The True ABCs of Death: H is for Hellraiser

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Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells

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And so we proceed onto the letter H, I have decided to use both general and literal examples of the hellraiser so, whilst Pinhead and his motley crüe will feature, they won’t dominate proceedings. Instead we shall delve into various pools and utilise its double-entendre meaning. To begin with, it’s all about the ankle-biters. Love ’em or loathe ’em, they’re proficient in keeping us on our toes. These little rascals leave nothing sacred; their self-focused ickle minds just desire one thing…CONSTANT attention and why the hell wouldn’t they?

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I communicate well with the blighters and have learned to adapt my wavelength with ease, but there is one place they are not always welcome, that being horror movies. Usually a distraction, their presence ordinarily signals their safe-keeping come the end credits. I’m generalizing of course, as I’m sure all of us watching John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 expected Kathy to receive her Vanilla Twist and skip off merrily to go carve up some worms. Rat-a-tat-tat you little bitch. On the whole, however they hinder more than they assist, which is why we request they not be heard.

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Ocassionally these brattish little turds overstep the balance completely, supplying potent marketing for contraception in the process. Once such little bleeder was Regan McNeil from William Friedkin’s exhausting exercise in extreme exorcism, The Exorcist. If young Linda Blair had any innocence going into the shoot then it certainly wasn’t present post-production. I can envision the audition. “Linda we’d like you to stab your vagina with a wooden crucifix whilst screeching Fuck me Jesus and bleeding profusely from your lady garden. Think you can handle that?..Here’s your lolly!” Nowadays, there would be blind panic, law suits, and pariah status, for such a request. Back then…no harm, no foul.

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She was required to undergo extensive training on rotating her head 360 and projectile vomiting/pissing herself in public, and passed with flying colours. Walking in crab formation took some time to master but once she had it down to pat I’m sure the offers for Sinbad movies came rolling in. The Exorcist is regarded as one of the scariest movies of all time and I’m actually inclined to disagree with that claim. Sure it’s a frightening flick; that goes without saying. However, the real foreboding comes from imagining being placed in the situation. Like the hapless Barbara Hershey in The Entity, Regan had no say in when the demons were likely to tug her panties down to her knees. Blair was simply outstanding for one of such tender years but paid for her sins as she wound up being offered endless women in prison flicks as soon as she filled out some. Presumably directors were warned off by signs of her erratic menstrual cycle.

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Those Children in the Corn; they were a bunch of scrawny little shit fucks weren’t they? After the munchkins invaded a local diner to get their teenage kicks, they took exception to Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton, harassing them at every turn and attempting to harvest the couple’s souls for their deity. It wouldn’t have seemed so ominous a threat had it not been for Malachai, the copper-headed wurzel who resembled Plug from the Bash Street Kids, with a Rocky Dennis hairpiece. This lanky streak of ginger beer was Isaac’s right-hand boy and a true hellraiser to boot. All those days running round the fields without sufficient sun-block must’ve taken its toll on the flame-headed rapscallion. Meanwhile, Isaac looked about forty-eight.

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The Devil’s Goonies began to take up residence elsewhere too. Village of the Damned and Bloody Birthday both featured posses of petulance, every last one of ’em totally deserving of ‘the slipper’. En masse they proved pesky as schools of piranhas; hounding their elders and playing their infantile pranks without once considering the ramifications of their actions.

Jerry Goldsmith The Omen

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Damien Thorne was another. When the crow left that particular bundle on Robert and Katherine’s doorstep, they had no idea of what was in store for both them and the entire planet. At first it appeared that the lad was a cherub, but beneath his cute exterior was a parent’s third worst nightmare, behind head-lice and puberty.

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Stephen King’s Pet Sematary played host to a pipsqueak who should have been left well alone after being hit by that eighteen wheeler. Fred Gwynne must have cursed not wearing Herman Munster’s bother boots that day as the reanimated rascal hid underneath his bedstead and gave his tendons a little nick as he slid on his slippers. Once the lofty lunk realised that he wasn’t going to make it to the bathroom to empty his colostomy bag, he was presented with a perpetual smile. Consequently, he never trusted little Eddie Munster again!

