Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
United Kingdom, 1987. New World Pictures, Cinemarque Entertainment BV, Film Futures, Rivdel Films. Screenplay by Clive Barker, based on his novel. Cinematography by Robin Vidgeon. Produced by Christopher Figg. Music by Christopher Young. Production Design by Michael Buchanan. Costume Design by Joanna Johnston. Film Editing by Richard Marden, Tony Randel.
Clive Barker, already well established as an author with a huge following, was put on the map in the film world with the success of this creative, gory movie. Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Julia (Clare Higgins) move into his late mother’s empty home and have no idea that the remains of his brother Frank (Sean Chapman), from whom he has not heard in a while, lie eviscerated in the attic floorboards. What Larry also doesn’t know is that Julia once had an affair with his swarthy, sexy brother, who went missing during his adventures in the far east after signing up for membership in the ultimate sadomasochistic pleasure group that, oops, opened a portal to hell and got him torn to ribbons. After a minor accident during their move gives Larry a bad cut on the hand, his droplets of blood falling through the floor bring brother Frank (now Oliver Smith) back to life in a gooey monstrous form. Monster Frank enlists Julia to help restore him to his old self by having her lure men into the house, presumably for sex, then killing them so that Frank can feast on them and make his way back to health (or, heck, at least a functional epidermis). At the heart of the story is a magical contraption, a trick box that provides the path to the netherworld that Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) discovers once she finds out what is going on with her beloved father and rather chilly stepmother. Disturbing and diverting, this film shows elements of what would push Barker’s later films into outright failure, the overemphasis on gadgets, alternate worlds and freaky characters with little care for making things make much sense, but they’re only mildly a problem here, as is the general humorlessness with which he plays his plots out (which he would definitely double-down on in Nightbreed and Lord Of Illusions). The “pinhead” character only figures in the story in a minor way, but became the most popular element of the film and would be featured more in later (endless) sequels. If the locations don’t exactly convince you of the supposed New York setting, the film was shot in London and set there until producers suggested dubbing a number of actors with American voices and changing dialogue to update the setting as well.