Jill and I are big fans of Hellraiser, arguably Clive Barker‘s most recognisable work to date, and so I was pretty stoked to be dipping back into his world with this, a film I’d never seen before. (He also wrote Candyman (1992) which I bloody love with all my heart).
I don’t really want to give too much away in the first paragraph but I found myself scratching my head a few times and I don’t mind telling you I haven’t a scooby about what I’ve just seen. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of pure wonderment.
Barker’s imagination is quite something and one dodgy flick from the 1990’s can’t take that away.
Or can it?
*Spoilers* – although if you ain’t seen this in the 26 long years that have passed since its release, I would say you can’t really be that precious.
IMDB Synopsis: A troubled young man is drawn to a mythical place called Midian where a variety of monsters are hiding from humanity.
Our hero, poor man’s Angel (even though Buffy/Angel came later) dreams of a place called Midian, where monster dreams come true. Not really, but monsters do try to live there together in their version of sweet harmony.
He’s a bit distant and messed up, so his girl Lori (Bobby) has him seeing a psychotherapist called Dr Decker (Cronenberg). Dr Decker is pretty much the worst psychotherapist of all time as he convinces Angel, real name Boone (Sheffer) that he’s a serial killer. The kicker? It’s actually Decker doing the killing, and brutally at that! Clever, non?
To drive his plan home, he drugs Boone and persuades him to hand himself in. Things got confused for me quite quickly but if I recall correctly, Boone gets hit by a truck, there’s a hospital scene, we meet our first monster, Narcisse (Hugh Ross) and his face gets torn off. (Narcisse btw harvests dead men’s faces to wear over his own apparently grotesque features). Seems legit.
Boone flees the hospital and heads to Midian which is basically a crappy underground village beneath a cool graveyard. Here he bumps into some monsters that aren’t that happy to see him and one of them bites him. He gets away from them only to run into the fuzz and Decker, who pretends Boone has a gun. You don’t have to ask the pigs twice to draw their weapons and poor Angel is cut down fast in a hail of bullets.
So that’s that then. Lori is devvoed but suspicious about the circumstances in which Boone dies, and frankly she has a right to be, especially since Boone’s become the walking dead. She travels to Midian herself to work shit out (though at this point she doesn’t know Boone has resurrected).
She meets the best character at a bar on the way and her new friend agrees to accompany her to Midian the next day. When they get there they split up (always a good idea). Lori goes skipping through the catacombs, while her friend gets brutally murdered – nooooooooooooo! Seems Decker is tracking Lori and he thinks she’ll make pretty good Boone bait (seems he’s figured out that Boone isn’t dead).
Decker wears a ‘Kid from The Orphanage/Trick ‘R’ Treat‘ style sack cloth mask and I dig the aesthetic frankly. He’s also rather stab happy. Lori, meanwhile, finds a very odd looking creature that turns into a ginger kid and meets a bunch of monsters.
You get the impression that the brain storming (thought cluster?) sessions for the monsters must have been fun, though as we get to the end, we meet Hand Chin and I’m not sure how much work went into him.
Lori meets Boone again, much to her delight; Decker runs rampage, there’s a lot of monster politics, I got lost, we meet a priest. There is a story in here about a prophecy (Boone saving the day) and then a battle between good (Midian and the monsters) and evil (?) (the priest, the babylon). It’s very confusing and a shambles, sorry. The monsters are cool though.
In the final fight, led by Boone, there are lots of casualties and imaginative deaths. There’s a happy ending of sorts and one of the most manipulative scenes in cinematic history, in which Lori tries to kill herself so Boone has no choice but to ‘turn her’ immortal, so they can live happily together forever.
I’d have refused on principle.
Confusing (maybe it’s me), not very linear and boring in places, this has some great creatures and a nice philosophy about peace loving monsters driven out of society by non-humans (fucking non-humans). It’s a tale as old as time and it does try. It’s nowhere near as strong as Hellraiser, but I had a soft spot for Decker, whose motivation I can’t even be arsed to work out. And the porcupine lady.
I’m being kind here but I should add that I had to read Wikipedia to fill in the blanks on all the bits I lost track of, which was most of it. Call it my heart not being in it, but it just made me want to go and visit Pinhead and Julia again.
My Rating: 2/5. Messy. Points given for the gory deaths.