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For Keeper the pièce de résistance would have to be David Cronenberg’s The Brood. If there was ever a legion of nasty nippers you wouldn’t desire running into in a blind alley at the dead of night then it was this lynch mob. Mutated pre-schoolers with black hearts; they left us with the lasting image of sweet little cutie pie Cindy being restrained as they broke through the closet room door she used as a hiding place. This particular brood were relentless and clearly the product of some pretty slipshod parenting.

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James Watkins’ Eden Lake was a particularly repugnant offering concerning a couple taking a nice relaxing woodland break, whilst rubbing some hooded hellraisers the wrong way. Their punishment was beyond severe as they were heinously mistreated by the uncouth youths. The bullies took five from tormenting their elders to set upon a weedy asian boy and seconds later he appeared in the background, running hysterically around out-of-focus with his hair ablaze, a moment both mildly disturbing and humongously comical.

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In 2008, Tom Shankland’s The Children provided a Christmas vacation that would have given Chevy Chase a hernia. The kiddywinks of the title simply grew tired of their parents and decided instead to spend the festive season maiming and killing anyone with pubic hair. Three years later, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block gave the little thugs a taste of their own cheap industrial-strength lager as a pack of neon-fanged space mutts caught them disobeying their ASBOs. Cornish crafted a little sleeper gem which delighted in tearing these menaces to society to ribbons, leaving behind only a pair of Burberry boxers and a packet of king skins.

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For Marcus Miller and Jason Voorhees, the psychological damage was done to their fragile young minds before they could mail off their Christmas lists, and consequently both were wired with murderous intent. In Marcus’ case it was justified; after first-hand experience of true nunsploitation, he was warranted in letting off a little inner vitriol. Voorhees on the other hand, could have no excuse for his unruly behaviour and if he was looking for someone to blame, then surely he should’ve looked a little closer to home.

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Pamela really should have ensured the arm bands were on before his ill-fated swim and instead she passed the buck on to some innocent teens, partaking in a little harmless unprotected coitus. It would never hold up in a court of law would it now?! “Nubile teens, you stand accused of putting this poor deformed young boy off his doggy-paddle, WITHOUT contraceptives!” He should have been even more bugging with mom for her part in filling his fucked-up gene pool in the first place. Poor little bastard never stood a chance.

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I’m going to branch away from movies momentarily in honor of Sam Barlow & Keiichiro Toyama’s Playstation One survival horror classic, Silent Hill. This game crawled under your skin, made itself comfy, and wriggled about, digging its limbs in intentionally. This was never more evident than the fateful moment in the abandoned school that bell rung for next period. The siren denoted the end of that pleasant saunter and the commencement of utter demoralization as a gaggle of skinned infants clambered towards you. Your plight was made even more daunting by the fact that you were hampered by two things: PS One controls as 3D was still finding its feet, and the harsh reality that the poor chump had never swung an iron pipe in his life, never mind fired a handgun. It was like manoeuvring a blind crab through a minefield.

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The kids are all tucked up in bed now and the watershed has passed, therefore it is high-time we delve into the bloody pits of hell and fish out the real rotten eggs. I’m talking of the most unscrupulous, snidy, underhand, soul banishing perpetrators of evil. So let’s begin with his black majesty. Lucifer, Beelzebub, Old Nick, Djinn, the Prince of Darkness, Satan…he is all of the above and can rain fire and brimstone down on your ass in a manner most unmetaphorical.

