This Hellraiser Scene Hit Fans The Hardest

Based on his 1986 novel "The Hellbound Heart," Clive Barker's 1987 film "Hellraiser" is one of the best and most striking horror films of its decade. Predicated on lust, infidelity, and supernatural acts of sadomasochism, "Hellraiser" plays like a blood-soaked, myth-heavy rendition of Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric," wherein flesh is the only gauge by which one measures divinity. Or, in the case of "Hellraiser," demonic interior. "Hellraiser," and Tony Randel's 1988 sequel "Hellbound: Hellraiser II," have lost none of their visceral power over the years, and contemporary horror fans may still recoil from the films' extreme blood, open sexuality, and surreal imagery. 

"Hellraiser" is about an unhappy married couple, Larry and Julia (Andrew Robinson and Claire Higgins) who are moving back into a previously abandoned property of theirs in England. They discover that Larry's brother Frank (Sean Chapman with skin, Oliver Smith without) has been squatting there and regularly having sex on a mattress on the floor. This awakens lustful thoughts in Julia, who had previously had a very intense affair with Frank prior to her marriage. In the film's introduction, Frank opened up a mysterious puzzle box that seemingly dragged him into a hell dimension where he was ripped apart by meathooks on chains.

When Larry accidentally cuts his hand and bleeds on the floor of an empty room, Frank's half-desiccated corpse emerges from the floorboards. The skinless incubus Frank reveals himself to Julia, and she agrees to lure victims to him so that he may feed on them, grow back more skin, and the two can rekindle their affair. The monkey wrenches in their plan take the form of Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) who senses that something is amiss better than her clueless father, and the Cenobites, a cadre of interdimensional undead S&M enthusiasts who have mastered the ability to blend pain and pleasure. The climax will be a cat-and-mouse game between Frank, Julia, and Kirsty, while Cenobites stalk around menacingly, threatening to return Frank to their hell dimension, and for the heck of it, Julia and Kirsty as well. 

The rebirth scene

"Hellraiser," as one might imagine, had a lot of issues with censorship given its extreme gore and huge amounts of blood; several nude shots and images of violence had to be cut to avoid an "X" rating. There was also a scene wherein skinless Frank and Julia engaged in some sexual spanking that rating boards weren't too fond of. Clive Barker often incorporates explicit sexuality into his stories, frequently ascribing magical qualities to human fluids. 

It's clear now that the boards weren't familiar with his work. 

One scene that did manage to sidestep censors and uptight review boards was the rebirth scene at the end of the film's first act. While Larry and Julia were moving back into their house, Larry gouges his hand pretty badly on a screw head. He wanders into the empty room where Julia was dreaming about her and Frank, distraught at the sight of his own blood. When the two of them leave to go to the hospital, the camera lingers on Larry's blood, pooled on the floor. The blood is sucked into the floorboards and activates a mysterious, glistening, pulsating human organ underneath the floor that starts to seep a clear, viscous fluid into the room. From a puddle of gelatinous human glop emerge a pair of arm-like bones. A brain slowly begins to form. Bones solidify as the arms merge with the brain. A person is slowly coming together. 

At the end of the scene, the top half of a partially-formed Frank hoists itself up into the stark light in the room, wailing like a newborn infant. It is alive again. 

Frank's rebirth is not a dull, mechanical affair. It looks like it took him a lot of work to reassemble his body after a spate of near-oblivion. Moreover, it looks like it hurt. As if Frank's very nerves were coming into being just to feel pain for the first time again. And, in keeping with the themes of the movie, after experiencing a level of pain no one can imagine, the first thing Frank can think of next is to ask for sex.

The Hellraiser legacy

Eventually, Frank obtains enough victims to grow back everything but his skin. In a fit of impatience, he and Julia end up improvising the last step by merely removing someone else's skin and wrapping it around Frank. It's Kirsty who finds the mysterious Lament Configuration puzzle box, faces the Cenobites and brings about the film's bloody, fiery conclusion. 

The many "Hellraiser" sequels (there are nine to date) tipped away from the original's sexual themes pretty quickly. "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" parlayed sexual obsession into a more general obsession (although that film remains the best in the series). "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth" turned the series into a reductive slasher, where lead Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley) wants to escape the lament configuration's confines to kill people on Earth. "Hellraiser: Bloodline" cleaned up the mythology muddied by "Hell on Earth," but was regarded as silly for sending Pinhead into space (the climax takes place on a space station in the future). After that, the films went straight to video, and the hell in those films became a more traditionally Judeo-Christian version of the place, set up as a punitive measure for committing sins on Earth. 

"Inferno," "Hellseeker," and "Deader" all feature the same twist ending (it turns out you were in Hell all along), and "Hellworld" went the meta route, turning "Hellraiser" into a movie that exists in that world the same way "Stab" does in the "Scream" franchise. "Revelations" is more of a remake of the 1987 film, and at least thought to include some kink. It's a pity it's so awful. 

"Judgement" features a bizarre bureaucracy at work, as well as ... angels? We've gone very far afield from Barker's original vision. 

A remake is currently in the works from director David Bruckner ("The Night House") and starring Jamie Clayton as Pinhead, and it seems more in keeping with Barker's original novel "The Hellbound Heart," which featured a female lead Cenobite. One can cross their fingers and hope against hope that the remake will feature plenty of sex, and that it will feature a scene half as gruesome as Frank's rebirth.