Ne Plus Ultra
October’s ending, and every post this month has been centred around horror films. Every…single…one! I’m actually rather proud of myself, to be honest, but I can understand that there are many of you out there who may not care much for horror films at all. Even those who do probably passed their limit a week ago, so I’ll make you all a promise…
…since it’s been an entire month of it up until now, I promise you that after tonight I will not mention horror movies again until December! That’s one month free of horror! My gift to you, the easily scared, for putting up with it so far. It’s my pledge, my fasting…my abstinence. Did that just move us into an inappropriate place? Sorry about that. Anyways, you might call it a “NO!-Vember”…get it? No horror in November…”NO!-Vember!”. Either I’m not funny or you guys are having a bad day….
…don’t worry, we can talk about it later.
For now, we’re still chugga-chugga-choo-chooing our way down the tracks towards the end of this month, so I’m sticking to scary movies yet again on this one. I was thinking about which one to recommend, when suddenly I realised…that this is Cinema-Rant‘s 50th blogpost!
Maybe I’m the only one celebrating that fact, but a party for one is always a hit with the guest – so, whatever! I started this blog by recommending my favourite film of all time, Jurassic Park, on March 15th 2012. That means it’s been up for 7 months and 16 days. Therefore, a total of 50 posts in 230 days, constituting one blog post every 4.6 days. Let it not be said that I’m a quitter!
So how do I mark this historic, crucial, nigh paramount event? What about sharing with you my favourite horror movie of all time? Ooo, the film that scared me more than any other film ever ever ever? Why, yes yes yes, but first we need to discuss how it came to be. We need to discuss Hellraiser.
I’ve mentioned Hellraiser once before, in passing, but I’ve never really explained the loving relationship I have to it. Hellraiser is not my favourite horror film ever, but it’s very close and is the main inspiration for my actual favourite.
None of my family or friends get this movie, most haven’t seen it, and those who have certainly don’t like it. It’s loud, operatic, ultra-gothic, and hyper-violent. Those things are all true, but it is also true that it is a work of art. This movie is actually about something intrinsic. It’s not a torture porn film, it’s not a slasher, and it’s not even a traditional horror; it’s all three of them and yet none of them! Hellraiser exists as a unique story, told across dimensions in a way that almost no other tale ever has been. It shows you indescribable things, things you can’t “un-see”.
The plot is a little hard to convey properly, but…
“An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover, Frank Cotton, who is being chased by demons after he escaped from their sado-masochistic Hell.”
I know, I know, I know, I know! I know that’s a very polarising premise. Some of you may be intrigued, but others will instantly be dissuaded. I beg of you; stay, give it a chance! It’s beautiful. I mean it, it’s a beautiful film!
“What’s beautiful about a cheesy 80’s gorefest?” you’re thinking. Oh, where to begin?
Hellraiser orbits around a general theme of pleasure and pain. In some ways you might say that encapsulates life itself. Life is about the pendulum swinging back and forth between these two extremes. Pain isn’t truly excruciating until you’ve experienced the full nature of rich luxurious pleasures, and pleasure isn’t really appreciable if you haven’t crawled through the searing acid of intense nerve-corroding pain. Frank Cotton is a man who wishes to experience the ne-plus-ultra of both. In doing so he purchases a mysterious puzzle box called the Lament Configuration. Once he discovers how to open it, it pulls him into a world more beautiful, and yet more horrifying, than anything he could have imagined; “pain and pleasure – indivisible”.
As you watch Hellraiser, you will notice several recurring images of Catholicism. This is, in part, because Clive Barker was raised catholic and clearly finds it to be a subject of fascination and inspiration. I agree with him, catholic teachings and practises are strange and interesting when you really have a look at them. If you’re a catholic, then this film is actually one which you should embrace. It has many of the themes which catholics love and espouse; salvation through pain, admiration of a tortured soul, temptation, guilt, and the duality between a cosmic good and evil. Take a look at the iconic images of Jesus. Jesus supposedly lived for 33 years, was born in a manger, healed the sick, walked on water, preached to the poor, and turned water into wine. That leaves his followers with a “smörgåsbord” of icons to choose from in order to honour his impact on their lives, but what do they choose…?
