I have to be honest up front and say that I've seen all nine Hellraiser movies. That's including the one where Doug Bradley finally said "fuck this shit" and didn't reprise his role as the iconic Pinhead. Truthfully, I don't blame him. Toward the end of the series a lot of the movies were not originally Hellraiser movies but the studio said they'd only put out the project if they somehow fit the Cenobites in so they could try to sell it under the franchise in hopes of making any money on it.
Hellraiser starts with our introduction to Frank buying the Lament Configuration (or as most people know it, the puzzle box) from a Chinese man in Morocco. This of course raises the question of why was this Chinese man in Morocco? Who knows. Different strokes for different folks I guess. Also, Frank somehow simultaneously has the cleanest hands and the dirties fingernails.
The film next shows us Frank shirtless in a square of candles and working out the puzzle box. He eventually does and we are treated to some hooks on chains tearing apart the most fake flesh I have ever seen in extreme close-ups. I'm not sure if it was the times or the budget was spent on making the Cenobites look cool, but for real, step that shit up if you're going to zoom in on it! Frank is torn apart and we get our first view of Pinhead putting together the flesh of Frank's face... which somehow has eyeballs in it?
Cue Larry (originally Rory but changed to be more American for the US audiences, Frank's brother and Kristy's father) and Julia (the most frigid British woman, wife of Larry, and turbo tramp for Frank's sick dick). Larry and Julia are moving into Larry's childhood home which is English looking as fuck but I think supposedly set in the U.S. since there's a guy wearing a Yankee's hat later. We're treated to a tour of a house that should not be flipped unless it's directly into off a cliff into the sea. Rotted food, bugs everywhere, peeling paint, some parts have scorch marks which is undefined as to why, and Frank's apparent squatter nest in the upstairs. Julia goes through Frank's stuff and finds a bunch of semi-offensive pornographic pictures of women Frank is having sex with, while he's still fully clothed (?), and eventually takes one of the pictures of Frank for herself.
If you haven't realized that Frank is a scum fuck until now, the icing on the scum cake is Julia's flashback where she has awkward and rigid sex with Frank on her wedding dress the day before she marries his brother. We're treated to a few more flashbacks of this later but Julia is so frigid she doesn't even know how to have a wank fantasy properly aside from standing still in an empty room. Go jill-off in the bathroom, Julia! GOD!
I'll speed this up because I could describe the whole movie: Larry cuts his hand on a nail while moving stuff in. The blood drips on the attic floor where Frank was torn apart by the hooks and dragged into the Hell realm/Leviathan. The blood allows Frank to escape from his torture and his body to begin reconstructing itself but he requires more blood in order to do so. He enlists help from Julia to bring home strangers under the pretense of creepy attic sex only to get hit in the head with a hammer and given to Frank.
Kristy has been introduced at this point. She doesn't like Julia and vice-versa. There's a really good dream sequence that Kristy has that's like a Stevie Nicks video gone wrong. It's bird feathers flying around, a slab with a body under a cloth, and a baby crying. The body starts to bleed and cover the sheet and when Kristy removes the sheet she sees her father! DUN! DUN! DUUUNNNN!
Kirsty stumbles upon Frank and his drippy skinless body and she freaks out, steals the puzzle box, and passes out somewhere on the street. She wakes up in a hospital with some minor amnesia and is given the Lament Configuration by a doctor who says she had a death grip on it and it might jog her memory. Kristy works out one of the box configurations that opens a wall in her hospital room and leads her to encounter The Engineer. The Engineer would be cool if you couldn't see the wheels on the bottom of him.
After she escapes she returns to her room only to be introduced to our four Cenobites, Pinhead, Butterball, Chatterer, and "The Female Cenobite" (a.k.a. Sister Nikoletta, a.k.a. Vagina Neck). They attempt to take her to Hell but she spills the beans on Frank and offers a deal to trade Frank for her freedom. This is the scene where all the most well known lines come from: "angels to some, demons to others" and "we'll tear your soul apart."
After returning to her father and Julia's house we find out that Frank killed and skinned Larry and is now wearing his skin. How Kristy doesn't know that something is wrong right away despite Larry's skin being covered in blood in all kinds of weird ways I'll never know. Frank eventually reveals he's Frank and accidentally stabs Julia while trying to attack Kristy. Frank doesn't really care though because he was just using her anyway and drains Julia's blood and she is later taken to the Hell realm by the Cenobites.
The Cenobites return and reclaim Frank with the hooks and chains and Kristy is told to leave as it's not for her eyes. The line here that is said before Frank is torn apart is "Jesus wept," which is much better than the original line of a simple "fuck you!." The Cenobites then try to take Kristy to the Hell realm, but it isn't until the second movie that we really realize that it was more to offer her the chance to become a Cenobite. The second movie actually explains a lot about the Cenobites and their back story, such as Pinhead being a British military pilot, and Chatterer actually being a child.
So Kristy solves the puzzle box and sends the Cenobites and The Engineer back to the Leviathan, except for Butterball who gets crushed under house rubble. It's odd to say, but here is where Hellraiser takes a weird twist. Kristy and fake 80's John Cusack attempt to burn the box in a field where there are apparently just a ton of fires in it for no good reason other than burning things, such as a chair which is next to them and engulfed. You know, every city has one of those fields where shit is just on fire! Fake America England is a weird place. At this point bootleg Alan Moore comes up (we meet him briefly when he's eating handfuls of crickets at the pet store that Kristy works at), turns into a skeletal dragon Satan thing and flies off with the cube and the scene transitions into Morocco again and the Chinese man once again selling the Lament Configuration to someone else.
This movie isn't perfect and I'm not sure if that's the movie maker's fault or the studio's choices. A lot of the voices are overdubbed because they were too British sounding for the U.S. audience, some effects are great while others are rough, and at times the story feels loose because it was originally a novella (The Hellbound Heart) that was turned into the film and you always loose a lot in that. Also, as I said, the second movie goes into explaining a lot that you would have questions about in the first film. I like these films because the universe was expanded in various forms of media so there's a lot to sift through and learn about. For example, the configuration of the box as you're working it depends on who or what gets called. Also there are more groups of Cenobites than just Pinhead's, including one that is lead by a Cenobite that used to be Jack the Ripper before he opened a box and was pulled into the Leviathan. If you're willing to take the time to look into the stuff, it's worth it.
Before I jump into my rating I wanna recommend my friends' Allen and Katie's horror podcast Werewolf Ambulance where they also review and break down horror movies. They did Hellraiser for episode #51, and yesterday's movie Zombeavers for episode #37. So check them out, it's awesome!
I give Hellraiser four Lament Configurations out of five.