenobite (Pinhead) says, "The box, you opened it, we came". Kirsty doesn't know what's going on and asks them who they are. Pinhead says that they are explorers in the further regions of experience. Kirsty says it was a mistake and she didn't mean to open it. The Lead Cenobite says that she has to come with them now and taste their pleasures. Kirsty explains that Frank has escaped them. They don't believe her at first, but when Kirsty says, "I can lead you to him and you can take him back instead of me". Pinhead wants to hear him confess himself. But if Kirsty betrays them, he says, "We'll tear your soul apart".

Meanwhile, Julia is afraid that Kirsty is going to tell Larry everything. Julia wants to just leave, but Frank wants a new skin. Julia agrees to get the skin of Larry. Larry arrives home and Julia says, "I don't know where to begin... it's best you see for yourself".

Kirsty managed to get out of the hospital and Steve is looking for her. Kirsty runs back home and says, "Daddy, its me, it's Kirsty, let me in". Julia answers the door and lets Kirsty in. Kirsty runs to who she believes to be her father and hugs him. She explains that Frank is upstairs and wants to kill him. Pretending to be Larry, Frank says that Frank is dead now and said he had to put him out of his misery. Kirsty wants to see the dead body, so Julia takes her upstairs and into the attic to see it. Kirsty is disgusted by it. Suddenly, the Cenobites appear and say, "We want the man who did this". Kirsty runs out of the room and down the stairs. Julia blocks her way. Frank says, "What's the matter?". Kirsty says that they need to get out of here now. Frank says, "Stay with us, we can all be happy here". He then says, "Come to Daddy". Kirsty knows it's Frank now. Frank gets a knife and goes to stab Kirsty, but stabs Julia and says, "Nothing personal, babe", and kills her. Kirsty runs up the stairs and hides. Frank goes looking for her. She hides in a cupboard and a dead corpse spits maggots out on Kirsty's hand. Kirsty then comes out and starts crying. Frank sees her and gets his knife ready. Kirsty leads him into the attic. She is upset about her father being dead. Frank said, "Everything's all right, Frank's here. Your dear old Uncle Frank". The Cenobites hear that and block his way out. They appear and confront him. Frank tries to lie, but the Female Cenobite says, "We had to hear it from your own lips". Pinhead says to Kirsty, "This isn't for your eyes". Frank tries to stab Kirsty for setting him up, but a hook grabs his hand and another grabs his other hand. Hundreds of hooks cut through his flesh and stretch his body out. He says, "Jesus wept", then is torn apart as if he exploded.

Kirsty makes a run for it, but the Cenobites want to get her as well. So Kirsty gets the puzzle box and Pinhead says, "We have such sights to show you". She sends him to hell. She then sends the rest to hell and the house is starting to collapse. Steve comes to get her and they both get out of the house. She then throws the puzzle box into the fire as the house burns down. The same derelict from earlier walks into the fire, obtains the puzzle box and turns into a creature. It flies away with the box.

The end shows another customer wanting to buy the puzzle box and the Chinese Dealer says, "What's your pleasure, sir?".


Displeased with the filming of Rawhead Rex and other features based on his novellas, Barker decided to adapt his most recent novella The Hellbound Heart to the big screen. Assembling, in his own words, a "primitive" collection of notes and drawings indicating what the movie could become, he came into contact with British producer Christopher Figg who secured a deal with New World Pictures. Filming the movie in an actual house with a low budget forced Barker to be creative in his cinematography. There was often only room for a single camera and this explains why many of the shots are from only one angle. In particular, vertical movement was often the only movement available to the camera operators, which explains many of the overhead and zoom shots. Only one room in the house, the attic, was shot on a soundstage, but only the FX shots used this attic set. New Line contributed extra funding to refilm the scene of Frank's rebirth. The original featured a dried up corpse 'grow' from the wall but Barker and effects designer Bob Keen found the effect unsatisfactory. The new, re-shot sequence started with a reversed shot of a red substance being pumped up through nail holes in the floorboards to imitate Larry's blood being sucked into the floor. Next featured a small red sack being filled with air from a crew member from underneath the floorboards to indicated Frank's growing embryo. Next two thick puddles of porridge thick goo were pumped up through small holes in the floorboard before two animatronic 'arms' burst through. Next, a lot of reverse photography is used as a wax model of Frank's skull, brain and ribcage appear to grow (in actual fact thin wires pulled away at parts of the torso and the wax brain was melted over ten to twenty minutes and then reversed so to appear as if it were growing). Many viewers have commented about the poor quality of the FX at the end of the movie. Clive Barker has explained that, due to a very limited budget, there was no money left to have the FX done professionally after the primary filming. Instead, Barker and a "Greek guy" animated these scenes by hand over a single weekend. Barker has also commented that he thinks the FX turned out very well considering the amount of alcohol the two consumed that weekend. Doug Bradley, who played the Lead Cenobite (aka Pinhead, as latterly dubbed by the horror public) was initially offered the role of either one of the removal men with the mattress or the former. He almost did not accept the role that would make him famous with so many fans of the horror genre on the basis that, seeing this was his movie debut, it would be best any potential film makers would be interested in seeing his face if they desired to cast him in the future. Pinhead was also due to literally have pins in his head, but with the makeup as a backdrop the jewelled pins got lost in the symmetry and pale colour of the latex design so 6 inch nails were used instead to be more noticeable. Andrew Robinson dubbed his line of "Jesus Wept" at the last minute as Barker had imagined a much more liberal expletive to be delivered.


