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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Horror Icon: Doug Bradley

When it comes to horror icons, this man falls into the most well known category.  He’s voice and presence on screen leave audience shaking with fear and yearning for more.  He is Doug Bradley.

Douglas William Bradley was born on September 7, 1954, in Liverpool, Lancashire, England.  Not much is known about his early life, however we do know that he attended Quarry Bank High School and developed a love for the theatre which in turn lead to him becoming close friends with Clive Barker, even founding their own theatre group entitled “Dog Company” in the 1970’s. 

Barker would focus on the writing aspect with his friend, Peter Atkins, while Bradley focused more on the acting prospects.  It was this combination of brilliant writer and phenomenal actor that would lead to one of horrors most influential series; Hellraiser.

Despite a few reports, Hellraiser wasn’t Bradley’s first role; however it was his first feature film.  Prior to that he had starred in two short films entitled Salome and The Forbidden.

But it was 1987 when Bradley became a horror icon.  His role as Pinhead, the Lead Cenobite, in Hellraiser put him on the map.  Clive Barker’s feature directing debut graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature – the man’s half brother, who is also the woman’s former lover – hiding upstairs in the attic.  Having lost his Earthly body to a trio of S&M demons (the Cenobites), he is brought back into existence by a single drop of blood on the floor.  He soon manages to convince his former flame to bring him human sacrifices to complete his body.  But nothing is that simple, especially when it’s this act of violence that causes the Cenobites to return….and they’re not happy.  (Fun Fact: This movie is based on the Clive Barker story, The Hellbound Heart)

The following year he would back up his role as Pinhead and Captain Elliot Spencer in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.  A very worthy sequel to the original film.  If you haven’t seen it because you feel that sequels always fall flat, do yourself a favor and watch this one.  Not many sequels surpass the original movie, but Hellbound: Hellraiser II comes pretty damn close.

Horror seemed to follow Doug Bradley from that point on because in 1990 Clive Barker wrote and directed Nightbreed.  Bradley was on hand to star in the film alongside David Cronenberg, Debora Weston and Craig Sheffer.  The basic storyline for Nightbreed is a community of mutant outcasts of varying types and abilities attempt to escape the attention of a psychotic serial killer and redneck vigilantes with the help of a brooding young man who discovers them.  (Fun Fact: Like Hellraiser, this was based on a Clive Barker book.  The book is Cabal)

Nightbreed is a rather unique film with classic Clive Barker trademarks.  The story isn’t completely forward, rather lying between the lines or, in this case, off screen in comments and imagination.  If you need a straight-forward, untangled plot, then this film isn’t for you.  If you like something that will let your imagination run wild, go find a copy of Nightbreed and enjoy.

As 1992 rolled around, Pinhead returned for the third installment of the Hellraiser series, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth.  Pinhead is stuck in a block after the big confrontation in part II.  The block containing Pinhead and the puzzle box is bought by a young playboy as a sculpture.  Pinhead manages to escape by getting the young playboy to lure victims to his presence so he can use their blood.  Once free, he tries to destroy the puzzle box so he never needs to return to Hell however there’s a young female reporter, who just happens to be investigating the grisly murders, standing in his way.

If the Hellraiser series ended with this film, I wouldn’t be disappointed.  It didn’t have the same flare as the other two films, but it would have been a nice way to round out the series.  Bradley as Pinhead was, once again, flawless as the now iconic character took charge of the film and thus gaining more fans.  Naturally, the series wouldn’t end there.

As the early to mid 90’s rolled around, Bradley found himself appearing on Inspector Morse as well as staring in the TV movie The Big Game.

In 1995 he returned to the horror genre in Proteus.  The premise for this film is a group of heroin smugglers find shelter on an abandoned oil rig after their ship explodes.  Soon they find out why the oil rig was abandoned; it was a cover for a biological experiment. 

I, personally, am not really interested in alien inspired movies, but this was an enjoyable way to pass the time on a cold, rainy day.  The film itself isn’t too noteworthy.  The characters aren’t that interesting, the script was terrible in parts and the ending is far to cliché for my liking.  Even the monsters seemed out of place, boarder lining on comical in appearance.  If you like ‘bad’ movies, or if you’re just incredibly bored, then check out Proteus; it will provide you with a few laughs and enough blood, atmosphere and horror elements to make it worthwhile for horror fans.

