Viewed – 22 May 2009 Blu-ray
Definitely one of the most celebrated and talked about horror movies of the eighties, Clive Barker’s unique Gothic gore-fest was a breath of fresh air to those drip-fed on rinse and repeat slasher movies where the only real difference was a different mask or more tits on show. No, what Barker brought to the table was a different vision of horror all together, one that closely resembled his writing style made famous in the acclaimed Books Of Blood short stories, and as he was also a recognised painter / artist, the films striking visual imagery was enough to make it stand out from the crowd.
The story follows a drifter, Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who purchases a bizarre puzzle box and decides to play with it in what appears to be a satanic ritual, hoping to have his urges pushed to their limits and beyond. He gets more than he bargained for as the quartet of demons known as The Cenobites (!) unleash the ultimate pain and pleasure on him, and he ends up little more than human remains under the floor boards of his brother Larry’s house. This all transpires in the film’s unnerving and creepy opening scenes, but once Larry (Andrew Robinson) and wife Julia (Claire Higgins) turn up, domestic bliss is restored – or is it? Soon we discover Julia was once having an affair with Frank, and her past love for him is put to the test when a decomposing Frank returns and asks Julia to kill for him so he can once again be restored to human form. A perfect plan but for the involvement of gutsy daughter Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence), who soon becomes the film’s unwitting heroine.
Although the film inspired a franchise of increasingly weak sequels, and brought lead Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley) to cult horror fandome, this movie is more about the goings on in the four walls of a very creepy house, secrets that should have been left buried, forbidden love, and meddling with forces beyond our understanding. Ashley Lawrence is the stand out as plucky Kirsty, at first vulnerable and wholesome, and soon the very hero the film needs as evil demonic creatures surround her, both familiar in the shape of step-mother Julia (a fantastically evil Claire Higgins) & twisted uncle Frank, and the stuff of nightmares with the brilliantly designed Cenobites. I’ll also add that the make up effects here even 22 years later are superb, and yes in this digital age there are some moments that look a little fake, but Barker’s eye for striking-imagery mask most of the rubber and latex. One of the finest and most iconic horror movies ever made.
The Blu-ray release from Anchor Bay boasts a very clean and vivid picture that although a little soft focus, complements the films dark and gothic look, and in addition we are presented with a Dolby True HD soundtrack that especially brings the haunting orchestral score to life. Bonus features have interviews with Ashley Lawrence, Andrew Robinson, Doug Bradley and Clive Barker, some of which are involved in the film’s feature length commentary - very nice. Overall an excellent package for fans of the movie and anyone looking for a quality horror title on Blu-ray.
Verdict: 5 /5