My thoughts on the first Hellraiser, reblogged from my Letterboxd list:
Such a small film in many ways; most of it takes place in a single house, with a handful of principal players. But I think that’s what makes it so powerful, because it brings near inescapable esoteric horrors so terrifyingly close to home. That the likes of Pinhead can be reasoned with despite their unknowable nature (at least at this stage of the saga) makes it even stronger; he’s not just your run of the mill evil villain, it’s up for question whether he’s even a villain, let alone evil. Sure, it’s not quite the film Clive Barker set out to make (meddling by financiers put paid to that, like it did to an even greater degree with his next film Nightbreed) but he gets enough of his original story on screen to make a real genre-busting difference.
Hellraiser II is not nearly as good as I’d remembered it, failing as a worthy sequel by trying to explain too much (Do the Cenobites need a backstory? Are they not more frightening creatures the less we know about them?) and overreaching in terms of what the F/X people could do visually (the practical effects are great for the most part, but many of the pre-CGI matte scenes look cheap and old-fashioned, and the green screen work is shoddy). But hey, at least it’s better than Hellraiser III.