Clive Barker originally commissioned a soundtrack for Hellraiser from the industrial band Coil. The music they supplied was rejected, and Christopher Young provided a more traditional orchestral score for the finished movie. Coil's score, which was apparently described by Barker in a complimentary manner as being "bowel churning",[6] has been released in isolation as The Unreleased Themes For Hellraiser and as part of the compilation Unnatural History II (CD) (1995).

Coil's original theme was later covered by the Italian black metal band Aborym on their debut album Kali Yuga Bizarre.

Christopher Young went on to contribute the soundtrack to the first sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, for which he won a Saturn Award for Best Music. Subsequent movies in the series used music by different composers.

The Swedish death metal band Entombed recorded a cover version of Young's score (along with sample quotes from the film) and released it on their EP Hollowman.

UK black metal band Anaal Nathrakh sampled Frank Cotton's final words and used in the track "Tractatus Alogico Misanthropicus". Canadian band Skinny Puppy also sampled "Jesus Wept" in the track "Fascist Jock Itch," as did Belgian Industrial act Suicide Commando for their track "Jesus Wept" on their Mindstrip album. More recently, the EBM group Project Rotten sampled Pinhead's line "Oh, no tears please, it's a waste of good suffering!" in their track "Confessions of a Killer".

Various extreme metal bands have also taken parts of the film to use as samples, as introductions to songs. The most common part of the film sampled is Pinhead's infamous line "Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell"

Hellraiser Soundtrack (1987)

  • 1. Hellraiser 1:43
  • 2. Resurrection 2:32
  • 3. Hellbound Heart 5:05
  • 4. The Lament Configuration 3:31
  • 5. Reunion 3:11
  • 6. A Quick Death 1:16
  • 7. Seduction And Pursuit 3:01
  • 8. In Love's Name 2:56
  • 9. The Cenobites 4:13
  • 10. The Rat Race Slice Quartet 3:15
  • 11. Re-Resurrection 2:34
  • 12. Uncle Frank 2:59
  • 13. Brought On By Night 2:18
  • 14. Another Puzzle 4:06

Total Album Time: 42:40


Released in the UK and US in September 1987, the movie became a modest box office success, especially compared with the budget and being Barker's directorial debut. It grossed $14,564,000 domestically, as well as £763,412 in the UK and around £300,000 in Germany. Its total gross was estimated at around $20,000,000. Critically, the movie received mixed to positive reviews. The UK press championed the picture upon its release. Stephen King hailed Barker, quoted as saying "I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker". This tagline was repeatedly used on Hellraiser's theatrical trailers.

However, US critic Roger Ebert was less than enthusiastic about the movie, commenting "This is a movie without wit, style or reason, and the true horror is that actors were made to portray, and technicians to realize, its bankruptcy of imagination. Maybe Stephen King was thinking of a different Clive Barker." Others[who?] have criticised its American dubbing, despite a supposed British setting, along with a general confusion of the geography of the picture (seemingly filmed in both countries but with no distinct location itself).[original research?]

Reaction to Doug Bradley's performance of the Lead Cenobite led to a huge wave of popularity for the movie in the video release market, leading the character to be dubbed Pinhead and the release of a further 7 sequels, three of which were cinematic releases that managed to roughly gross around $40,000,000 in combined domestic takings against a combined budget total of roughly $14,000,000. Hellraiser currently holds a 63% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

DVD Release[]

In North America, Hellraiser has been released by Anchor Bay three times, all of which are the original 93 minute version of the film (this is the only version to ever be released on DVD). The original DVD release was a "bare-bones" release and is now out of print. It was re-issued in 2000 with a new 5.1 mix mastered in THX. Finally, it was packaged along with Hellbound: Hellraiser II in a Limited Edition tin case which included a 48 page colour booklet and a reproduction theatrical poster for both films.