Fast forward to 1996 and Pinhead was back.  This time in Hellraiser: Bloodline.  The movie is set in the year 2127.  Pinhead has found himself on board a space station run by scientist Dr. Merchant, whose mission is to close the gates to Hell forever.  Why?  Well, it was his ancestor, a toy maker in the 18 century that had built the evil puzzle box to begin with.

This movie has my friends torn.  The diehard Hellraiser fans love it, where as I think they had run out of serious ideas to what to do with Pinhead and his Cenobites.  Bradley, as always, was amazing and Kim Myers and Bruce Ramsay were outstanding, but the storyline was a little disappointing.  If you’re a Hellraiser fan, or you want to complete your collection, get it, otherwise leave it be.  You’re not missing much.

Also in 1996 Bradley teamed up with fellow Horror Icon, Robert Englund, for the Spanish comedy/horror La lengua asesina.  (Fun Fact: This movie’s English name is Killer Tongue)  I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life.  Sure there are some horror elements, some very interesting deaths, but mostly this is just a hoot.  The storyline is as follows; A woman brings four pastel colored poodles to a desert gas station with the loot from a heist while her partner does time in jail.  A meteorite crashes nearby and transforms the woman into an alien with a vicious, gigantic tongue.  As for her poodles, they get turned into drag queens.  It’s a weird story, but if you’re feeling down and need a laugh, it’s not a bad film to perk up your spirits.

1998 saw Clive Barker team up with Bradley again, this time for a video entitled Clive Barker’s Salome & The Forbidden.  Not a movie as such as more of a collective piece of works.  Keep your eyes open for Peter Atkins and Anne Taylor.

As the year 2000 came around, Pinhead was back, this time in Hellraiser: Inferno.  This straight to video movie wasn’t too bad and saw a shady police detective becoming embroiled in a strange world of murder, sadism and madness after being assigned a murder investigation against a madman known only as “The Engineer.”

My only quam with this film is that the acting was a little sub-par.  The film itself was outstanding.  Pinhead returned to what he was like in the first two movies and this film does require you to think, bringing back the style of the first two films.  This is a worthy sequel and a must see.  Bradley is nothing shy of outstanding.

Two years later, Pinhead returned to video in Hellraiser: Hellseeker.  This time Bradley wasn’t the only returning face.  Ashley Laurence reprised her role as Kristy once again.  This time Kristy is all grown up and married to Trevor Gooden (Dean Winters).  Her memory of everything that happened involving the Cenobites has dimmed slightly, but she’s still traumatized.  One day they are involved in a car accident, which kills Kristy.  Now Trevor finds himself in strange world filled with sex, greed and murder, making him believe that he may be in Hell.  He follows the clues about the car accident, and the strange puzzle box that he’s been left with, all the way to Pinhead.  (Fun Fact: Like Hellraiser: Inferno, Hellseeker was originally a non-Hellraiser related horror script)

Hellseeker is intense and very suspenseful, building a truly disturbing atmosphere that keeps you guessing until the very end.  A lot of my friends weren’t into it; however it certainly kept my attention.  One of my favorite in the Hellraiser series.

In 2005, Bradley once again took on the role of Pinhead for Hellraiser: Deader.  After investigating crack addicted junkies for a newspaper article, a journalist watches a bizarre video tape that shows a group of youngsters in Bucharest apparently becoming zombies through the power of their leader.  A member of the group invites her out, and once in Romania, Amy Klein (the journalist) finds the member dead…and a strange puzzle box in her hands.

This is probably my least favorite of the series.  Bradley’s role was minuscule to say the least.  This story was a pre-existing movie simply entitled Deader, but producers thought it would make a great installment in the Hellraiser franchise.  No, it didn’t.  The Cenobites really didn’t fit in with the story at all and the film was left flat. 

That same year, Bradley was back looking like he had a bad case of acupuncture in Hellraiser: Hellworld.  There’s a reason why these last two went straight to video.  They certainly lack the spark and charm of the original movies.  Only get them if you want to complete your Hellraiser collection.

In 2006, Bradley found himself in a TV movie entitled Pumpkinhead: Ashes To Ashes.  Not the greatest movie, but it has its moments.  Bradley plays Doc Fraser who, along with his family, are selling body parts and have a barn full of uncremated bodies.  When the town finds out, they hunt out Marie Laveau, a which that lives in the woods who can bring back Pumpkinhead.  (Fun Fact: This was filmed in Romania)

Not as good as anything that had come before it, but it certainly was gory.  If you like blood, guts and gore without much else, this is the type of film for you.

