Blu-ray Review: Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy



Breaking into the pantheon of horror icons is a tough act. For every Frankenstein, Dracula, Leatherface, Freddie, Jason and Michael there are numerous forgotten creatures that can’t scare up a nightmare outside of the producer that had mortgaged their house to make the film. Clive Barker already had a reputation as the hottest new name in horror since Stephen King when he went from the page to the screen in 1987. He wisely chose his novella The Hellbound Heart to adapt into Hellraiser. The twisted tale gave us a Pinhead, a sadistic undead creation that provided the ultimate “pleasure” to those who solved a puzzle box. Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy celebrates the first three movies in the cinematic series with dozens of bonus features and a book exploring the Cenobites.

Hellraiser (1987 – 93 minutes) opens with Frank Cotton (Eat the Rich‘s Sean Chapman) paying dearly for a puzzle box that promises to deliver the ultimate in pleasures. Alone in an attic, he opens the puzzle box and finds himself surround by Pinhead and his Cenobite pals. They are twisted creations that appear to have arrived from an extreme fetish and mutilation nightclub. Pinhead (Doug Bradley) is easily identified since his head is covered in nails. Frank quickly learns that the pleasure they deliver is a hellish torture involving chains and hooks. Frank vanishes leaving behind the puzzle box back it’s original configuration. Some time later, Frank’s brother Larry (Dirty Harry‘s Andrew Robinson) moves his family back into the house. Nobody is sure where Frank vanished since he’s notorious for just splitting town. Turns out his wife Julia (B. Monkey‘s Clare Higgins) had an intense affair with Frank. Daughter Kristy (Livers Ain’t Cheap‘s Ashley Laurence) is clueless to it all. Things get messy when Larry cuts himself while carrying a mattress to the attic with the movers. His blood drips on the floor and becomes a bridge to bring Frank back the the real world. Except he’s returning in a Slim Goodbody fashion. Julia gets brought into her old lover’s recovery where he needs the blood of others to give Frank flesh. She picks up unsuspecting men, brings them up in the attic for a quick one and kill the guys. But can she find enough men to return the skin to Frank? And what about Pinhead and the Cenobite pals returning to have another session with Frank. Hellraiser is a compact yet effective horror film. This is not for the squeamish looking for a simple scare. Frank gets treated rough by his puzzlebox pals. Julia is obsessed in her desire to bring back the real love of her life. Kristy proves resourceful when she accidentally meets Pinhead. Clive Barker quickly proved he was able to deliver in his feature film debut.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988 – 99 minutes) brings us back to Kristy’s life after her family was torn apart by Pinhead. She’s a patient at a mental hospital doing her best to come to grips with everything. Doctor Channard (Hot Fuzz‘s Kenneth Cranham) is very attentive to her story, but he has no desire to cure her. He wants the puzzle box so he can spend a little time with the Cenobites. The good doctor gets the attic mattress and sacrifices a patient so the blood revives Julia. She and the doctor become good friends fast. He gets her new victims so they can eventually use the puzzle box as an entry to Hell. Things get intense on the otherside. It’s up to Kristy to stop the Doctor after Pinhead turns him into a Cenobite. Clive Barker didn’t direct the sequel leaving that duty to Tony Randel (Ticks). But he did contribute to the script and as a producer. The second film works well since it also lets us discover the origins of Pinhead.

