Hellraiser – Blu-ray Review

Hellraiser is a 1987 British supernatural horror film that was written and directed by Clive Barker, and produced by Christopher Figg, based on Barker’s novella titled The Hellbound Heart.  The film marked Barker’s directorial debut.  The film also involves the resurrection of Frank (Sean Chapman), who had opened the door to an alternate dimension and had his body torn to pieces by creatures known as Cenobites.  Years later, Frank’s brother Larry moves into their late mother’s abandoned house with new wife Julia.  An accident causes some of Larry’s blood to spill on the attic floor, which triggers Frank’s resurrection.  To complete his resurrection, he requires more blood which Julia provides while Kristy Cotton, Larry’s daughter, discovers Frank’s puzzle box which leads her to meet with the Cenobites, led by Pinhead.

Hellraiser was film in late 1986.  Barker originally wanted the electronic music group Coil to perform the music for the film, but on insistence from producers, the film was re-scored by Christopher Young.  Some of Coil’s themes were reworked by Young into the final score.  Hellraiser had its first public showing at the Prince Charles Cinema on September 10, 1987.

Since its release, the film has divided critics but generally received praise; initial reviews ranged from Melody Manker calling it the greatest horror film made in Britain, to Roger Ebert decrying its “bankruptcy of imagination.”  It was followed by nine sequels, the first seven of which featured Bradley reprising his role as Pinhead.

The Film Itself (3.5/5):

Hellraiser is the beginning of a horror saga that somehow managed to escape me throughout the years. Having only been familiar with Pinhead in the sense of seeing the piece of promotional material here and there, I was definitely intrigued to delve further into it after having this show up at my doorstep. Understandably, being a top-known horror film of the 1980’s. The story, while it’s dark and intriguing, I feel that it lacks a lot of the charm that we see with other icons of the genre, like Freddy or Jason. The inclusion of the dark arts combined with the age-old tale of Pandora’s box, it wasn’t a terrible time.

Picture Quality (5/5):

As you would expect from Arrow films, the visual presentation of their release of Hellraiser is hands down, without a doubt, the most definitive you can get with this release. Giving audiences an insanely clearer picture while retaining the original grain, and that unique feeling that came with horror films of the time. Making sure that the visual effects are as clean as you could imagine, blending into their more natural elements, you could certainly tell that there was a lot of love and attention to detail when the folks at Arrow went to work on this release.

Audio Quality (5/5):

Packaged with an all new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, this release of Hellraiser takes the original experience that was intended with this movie and pushes it to the next level. While it’s not as immersive as a 7.1 mix could be, there was a significant amount of attention to detail put into the re-mastering of this audio track, making sure that audiences experience the film in a way that falls right in line with when this movie had originally came out. The transitions between the channels were effortless and really added to the overall experience, while the dialogue was spoken cleanly and the cast and characters were able to be heard and understood without any issues whatsoever.

The Packaging (3.5/5):

Hellraiser comes packaged in the typical clear Blu-ray case that we’ve seen from Arrow over the years.  The Blu-ray disc features a piece of artwork that’s related to the film, and different from that of the case art.  While there are no digital copy redemption pamphlets or slipcovers with this release, the artwork for the case is reversible, allowing you to feature either the original artwork, or the new artwork for this release as you have it on your shelf.

Special Features (5/5):

There are a good number of special features included with this release of Hellraiser. The content not only shares the experiences that were had with the cast and crew had while they were making this movie, but a look back at the work and effort that went into making this movie. I couldn’t have really asked for a better set of special features with this release. Included with this release is:

  • Optional Feature Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Clive Barker
  • Optional Feature Audio Commentary with Barker and Actress Ashley Laurence
  • Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser – A brand new version of the definitive documentary on the making of Hellraiser, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members
  • Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellraiser – actor Sean Chapman talks candidly about playing the character of Frank Cotton in Barker’s original
  • Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score – ex-Coil member Stephen Thrower covers the Hellraiser score that almost was
  • Hellraiser: Resurrection – a small, vintage featurette including interviews with Clive Barker, actors Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence, special make-up effects artist Bob Keen and others
  • Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser
  • Original EPK featuring on-set interviews with the cast and crew
  • Draft Screenplays
  • Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots
  • Image Gallery

Technical Specs:


Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1


English: LPCM 2.0

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1


English, English SDH


Original Film: 93 Minutes

Final Thoughts:

I’ll be first to admit that I’m not as well versed into the Horror genre as some folks. But with the opportunity to sit down to Hellraiser on Blu-ray, hell yeah! The story as a whole, while it’s not as fun as some of the other horror icons, it’s still a noteworthy saga that took the experience as a whole to a new level. The audio and video presentation of this release were absolutely stellar. The special features that were included were absolutely amazing. If you’re considering this release for your collection, I would without a doubt recommend picking it up. Hellraiser is available on Blu-ray from Arrow Films today.

Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.