A 20th Anniversary DVD of the film was released on October 23, 2007.


  • 1988 - Hellbound: Hellraiser II
  • 1992 - Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
  • 1996 - Hellraiser: Bloodline
  • 2000 - Hellraiser: Inferno
  • 2002 - Hellraiser: Hellseeker
  • 2005 - Hellraiser: Deader
  • 2005 - Hellraiser: Hellworld (filmed back to back with Hellraiser: Deader)
  • 2011 - Hellraiser: Revelations
  • 2018 - Hellraiser: Judgment


  • It took six hours to apply the prosthetic Cenobite makeup on Doug Bradley.
  • Doug Bradley's character's name wasn't "Pinhead"; this was a fan nickname that began circulating after the release of the film. The script originally identified his character as 'The First Cenobite'. In the sequel films, 'Pinhead' became the character's "official" name, and Bradley is credited as "Pinhead" after that point.
  • The budget of this movie was $1,000,000. It earned about $20,000,000. It was the directing debut of Clive Barker, who had made only two short films before this.
  • The film is based on the novella "The Hellbound Heart" written by Clive Barker.
  • The film's working title was "Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave".
  • Industrial band Coil originally did the soundtrack for this movie, but it was turned down by the studio. Clive Barker said, " [Coil was] the only group I've heard on disc whose records I've taken off because they made my bowels churn."
  • The address for the house in this movie is 55 Ludovico Place. The name of the institute in A Clockwork Orange (1971) where Alex is deprogrammed of violence was the Ludovico Institute.
  • For the video release, the film had one of the most unusual pieces of bonus material that has ever been offered: a Home Shopping Network show where merchandise from the movie could be purchased. The show was hosted by a giddy old lady claiming to be a hardcore fan of the movie.
  • At the time of the movie's release the MPAA had an agenda on "intensity of tone". As a result of this director Clive Barker had to make several cuts to the film - alternate resurrection sequence, consecutive hammer blows, fingers entering flesh, S&M spanking between Julia and Frank, additional "thrusts" during the sex scene, life draining of third victim  before he's found by Kirsty, head splitting open by hook-chain (followed by brain splashing out of ruined skull) - all with the intention of watering down the overall impact of the piece and for suprising the audience (draining of third victim).
  • Doug Bradley was originally offered a choice of roles between one of the mattress movers and the Lead Cenobite. He originally thought it important that, as a new film actor, the audience should be see his face, and nearly turned down the Lead Cenobite role.
  • In his DVD commentary, Clive Barker explained that filming the movie in an actual house forced him to be creative in his cinematography. There was often only room for a single camera and this explains why many of the shots are from only one angle. In particular, vertical movement was often the only movement available to the camera operators, which explains many of the overhead and zoom shots. Only one room in the house, the attic, was shot on a soundstage, but only the FX shots used this attic set.
  • Many viewers have commented about the poor quality of the FX at the end of the movie. Clive Barker has explained that, due to a very limited budget, there was no money left to have the FX done professionally after the primary filming. Instead, Barker and a "Greek guy" animated these scenes by hand over a single weekend. Barker has also commented that he thinks the FX turned out very well considering the amount of alcohol the two consumed that weekend.
  • The scene where Frank is being spun around upside-down covered in blood was a camera test and the very first thing shot of the film. Afterwards, Sean Chapman (Frank) couldn't help from vomiting.
  • A Hellraiser video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (by unlicensed developer Color Dreams) was planned, but never completed.  It was meant to feature an extra processor in the cartridge for better graphics and storage than the normal NES games had, but production costs and other factors lead to its early cancellation.
  • Andrew Robinson convinced Clive Barker to replace the scripted line, "Fuck you," with the line actually shot, "Jesus wept."


International Broadcast[]

  • Hellraiser was previously shown in Australia on Pay TV channel Movie GREATS, which is part of MOVIE NETWORK CHANNELS. The licence was bought in October 2006, but expired in October 2007, and was out of licence for 2008 and 2009, and will be coming back in licence in October 2010. Additionally, it will be airing at 8.30pm on Australian Subscription channel Movie Extra, at 8.30pm, and will be under license until September 2011.
  • In Australia, the film is only available to buy or rent on VHS. Apparently, when the film was first released, it didn't get sold to many people, so they stopped distributing copies on DVD to Australia.
  • In the USA, the film is currently licenced or owned by Anchor Bay which is another word for Starz Media LLC. This prohibits it from being uploaded to websites on the internet such as youtube.
  • The film is rated R 18+ in Australia with High Level Violence, however, on Movie GREATS, it is rated MA 15+ with Violence and Horror. No scenes have been cut out but.

External links[]