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I like to refer to the devil as Tim Curry. Ridley Scott’s somewhat flawed but lavish fantasy Legend united Tom Cruise and the subterraneanly alluring Mia Sara (Mrs Ferris Bueller) as they endeavored to raise a veil of darkness which had snuffed out their former nirvana. The dark messiah was a simply glorious creation. Contorted and darkly beautiful; he encapsulated all that a true devil should be. He also provided the feature a thick black undercoat which offered exclusive counter-balance to the aesthetically stunning first act. Curry fitted hand-in-glove with the supreme highness. After camping it up in The Rocky Horror Picture Show it was a role he relished and it showed through in his majestic performance.

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Al Pacino focused more on the trickster side of his eminence as he took Keanu Reeves on a pretty rough ride straight to the pits of hell. His arena was an office and he represented the wheels of industry and mankind’s gluttony. It gave Al chance to do what Al does best, those long monologues. The pitch-perfect Glengarry Glen Ross showed Pacino at the top of his tree and he added the customary verve and gusto to his role, tantalizing his young protégée and luring him with flame-haired succubi. Well and truly whipped by the marmalade pussy, Kevin Lomax bought into it like a mug and I would advise anybody who states that Reeves can’t act to check out his heartbreaking response to personal loss as he loses his precious Christabella.

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Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it is far less troublesome an endeavor summoning the dark lord. Spike and Hoax had him on speed dial in Robert Englund’s passable 976-Evil. Englund showed that he’s probably better the other side of the camera with a messy number about a guy who inherits ungodly powers by calling the Devil’s hotline. Jim Wynorski’s sequel fared marginally better but neither were particularly memorable movies to be honest.

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For Eric Weston’s Evilspeak a desktop computer provided the means of communication. Clint Howard grabbed rare leading man responsibilities as Stanley Coopersmith, a military cadet who suffered from a dearth of social skills and, tired of being subjected to smarting wedgies, decided to turn the tables on his antagonists through technology. Bearing in mind this came out before the internet splurged onto the scene, he had decent bandwidth and contacted hell dad to bitch about his day at academy. Last laugh? His of course. Armed with a broadsword, levitation skills, and hair that made Thomas Dolby resemble Yul Bryner, he “blinded them with science”, dispatching his aggressors in all manner of grue-saturated manners. The final few minutes probably justified its place on the 39 strong DPP list of video nasties but there’s nothing exploitative about it. Just good old fashioned retribution as Stanley practiced his new necromancy skills on a whole host of hateful characters.

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One poor woman had her shower time interrupted by an oversized boar that resembled Razorback’s less attractive brother. It was a fairly shameless attempt at shoehorning in a little unwarranted full frontal female nudity as blood + bush = bucks after all, but the boar was disinterested in her supple breasts, preferring instead to get his nose down and commence swilling. The bullies’ ringleader had his still-beating aortic muscle wrenched from his ribcage as a return-wedgie just didn’t seem cruel enough to teach him a lesson. But the most delicious reprisal was saved for his troop leader who had his head split like a honeydew by Stanley’s plummeting blade. A finale to shout loud about elevated this above many of its contemporaries but it did take its sweet time getting there!

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Easily one of Wes Craven’s most distinguished works, The Serpent and the Rainbow, tackled black magic with some pretty stratespheric results. The ever reliable Bill Pullman got to dip his wet wicket into Cathy Tyson but, not long after, it all went shit-shaped for our beleaguered hero. Waking up inside a coffin would doubtless be sufficient to release the rectal gases and that’s precisely what you don’t want to do in that situation. Bill foolishly let one go and it all became a frantic struggle for precious air before any remaining oxygen dissipated.

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As if that wasn’t punishment enough for snooping into other people’s personal voodoo, he then had one testicle and a fair share of his member nailed to an iron throne in one of the most drawn-out and excruciating scenes in any man’s intimate nightmares. I presume nut #2 got off lightly but who knows? The nail may have gone in diagonally. Whatever the damage, it was clear he wouldn’t be getting his oats for a fair while afterwards. Wes made the right decision in not revealing the aftermath as it felt far more agonizing that way.