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992 – 97 minutes) changes up the location as the action shifts from England to North Carolina. What happens when Pinhead shows up in the land of Andy Griffith and Michael Jordan? Turns out the pillar Pinhead, the puzzle box and others were stuck inside was turned into an art sculpture. The Boiler Room nightclub owner J.P. Monroe (Dynasty‘s Kevin Bernhardt) is lured into buying it. This leads to a lot of bad stuff in the South. TV reporter Joey Summerskill ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘a Terry Farrell) hangs out at an emergency room and sees someone who just left the Boiler Room get torn apart by chains and hooks. She wants to do some real investigative journalism which upsets her local news bosses. But she won’t back down and visits the Boiler Room. She finds a woman (Gary Unmarried‘s Paula Marshall) who boosted the puzzlebox off the sculpture. Joey’s investigation shows that Pinhead is torn between his past and his Cenobite self. The film goes into overdrive with a nightclub attack, transformation of normal people into new Cenobites and blowing up parts of Charlotte and maybe High Point. The third installment is a completely different tone from the first two. The sets and locations are bigger so things don’t feel as claustrophobic. Pinhead becomes a bigger force of evil as he roams around town causing havoc with his Cenobite army. But it’s got quite a few screen squirms to make you have to tell people what you saw. There’s an option that lets you see an alternate unrated version of the film. The missing cuts are from a video master so you can immediately spot the restored footage.

The first three Hellraiser films are the best in the series that’s so far reached 10 installments (although only 8 with Doug Bradley as Pinhead). The movie do build upon each other as we first see how obsessed the Cotton family becomes with forbidden pleasures. Pinhead transforms from a scary monster to the original victim of the puzzle box. Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy is an immersive experience for fans of the series that want to go deeper into the mythology of the Cenobites. By the time you’re through with the movies and bonus features, you’ll be even more scared of Pinhead stepping out of your attic.

The videos is 1.85:1 anamorphic on all three films. The transfers bring out the darkness of Pinhead’s world with the chains and hooks flying in the air. The audio is Uncompressed PCM Stereo 2.0 and Lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound for Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth features a DTS-HD MA 2.0. The soundtracks bring out the ominous evil after the puzzle box opens. The movies are subtitled.

HELLRAISER

Audio commentaries include a solo track with writer/director Clive Barker and a second one with Barker reunited with actress Ashley Laurence. Barker has a fine time guiding us into the alternate world of painful pleasures.

Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser (89:17) is a complete documentary Hellraiser was created. Many of the key cast and crew members are interviewed. Barker discusses how he brought Pinhead to life with a budget of a million bucks. So much gets explored and explained about how the little horror film continues to scare and inspire sequels.

Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellraiser (26:24) is a vintage interview with actor Sean Chapman. He talks about how he went from Boarding School to having his flesh ripped off in his iconic role. He had appeared in Underworld which featured a script co-written by Clive Barker.

Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score (18:11) allows Coil member Stephen Thrower to discuss how the band’s original score was too horrific for the money folks. They do match up Coil’s songs with a few scenes. It should have happened.

Hellraiser: Resurrection (25 minutes) features older interviews with Clive Barker, actors Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence, special make-up effects artist Bob Keen and more folks.

Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser (12:31 minutes) lets Pinhead reflect on the film and his relationship with Clive Barker. They were high schoolers back in Liverpool. They’re kind of the Lennon-McCartney of horror. He was spending longer than 4 hours getting the make up applied.

Original EPK (5:58) is how the film was originally promoted with on-set interviews with cast and crew.

Draft Screenplays are pat of the BD-ROM.

Trailers and TV Spots has three trailers and four TV Spots. One of the trailers is the Red Band so you get the gore in the tease.

Image Gallery are production photos and promotional materials.

HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II

Audio Commentary with director Tony Randel and writer Peter Atkins allows them to talk about continuing Clive’s work. There’s a second commentary with Randel, Atkins and actress Ashley Laurence.

Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II (120:14) continues the feature lengeth documentary with all the key players. Clive backed off making the film himself so he could focus on Night Breed. Clive had influence on the project so it was still had his touch without stepping on the toes of those making the film.

Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound (11:35) allows actor Sean Chapman to explore coming back as Frank Cotton. He agreed to do it even though the new film didn’t expand the character.

Surgeon Scene (4:49) is the home video world premiere of this legendary, never before-seen excised sequence from Hellbound, sourced from a VHS workprint. The ladies are roaming the hospital when they go into the creepy basement. Pinhead wears a surgical gown.