That’s the image of a man being tortured to death, in case that wasn’t clear. I have to say something to everyone who wears these: before you get on your high horse and start labelling movies like Hellraiser as grotesque and glorifying violence, just take a moment and reflect on what a christian cross actually is; an execution device! Imagine wearing a little electric chair or guillotine around your neck. Do you think “morally superior” religious snobs would question the integrity of your soul for that? Undeniably they would.
Now, I’m not trying to incite a catholic-bashing movement. I’m just trying to get people to reflect on the true morbidity of the practises and organisations they are tied to. Oh wait, I’m not the only one doing that, Hellraiser does that! The catholic church, in particular, is obsessed with the idea of redemption through pain; the concept that in order to reach true nirvana you have to undergo actual physical torture and starve yourself of earthly pleasures. It’s kinda twisted, but that’s the reality. Movies like Passion of the Christ show us that the real admiration many catholics have for Jesus comes from the torturous way he died. It’s my opinion that catholic teachings are inherently masochistic, and that’s fine – people can believe and worship whatever they like…they should just be honest about it and stop judging others.
Some have entertained the notion that the Lament Configuration represents television and media in general. A “box” which allows us to escape into an alternate reality, able to play around with pain and pleasure that doesn’t normally exist around us in our boring little reality. I think those thing are all there if you look for them.
Hellraiser is a great choice for Halloween, which is hours away! Still, I’ve only gone on about it at such length because: 10 years later there was a movie made which paid unlimited tribute to it. This movie ended up being my actual favourite horror movie of all time, and still is.
Event Horizon is what happens when you take Hellraiser into space…and into the future.
“A rescue crew investigates a spaceship that disappeared into a black hole and has now returned…with someone or something new on-board.”
This movie is basically a haunted house film with a science fiction setting. It was directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson. Paul W. S. Anderson has a failing reputation these days after he went on to make a lot of critically unsuccessful video game and comic book adaptations. His first Hollywood film, Mortal Kombat, was actually a pretty good film, but he followed that up with Resident Evil and AVP:Alien Versus Predator. I actually didn’t mind those films, I liked Resident Evil and AVP was fine as far as I was concerned – but I don’t think most hardcore fans agree. Still, his masterpiece will always be Event Horizon. It proves that he has an undeniable talent for atmospheric filmmaking. What a tremendous piece of work! There is a whole generation of people, which I happen to be part of, that saw this movie at an early age and had many sleepless nights since. I remember being relentlessly tormented by this movie after I saw it, in the way that only the most supreme horror films can accomplish. As I said, it’s also a wonderful homage to Clive Barker’s original masterpiece of hellish imagination. If you have your doubts, here are a handful of shot comparisons that will help prove it to you:
Unfortunately Event Horizon slipped away into mild cult status during the end of the 90’s when bigger films like Titanic were capturing the public’s eye. I never got to see this movie at a cinema, but it still managed to reach in and seize my organs. I swear my heart skipped several beats when I first saw it.
It has a great cast, absolutely gorgeous lighting, and impeccable production design. The ship itself has a large cathedral look, making it a character in itself.
The story structure actually resembles The Shining more than anything. The ship has a possessing effect on the mind of its inhabitants, turning them into demented souls that much resemble Jack Nicholson’s character shift in that film.
Everything that I’ve ever loved about horror films is embodied in this one single masterpiece. It’s outragiously good, perfectly written, finely directed, and just…plain…scary as hell. I’m struggling to think of how many more different ways I can tell you that it’s…
If you haven’t seen it yet, I envy you sooo much. Go on skipping down the street to the nearest movie shop and purchase a copy, or you can download it. I don’t really care as long as just one more person sees it, then I will have done my job.
While you’re at it, see if you can find Hellraiser. It’s an absolute classic that’s needs to be dusted off and popped into the player periodically. Experience the pleasure, endure the pain, love the movies. They make a superb double bill for tonights Hallowthreen. Get your popcorn on! Yay!
– Aaaaand we’re here….