2008 saw Bradley make a small appearance in The Cottage.  In a remote part of the countryside, a bungled kidnapping turned into a living nightmare for all four central characters when they cross paths with a psychopathic farmer.  An interesting film to say the least, but I wish that Bradley was seen more.  If you want to know what to look for, his character is the Villager with the dog.

Also that year, Bradley loaned his voice to narration for Ten Dead Men.  A film about revenge, Ten Dead Men is classed as an action/crime/thriller styled movie, although I do have to say it does hold a few small elements of horror.  An interesting movie that will appeal to most horror fans.

The following year, Bradley found his name attached to another Clive Barker project.  Clive Barker’s Book Of Blood is essentially a haunted house story.  Although, when it comes to Clive Barker’s work, we know it’s more involved than that.  A paranormal expert discovers a house that is at the intersection of so called “highways” transporting souls in the afterlife.

I enjoyed Book Of Blood, but I know some of my friends who had actually read the books were extremely disappointed with the film as they had very high expectations and felt like none of the characters were interesting enough to keep focus.

I did enjoy the events in Tollington House.  Some of it was very creepy and Bradley certainly stole the attention from anyone else on screen.  If you haven’t read the books, you’ll enjoy the movie, otherwise, lower expectations.

Also in 2009, Bradley found himself in a western/horror mix called A Vampire’s Tale.  (Fun Fact: This movie is also called Umbrage: The First Vampire)  When a dysfunctional family moves into a remote farm, terror emerges from the darkness in the form of a vampire cowboy hell bent on revenge.

This low budget movie wasn’t too bad.  Wasn’t Academy Award winning, but it certainly could hold its own.  Forget Pinhead, Bradley’s character was human, showing us a range that fans had not really seen before. 

I’m not one for remakes, but with a larger budget and a little reworking on the script, this film could go from a “Yeah, it’s okay” to a must see film.  If you’re a fan of Doug Bradley, I highly recommend checking it out as it really is worth a watch.

Want a movie that’s better than Last Rite, but not quite as interesting as Emily Rose, then check out Doug Bradley in the 2010 Spanish movie Exorcismus.  The film was interesting, provided the right amount of suspense mixed with gore and shocks to satisfy the toughest horror critic.  Enjoyable.

In 2011, Bradley found himself starring alongside Rutger Hauer in The Reverend.  A vampire tale that gives a new line of bloodsuckers a chance to strut their stuff.  Unaffected by daylight, crosses and holy water, this story sees a member of the clergy bitten by a female vampire and uses his new found powers for good, not evil.  Terrible script, substandard effects and what’s most disturbing is that Bradley didn’t bring his A game to this film. 

In 2012, Bradley teamed up with Bill Moseley for The Infliction before starring with Christopher Mann and Ernie Hudson in Deer Crossing.  Both are fairly interesting movies in their own right, if you go into it not expecting anything outstanding.

Also in 2012, Bradley found himself guest starring in the fifth installment of the Wrong Turn series, appearing as Maynard in Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines.  Interesting, but is really just another pointless slasher film.  If you liked the series, or you’re like me and a slasher fan, check it out.  Good way to kill a couple of hours, no pun intented.

As 2013 gets started, Bradley has got a long list of horrors lined up, including the completed Scream Park, which gives a new meaning to theme parks in general.  He’s also got in the works Shame The Devil, Deer Crossing 2: The Legend Of Carvin County and Taryn Barker: Demon Hunter.

Doug Bradley.  A man of many talents.  From acting on stage to starring in films to releasing his own audio books called Spinechillers in which he reads classic stories from H.P. Lovecraft, Rudyard Kipling, J. Milton Hayes and Edgar Allan Poe, Doug Bradley has certainly kept himself busy within the genre that kickstarted his career.

Horror wouldn’t be the same without Doug Bradley’s contribution.  There would be no iconic Hellraiser.  There would be no chilling voice that brings out the scariest of words.  There would be no career for a man of great talents.  Now if only we can get him back to play Pinhead one last time.

Rhiannon’s Top 5 Doug Bradley Movies

1)  Hellraiser (1987) – It launched Doug Bradley’s career and has kept him coming back for more.

2)  Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) – One of the greatest sequels in my opinion.  A must see film.

3)  Exorcismus (2010) – Another exorcism movie, but still enjoyable.

4)  Nightbreed (1990) – Clive Barker and Doug Bradley – a perfect combination.

5)  Proteus (1995) – Funny, aliens, drug dealers, and terrible special effects.  It’s a good ‘bad’ movie.

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