Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (2015)

The 1980s were a boom time for horror franchises, but one stood apart from the Freddy and the Jason pack, with a unique sense of maturity, darkness and perversity. Leviathan is a Kickstarter funded labour of love documentary that aims to explore the roots of Hellraiser, and its sequel Hellbound, and how writer/director Clive Barker came from fringe theatre in Liverpool to the big screen in Hollywood.

Although hampered by limited resources to being, cinematically at least, little more than a series of talking heads, the story Leviathan tells is more than fascinating enough to sustain interest for fans of the films. Director Kevin McDonagh has managed to round up many of Barker's theatre collaborators, many of whom ended up involved in the films, such as Hellbound writer Peter Atkins, and most famously, Doug Bradley, who played Pinhead. Their stories of life on the road with the Dog Company theatre troupe help provide some insight into the journey from stage to page to big screen. However, they also leave no doubt that despite the collaborative and collective nature of the organisation, Barker was the prime mover.

Eventually though, it dawns on you that his is the one voice missing, presumably as he was unable or unwilling to talk. Obviously, this skewed the overall viewpoint, and was one of three factors that, by the end of the film, left me feeling as though the story was still incomplete.

The second was, although there is no shortage of people saying that the film is great and Clive Barker is a genius, this was not followed up with anywhere near enough real discussion of why the film and the characters associated with it were so original and iconic. There also no questions as to what sort of wider cultural impact did the film have, or any of the themes explored in Hellraiser.

Thirdly, despite the title, the version of Leviathan that I saw stopped abruptly just as the story got to the sequel, Hellbound, with that film getting little more than a cursory mention. Perhaps both of these complaints will be remedied on the DVD, with a longer version or bonus features. In the meantime, Leviathan is worth a look for horror fans, especially those interested in the early years of Clive Barker, even though the end product is ultimately a little frustrating for not going beyond the surface of the story.