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Pinhead and his cronies raised all kinds of hell on earth after Mr Cotton opened that blasted cube and called them away from their poker game. This was much to Butterball’s displeasure as he had Royal Flush and the best poker face to boot. There can be few more unsympathetic manners in which to be tortured than to have your entire epidermis torn off like David Copperfield’s table-cloth and Frank regretted his actions instantaneously. Fortunately he’d left his smokes on the table.

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I love the Cenobites, they may have received varying treatment over the years but there can be no disputing their eminence. Their S&M themed fancy dress is frightfully authentic and they certainly are a diverse crowd. Clive Barker’s macabre creations have again not always traveled well to screen and Rawhead Rex looked like a chewed-up dog toy but the Cenobites courted madness exquisitely.

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Mrs Ganush didn’t so much raise hell as plunge poor Alison Lohman into the pits of it in Sam Raimi’s return to old values Drag Me to Hell. As if being a bank clerk wasn’t punishment enough, Alison Lohman had to deal with this festering old bag while under the beady eye of boss David Paymer. After sending her packing politely, she was gifted with a gypsy hell curse and before you knew it goats were talking, the old dear was attempting to suck face minus dentures, and she was up to her pretty little neck in sludge and embalming fluids as she learned a thing or ten about karma. It was all left to her knight in shining corduroy Justin Long to save the day and his Dodgeball skills were ultimately wasted here.

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Those Ghoulies were worth a mild punt. Not to be taken at all seriously, they didn’t require chat lines or an Amstrad 464 to find their channel to mischief, just an old latrine. Proving that leading toilet bleaches don’t remove 99.9% of stubborn household germs, they popped the lid after being summonsed via pentagram and candles. The ghoulies had their kicks, caused merry hell then sold out, became all academic and enrolling in college when a single flush would have saved them the excessive tuition fees.

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Patricia Arquette suffered a bad case of Stigmata for her sins, bearing the wounds of Jesus Christ as she gradually unravelled a sinister cover-up by the Catholic church with Gabriel Byrne’s assistance. Predictably, Rupert Wainwright’s film was none-too kindly spoken of upon its release but, proving that most critics are full of feces, it was actually a rather solid film.

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Mickey Rourke had a run-in with a pre-Rocky and Bullwinkle Robert De Niro in Alan Parker’s exceptional Angel Heart and this time the critics got it bang on the money and it quite rightly garnered a regal reception. Dark and uncompromising, it showed its shadowy heart in a punishing conclusion which endured long after the credits rolled. Intelligent, thought-provoking cinema at its finest.

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Many regard Prince of Darkness to be on the wrong side of the Carpenter landslide but I vehemently rebuff these claims. It may not be as eminent as The Thing or Halloween but, in no way, is it bereft of those wonderful Carpenter trademarks. As opposed to Assault on Precinct 13 or The Fog where the focus is keeping the evil out, here Carpenter depicted a group of survivors endeavoring to keep hell from getting out. Tension and audio were up to his usual high standard and, despite the execution not matching his finest work, it was still a bloody good movie. Besides, any film with Alice Cooper in it is essential viewing, even Monster Dog. That’s Hellraisers in a nutshell. I feel as though I have offered rather comprehensive melange of the devil’s minions, thus I’ll let you get back to your Pagan rituals. Just remember children, Vanilla Twist is still better than nothing.

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Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,

Keeper of the Crimson Quill

Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Director’s Cut 2015)

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Hell’s Belles

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I have always considered myself a sinner. When judgement day comes, laughing at that little old lady who fell on her face in the high street when I was twelve will likely see me consigned to the sin bin and, should that be so then I hope it’s too hot for clothes. If Devil’s Advocate is anything to go by, there should be plenty of natural red heads mincing about and I’ve managed to snag a few for our closing gallery. Flame-haired sirens the lot of ’em. I trust you will peruse them swiftly as Pacino has left strict instructions for me to return them to him by midnight and hell hath no fury like a Pacino stern talking.

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