Left to right: Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence), Larry Cotton (Andrew Robinson), Julia Cotton (Clare Higgins), Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman/Oliver Smith)
Somewhere in Morroco: An old Chinese dealer asks, "What's your pleasure, Mr. Cotton?" Frank Cotton lays down a wad of cash and replies . . . the Box. "Take it, it's yours," the dealer smiles. After Frank leaves, the dealer finishes his comment, " . . . it always was."
Back at his house in England, Frank sits in the dark, a square line of candles surround him. He begins fiddling with the puzzle box. From a simple square shape, it forms into more complex shapes. As it's forming shapes, light and sounds appear, a squeal of unoiled winches the rasp of hooks and razors being sharpened. When it resumes the square shape agains, an electrical charge is emitted and suddenly chains and hooks pierce into Frank's flesh as he screams.
We cut to an outside view of the house. Number 55 Lodovico Street: an old, three storey, late Victorian house, with gaunt trees lining its overgrown garden. It's curtains are drawn, there is newspaper over it's top window. Inside we see Number 55 has been left unoccupied for some time, it seems, though much of it's furniture remains, covered in dust-sheets. On the mantelpiece of one room, a plaster saint.
In the kitchen, evidence of life here. Opened tins, bread, and bottles of spirits. We move upstairs, the images still divided by darkness. We see the upper landing. An open door, and through it, a makeshift bed, blankets strewn. An open suitcase, and it's contents; more liquor. We move up a flight, and approach a room off the top landing, the door of which is also slightly ajar. . . The Torture Room.
The bare bulbs in the room we've entered swing violently, disorienting us. There are chains - dozens of them - disappearing with the darkness of the ceiling: all are swinging back and forth. Some end in hooks, with pieces of skin and sinew adhering; some are serrated, others simply drip blood. Dark figures appear, first a female and then a male figure. They collect pieces of flesh from the floor, assembling what was once Frank's face.
On the blood-spattered floor, is the box, some six inches square, which resembles an elaborate Chinese puzzle box. It's called the Lament Configuration, and it's a way to raise Hell . . . literally. The male figure reaches down and picks the box up. In close up we see just what an elaborate construction it is, made up of sliding panels and mysterious chambers. It is open at present, its polished innards exposed.
The hands, which belong to one of the demons - a Cenobite - move over the box. Delicately, the hands begin to reconstruct the box, sliding the well-oiled parts back into place. We catch sight of monstrous faces, but only for the briefest of moments. Then they're gone. The box is returned to its unopened condition. At last, a long shot of the room. At the far end the window is covered with yellowed newspapers.
There is dust settling through the air. Otherwise it is empty. It's as if nothing ever happened here. Except ... Somewhere, very quietly, a creaking that could be the sound of floorboards, or the low, agonized gasp of a thing barely alive. Our view sweeps through the house, cobwebs and dust form implying a signifcant lapse of time until we reach the front door . . .
Hallway, the door of Number 55: From the doorstep, voices. One is that of Larry Cotton, the other his wife Julia. Clearly Larry is attempting to get inside. We hear the sound of keys tried in the lock, the door swings open. We see the pair on the doorstep. Larry is an American in his early forties, an attractive man who has lost his edge in recent years. He looks harassed; he smirks too much. A little, but significant, corner of him is utterly defeated.
Julia is English: and looks perhaps ten years his junior. She is beautiful, but her face betrays a barely buried unhappiness. Life has disappointed her too, of late: and Larry has been a major part of their disappointment. They step over the threshold. Larry hasn't been here for ten years. Larry wanted to sell it after the old lady died, but Frank insisted on keeping it. Larry leads Julia through from the hallway to explore the ground floor. He steps into a large room, where we see the plastic saint adorned with christmas lights.
Julia lingers in the doorway, she is unimpressed. Larry is getting more enthusiastic about the place by the moment. Julia is apprehensive about moving in, but Larry works to peruade her. We are hearing the tip of a debate they've had dozens of times, which immediately annoys them both. She wanders up the stairs, her face charged with suppressed feeling. She's sick of Larry; his enthusiasm depresses her, his compromises anger her. What's between them is stale, like this house.
Larry has stepped into the kitchen, to find the remains of the food we briefly glimpsed earlier, now rotted and fungal. It smells, to judge the expression on his face. It also puzzles him. Then, from above, Julia calls to him. He joins her in a room upstairs. A makeshift bed lies on the floor with other belongings.
Larry realizes it belongs to Frank and surmises he made one of his famous get-aways. Julia almost flinches at the name. The phone rings downstairs, Larry races down to answer. It' Kirsty, the daughter of Larry's first marriage, and his only child, on the phone. She is barely twenty, beautiful in an unpretensious way: a dream of a girl-next-door. He tries to persuade her to stay with them, but she wants no part of it.
While they talk, Julia goes through Franks' personal belongings. Besides clothes there's a lot else that speaks of its owner: bric-a-brac picked up in a lifetime of adventuring; handful of bullets; fragments of an erotic statue; coins and notes from a dozen countries. Amongst the stuff, some photographs. One pictures a good-looking intense man in his mid to late thirties, in bed with a naked Chinese girl. Hurriedly, she selects a photograph of Frank, and leaves the room. She finally relents and agrees to move into the house.