Lost in the Labyrinth (17:03) is a vintage featurette with Barker, Randel, Keen, Atkins and others. Barker talks about how critics aren’t fans of horror sequels especially when they feel there was originality in the first film.

Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellbound: Hellraiser II (10:53) is his surprise at Pinhead’s return. He enjoys getting to play the human side of his horrific icon. He talks about how he lost a few scenes when a financial crisis killed the budget.

On-set interview with Clive Barker (3:16) is part of the EPK. Clive’s sporting major ’80s hair.

On-set interviews with cast and crew (4:45) is more from the EPK. Clive gives his approval of the new crew making the movie.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage (1:51) is video shot on the sets including Bradley getting his Pinhead makeup.

Rare and unseen storyboards includes the alternate ending with something different rising from the mattress.

Draft Screenplay can be found on the BD-ROM.

Trailers and TV Spots includes the red band trailer.

Image Gallery has production pics and promotional materials.

HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH

Audio Commentaries include writer Peter Atkins on the theatrical cut while Doug Bradley and Anthony Hickox share tales on the Unrated cut.

Hell on Earth: The Story of Hellraiser III (32:01) is making-of documentary with the cast and crew. Bradley points out that Pinhead took over the movie series. He didn’t realize how popular the character was until he went to a horror convention after the second film. They talk about bringing the series to North Carolina. Writer Peter Atkins loves the film for various reasons including his on screen roles.

Time with Terri (14:55) is actress Paula Marshall sharing memories of being in North Carolina. This was her first movie.

Under the Skin (13:46) Doug Bradley gives the circumstances of Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. He talks about how the third film was supposed to be Egypt without Pinhead. This was all changed around and he ended up in North Carolina, home of Krispy Kreme donuts.

Raising Hell on Earth (13:59) interviews director Anthony Hickox. He was influenced by Hammer Horror. The film didn’t have a major budget so he could only pay scale. His mother is the legendary editor Anne V. Coates (Lawrence of Arabia) and father Douglas Hickox made Vincent Price’s Theater of Blood. He explains the early editing on a VCR system.

EPK (5:12) features On-set interviews with Barker and Bradley. Barker’s haircut looks much better.

Never-before-seen Hellraiser III SFX dailies (23:49) are various shots from the film. Most are silent. There are bloopers.

Theatrical Trailer (1:52) promises we’ll get to see what happens when Hell arrives in North Carolina.

Image Gallery features stills and promotional materials.

Hellraiser III comic book adaptation has each page for you to flip through. Helps to have a big HDTV to read all the balloons.

THE CLIVE BARKER LEGACY

Clive Barker short films Salomé (27:44) and The Forbidden (50:03) are extreme art films made in college. Neither hints at the horror to come. You can watch both with or without introductions. The intros allow Clive to talk about what influenced each piece.

Books of Blood & Beyond (19:25) covers the literary works of Clive Barker. Horror author David Gatward gives a good sense of what Barker had written over the years. He discovered Barker on VHS.

Hellraiser: Evolutions (48:17) goes into the other sequels not featured in this collection. The interview subjects include Scott Derrickson (director, Hellraiser: Inferno), Rick Bota (director, Hellraiser: Hellseeker, Deader and Hellworld), Stuart Gordon (director, Re-Animator, From Beyond) and Kari Wurher (Remote Control). If you are curious about these sequels that starred Bradley as Pinhead, they can be found on a DVD set for about $5.

The Hellraiser Chronicles: A Question of Faith (31:04) is a pitch to make a Hellraiser TV series. It’s not quite ready for primetime.

DAMNATION GAMES is a limited edition 200 page hardback book about Hellraiser.

Arrow Video presents Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy. Directed by: Clive Barker. Screenplay by: Clive Barker. Starring: Doug Bradley, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and Sean Chapman. Boxset Contents: 3 movies on 4 Blu-rays. Rated: R. Released: December 20, 2016

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