Review: Hellraiser The Scarlet Box Set

HellraiserOut now from Arrow on Blu-Ray

Raising Hell…Yet Again.

I know a thing or two about this franchise. I should do… Back in the day I wrote The Hellraiser Films & Their Legacy, I co-edited Hellbound Hearts and I’m currently working on Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell for release next summer – but, first and foremost, I’m a fan. I think you have to be to have done the kind of books I’ve done. An…obsessive you might say, which actually fits perfectly with the Hellraiser ethos. But, when I heard that yet another box set of the first three movies was being released – a four disc one by Arrow this time – I looked at my others, the puzzle box, the German steelbook, even my laserdisc with a signed copy of the script, and even I asked myself: do I need another one? Turns out that yes, yes I did. Well, that was always going to be the case anyway, to be fair…

However, in this instance it happens to be true. This is the Hellraiser box set to beat all box sets. Even if the gorgeous artwork and presentation doesn’t get you, and it ought to, there are many more sights in here that are definitely for your eyes. Including, for starters, the brand new restorations of the movies (I was lucky enough to see the first of these on the big screen at Grimmfest a few weeks ago, just before a Q&A, and it looks absolutely brilliant). These bring home not only the quality of the stories, the richness of the characters and the great acting, but also what terrific-looking films they are. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say they’re visual treats, and ones which perfectly illustrate Clive’s over arcing horrific-beauty philosophy.

The more observant fans will spot that there are a few things in here that have appeared already; documentaries like ‘Lost in the Labyrinth’ and ‘Under the Skin’, and some of the commentaries – although there’s a great new one from Pete Atkins to accompany Hell on Earth – but there’s so much more new material which outweighs this. For instance, Sean Chapman speaking for the first time (to my knowledge) about ‘Being Frank’ – “He’s on the run from everything… He’s on the run from himself!”, Paula Marshall telling us ‘Terri’s Tales’, Stephen Thrower from Coil speaking out about the unused music for the original movie in ‘Soundtrack Hell’. Add to this you also get ‘edited down’ versions of the documentary Leviathan, which are still a couple of hours long apiece, providing a taster for those who might not have bought the much longer edition (and why haven’t you, pray tell? It’s an exhaustive labour of love) and a unique curiosity for those who have. Plus you get rare and unseen storyboards, SFX dailies, and a whole third disc devoted to the ‘Clive Barker Legacy’. This not only contains Clive’s early movies with introductions, and a low budget bid for a Hellraiser TV pilot, but also a superb new piece on his fiction in which Dave Gatward takes us intelligently through the work. The best line of the whole set, though, comes from Doug ‘Pinhead’ Bradley with a smile in the documentary Evolutions: “You think this is the last time I’ll talk about all this; it’s not. This is Groundhog Day.”

But no doubt by now you’ll also have heard the news that the mythical ‘Surgeon Scene’ from Hellbound is included, once thought to be nothing but celluloid on the cutting room floor. And it’s interesting not only to watch this excised scene, but maybe imagine what it might have looked like with the proper effects (namely the surgeons transforming into Cenobites in gowns, which is still missing) in the movie itself. Other physical extras include a lovely 200 page Damnation Games hardback book with new writing on the films and rare photos/illustrations by Clive’s official archivists Phil & Sarah Stokes, a reversible poster, art-cards… In short, it’s a Hellraiser fan’s wet dream of a box set.

You’ll probably have your hands on one of these already, and a good job too as Arrow have reported they’re sold out – but if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Track one down through a seller today. There’ll be Hell to pay (or maybe that should be a Hell of a lot to pay) if you put it off any longer.

Verdict: Hell, yes! 10/10 +                                                                                  

Paul Kane


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