Such Sights to Show You: Hellraiser ‘The Scarlet Box’ Review

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For far too long Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box was denied to American fans of Clive Barker’s visceral imagination of glamorous sadism and erotic horror. The Scarlet Box Blu-ray set was a UK exclusive but ultimately a must-own for horror fans here State side. However, unless you were the proud owner of a multi-regional player and were willing to pay the cost for international shipping, this Blu-ray collection was just beyond your reach.

Nevertheless, thanks to Arrow Video, the unthinkable happened. The definitive films that redefined Hell for a generation have finally come home to stand proudly alongside our finest horror collections.

In his directorial debut, writer Clive Barker took the story of his own chilling novella, The Hellbound Heart, and released upon the world a new dimension of horror the likes of which we had never seen before.

In the era of the slasher kings such as Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Michael Myers, a new vision was born among audiences in Barker’s searing masterpiece, Hellraiser.

Image via Mondo Digital

Its demons reshaped the entire landscape of not only the genre itself, but they also redefined our concepts of Hell. For many, Dante’s pits were replaced by the smooth shadowed corridors of the Labyrinth – and among this well-ordered maze of suffering elegance were the Cenobites led by their priest, Pinhead, who has become one of the world’s most iconic and beloved movie monsters.

Image via Rue Morgue

In both Hellraiser and its sequel Hellbound, Hell does not wait for you upon your death bed, oh no, it is far too impatient for that; but rather it is thinly veiled behind our dreary reality of sleepy wakefulness, a ready door if you will, and your desires are what unlatch the hook and make open the way.

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Hellraiser was in definite need of a proper Blu-ray release.

However, is The Scarlet Box the collection fans of the Order of Gash have been expecting? Would the hunt prove more exciting than the ultimate prize?

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I can honestly say that as a long-time Clive Barker fan, this is truly the Blu-ray set we’ve been waiting for. But I stress you have to first understand one tiny detail. I’m in the camp of fans that only watch the first two films. Many of us consider only those two to be definitively canon.

The succeeding films are like some pleasant little Apocrypha. Delightful in their own ways, true, but lacking the genius the first two pillar films established.

Yes, I’ve seen the sequels and don’t hate them. At least the ones starring Doug Bradley as the Hell Priest. But to many of us it seems as if the first two movies flow directly into one another, whereas starting with the third installment and onward the franchise changes tone dramatically.

Image via DVD Talk

So if you’re expecting this Blu-ray set to be the entire movie series like the Phantasm set which was released this past Sping, well you might be a bit disappointed. This set only gives us the first three movies.

I must stress: in no way does that mean we are cheated.

Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box not only gives us a beautifully remastered edition of the trilogy in HD, but this set is bursting with extras. An unparalleled extravaganza exploring everything possibly connected to the original movies as well as its dark lore.

Image via Amazon

Firstly, included with this set is the documentary ‘Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser’ as seen on the DVD releases of Hellraiser, Hellbound, and Hell on Earth. However, just because they re-released this documentary please don’t think they got lazy with this Blu-ray release.

Secondly, and honestly the brightest gem of this entire set, is the coveted documentary Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound.

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You have to understand, I lose my shit over horror documentaries. And following in that great sub-genre of horror docs – what Never Sleep Again was to Freddy and Crystal Lake Memories is to Jason – Leviathan was to be for Pinhead. At least that’s what I had read many years back when I first learned about Leviathan being made.

An in depth documentary about my two absolute favorite horror movies? Oh Hells yes! However, for the longest time this was another of those elusive finds. Where the hell could I buy this thing? For years I could never find a copy of this sought-after documentary. For a moment it almost felt like this was just some urban legend.

Well again, thanks to the good people over at Arrow Video, Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser is happily included here for all of us horror nerds to lose our minds over. I honestly think I’ve watched it more than the movies themselves since getting this collection. So if you’re like me, this documentary alone is worth the price of this set.

As if these jewels were not already enough we are given many more hours-worth of Hellraiser goodness.

Such as: Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score, story of the Hellraiser soundtrack that almost was. Did you know Coil was planned to originally score the film’s soundtrack? Not only do you get to hear the story that wasn’t meant to be, but you also get samples of the music that almost became the movie’s standard.

It’s funny too because I associate Christopher Young’s masterful score with the movies as much as I do the Cenobites and chains. How very different the soundtrack would have been.

Surgeon Scene, the lost Hellbound scene explained. Yup. They cover this one too.

Image via Alternate Ending

Trailers and TV Spots, Lost in the Labyrinth, Hellraiser: Resurrection, vintage interviews, and plenty more.

And Disk 4 – The Clive Barker Legacy.

Clive Barker’s short films Salome and The Forbidden. A fascinating glimpse into the early roots of Clive Barker’s philosophical horror.

Books of Blood & Beyond, a tour of Clive Barker’s written horror library, short films, plus so much more.

They’ve also included a 200 page hardback collector book, Damnation Games. It’s a definitive work detailing Clive Barker’s earliest days, and the days leading up and beyond the making of Hellraiser.

There’s also 5 collector cards, story board art and a fold-out poster. It’s enough to make your head split open. This is literally the making of a very proper (albeit demented) little shrine dedicated to the ones who walk the cold shadows of Hell. With all these temptations it’s easy to lose hours in this darkly lit labyrinth of horror history.

Image via Wikipedia

In short, this is the Hellraiser fan’s dream come true. Enjoy, my lovelies.

I want to be remembered as an imaginer, someone who used his imagination as a way to journey the limits of self, beyond the limits of flesh and blood, beyond the limits of even perhaps life itself in order to discover some sense of order in what appears to be a disordered universe, I’m using my imagination to find meaning both for myself and, I hope, for my readers.

– Clive Barker.

This has been Manic Exorcism and I give Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box a perfect 5 out of 5!