In the bare bedroom of a London suburban house, bored sensualist Frank Cotton solves the mystery of a Chinese puzzle-box and enters a world of exquisite cruelty presided over by the Cenobites, glamorous sadists with a penchant for ripped flesh, steaming viscera and flayed muscle. Later, restored to life by his brother Larry's blood, Frank rises half-formed from a pool of slime. When Larry's wife (and Frank's ex-lover) Julia agrees to provide the human meat he needs to put flesh on his bones, the three become involved in an infernal triangle... Barker's dazzling debut as a director creates such an atmosphere of dread that the astonishing visual set pieces simply detonate in a chain reaction of cumulative intensity. His use of the traditional 'teenage screamer' heroine (Larry's daughter) tends to undercut the unsettling moral ambiguities of the adult triangle, and the brooding menace of the Cenobites is far more terrifying than the climactic rollercoaster ride. These are small quibbles, however, in a debut of such exceptional promise. A serious, intelligent and disturbing horror film.
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