The plot of Hellraiser centers around a family and their discovery of a puzzle box. Starting with the brother Frank who buys the mysterious box from a magic undetermined Asian man in an undetermined apparently Middle Eastern country. After returning to his home Frank solves the puzzle he opens up a portal to another dimension. He is attacked by chains shooting into his skin. Flash forward to years later and the other brother Larry comes to the house with his wife Julia. They explore the home talking about fixing it up and living there. Julia goes off and discovers the room where Frank solved the puzzle and discovers photos of him with other women. Through flashbacks we discover that she was one of his lovers shortly after marrying Larry. In a bit of an unexplained Dues Ex Machina moment Larry cuts his hand on a nail in the wall, the blood drips down and seemingly returns Frank (albeit a skinless and horrifying Frank) from the other dimension.
Julia discovers the newly returned Frank and while at first is repulsed she is convinced to help him return to human form by stealing flesh from other humans. This sets off a series of events where she seduces business men at a bar to return them to the house so Frank can do his business. All the while Larry as well as his adult daughter Kirsty are none the wise and going about their business. Parallel to this Kirsty is seen with her boyfriend and working at a pet store seemingly being stalked by a homeless man with a beard. As Frank regenerates more we learn the other dimension is a kind of hell (although it is never explicitly called hell) where pain and pleasure and indistinguishable and everything is run by cenobites, human like creatures that can describes as demons. Frank managed to escape the cenobites (somehow the only person in history to ever do so) and return to our world.
Kirsty runs back to the house to warn her father about Frank and Julia. When she gets there she finds her father and Julia calm. They tell her that Frank has been dealt with and won't be a problem. Kirsty discovers that it is not actually her father but Frank wearing her father's skin to trick her and the Cenobites. The Cenobites appear seemingly also tricked by Frank and demand the man responsible for his death. Kirsty manages to get Frank to confess to killing Larry and the Cenobites after hearing the confession come to take him. Frank attempts to attack Kirsty but is hooked by the same chains from the beginning. Right before he is ripped apart his last words are a sarcastic "Jesus wept". The Cenobites still want to take Kirsty so she uses the puzzle box in reverse to send them back to their dimension.
Kirsty then tries to burn the box in a fire outside in an abandoned lot. The bearded man from before appears and walks into the fire to grab the box. He is transformed into a skeletal bird like demon and flies off with the box. The movie ends where it began with the Asian man offering the box to another unsuspecting customer.
The movie ends up falling apart in a lot of areas. The pacing of the movie is all over. The beginning feels like there's a lot of moments where things are about to start happening but they never do. There's parts that should feel like build up and tension building but don't they feel rushed and crammed in. The movie has a ton of ideas that are never really fleshed out in any meaningful way. Overall the movie just comes off as a mess that screams "look at how edgy I am!" with layers of pseudo-intellectualism. If any movie is begging for a remake to be done right, to take the time and explore these ideas that are actually terrifying it's Hellraiser. That's also on top of the rampant misogyny. The character of Julia especially is played as a harlot who's cheating on her husband with his suave brother. She seduces other men just so he can kill them and become whole all so she can sleep with him again. It could have been worse and Kirsty fares better as a character but Julia is not well written at all.
The movie scene and world were different places in 1987, Hellraiser came at the right time and it's popularity is not a surprise. However the movie does not hold up well at all. It feels like a stitched together bundle of ideas that is ripping at the seems. It would be interesting to see what a better director (Clive Barker himself admitted to having no idea what he was doing and a small budget didn't help) and writers could do with the backbones of the story in the modern age, but as it stands Hellraiser stumbles and falls. It's not hard to see why it's regarded as a classic but only in the context of when it came out. This is one movie that is more pain than pleasure.