One Great Shot: Hellraiser (1987)

Preamble

Happy Halloween everyone. I could not let this spooky time of year pass by without a post. Hellraiser is one of my favourite horror movies, due to how it combines elements of Gothic, sexual and Lovecraftian horror. Hellraiser’s portrait of evil is also interesting, which is encapsulated in the film’s one great shot. What’s your favourite shot from Clive Barker’s film? Let me know in the comments below. And if you like this post or any of my other horror-related posts, then you can find more at my second home- Horror Obsessive: https://horrorobsessive.com/author/sartaj-singh/

One Great Shot

Despite Pinhead being on the primary poster and many of the home media covers that grace Hellraiser, he’s not actually the villain of the film. Instead, Hellraiser’s one great shot cements Julia Cotton as the film’s true antagonist. In fact, her transition from a morose woman who does not feel sexually satisfied in her marriage to a murderous complicator in a taboo relationship is arguably the film’s real horror.

At this moment, Clare Higgins plays Julia as though she’s a stony empress who just executed someone. There’s a cold-blooded quality along with a precise and still physicality that makes the character stand out. This is a far cry from the woman who previously felt distraught at having to commit murder. Clive Barker’s choice to include this shot amid a murder montage is excellent for illustrating Julia’s increasing nonchalant relationship with killing, and a general sense of dehumanisation.

At the same time, the shot also sets up the larger than life quality that Julia has in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. In that film, the character comes across as a mythic embodiment of the evil stepmother to the protagonist- Kirsty Cotton. Retrospectively, it feels as though Clive Barker is visually sowing the seeds for this portrait of Julia. With this in mind, the bait and switch between the perception of the film’s true baddie become even more fascinating.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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