Sunday, 13 October 2013

30 Days of Horror | Day 13

A Formidable Antagonist

Like so many of the other posts in this series today's topic could have been based around any number of films, because many of the sub-genres within horror require a well-crafted antagonist in order to be successful. The chain of 80s slashers in particular were the breeding ground for murderous villains that have each become iconic in their own right, spawning long lasting franchises. Today I want to talk about one of the lesser recognised of these heavy-hitters, the Cenobites of the Hellraiser series.

The Cenobites are essentially the Devils handymen, a group of bondage inspired, leather-clade demons who are all the subjects of extreme body modification. They are summoned if somebody solves the Lament Configuration puzzle box, which is surprisingly easy, and proceed to torture said puzzle solver in order to give them pleasure. Obviously their perception of what level of pain is pleasurable greatly differs from the majority of users and so conflicts regularly arise.

Hellraiser is one of the few big horror franchises of its time that has remained untouched by the remake wagon (however one is supposedly in the works) and this is probably due to it also being one of the longest lasting franchises, with the latest addition being  Hellriaser: Revelations from 2011. The issue is that with each subsequent film the quality and production values naturally lessen and so the Cenobites become less original and visually exciting, which is problematic as their appearances were integral in making them a staple of the series, taking centre stage in the later films as opposed to their original role as minor supporting characters.

Sequels aside, the Cenobites presence in the original film is what makes them so intimidating. Though they have to be summoned their presence is always the cause of great anticipation and fear. They look horrific and the actions that they carry out on other characters in the story are horrific. The design, costuming and make-up is all fantastic and they are without a doubt some of the most original antagonists of any horror film. The use of practical effects during the torture sequences, though dated, is still extremely affecting and makes me wince every time. It's obvious why they became so popular with audiences and dominated the plots of the later films, but the prolonged exposure they recieve in these films lessens their impact. These demons, or angels, are so much more formidable when they only briefly show up to cause all kinds of trouble.

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