The best horror movies available on Amazon Prime Video

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Screenshot: hellraiser

Working on a modest budget, director Clive Barker has crafted a gory fairy tale with a wicked, if not downright evil, stepmother in the form of stage actress Clare Higgins. Playing the wife of ineffectual husband Andrew Robinson (dirty harry), Higgins barely hides his contempt as the two move into a family home once inhabited by Robinson’s now-defunct hard-living brother, with whom Higgins once had an affair. Thanks to supernatural forces, Robinson’s brother somehow returns as a bunch of skinless organs that begs Higgins to kill for him in an effort to flesh out his half-formed body. Meanwhile, Robinson’s scream-prone girl (Ashley Laurence) begins to suspect things might go wrong, a suspicion confirmed by the arrival of four pale demons outfitted in bondage gear. One of them, a bald demon with nails driven into his skull, became the most enduring image of hellraiser and its aftermath, and rightly so. A deeply unsettling S&M-inspired creature whose blurring of the division between pleasure and pain extends to a blurring of the division between good and evil, it perfectly and instantly encapsulates some of Barker’s themes. Pinhead barely appears in hellraiser, a film that, with its intense and uncomfortable family drama, might have even worked without it. With it, however, it becomes one of the most innovative and memorable horror films of the 80s, a happy medium between mainstream fare and the work of David Cronenberg, in its most powerful moments evoking the ability of the latter to make viewers uncomfortable in their own bodies. [Keith Phipps]

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