Angels to some, Demons to others.note From left to right: Butterball, Pinhead, The Female, and The Chatterer
"No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering."
— Pinhead, Hellraiser (1987)
Hellraiser is a film series based on Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart. The first film has gone on to spawn eight sequels (only one of which - the second - Barker was directly involved with) as well as a remake. The series has at its heart a puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration, which when properly solved summons the Cenobites, a cadre of sadomasochistic Humanoid Abominations. The mascot of the series is the only recurring Cenobite after the second film, the iconic Pinhead, played by Doug Bradley. He was given a choice, when filming the first movie, to play either the Cenobite or a workman who showed up for all of ten seconds - bet he's happy he went with the Cenobite.Because it's a Clive Barker production, expect much Body Horror and gleeful blurring of the line between Fetish Fuel and Fan Disservice.Films of this series include:
Ascended Meme: The "Lead Cenobite" of the first film was given the nickname of Pinhead by the film's fans. In the second film, Pinhead became his official name, and remained such through all the other sequels.
The Cenobites have been literally turned into monsters by years of hellish torment.
Frank. Even if he was a scheming jerk as a human, he didn't turn into a sadistic, vampiric killer until he had spent years in Hell with the Cenobites.
Big Bad: Pinhead for the bulk of the series, but he isn't the main antagonist until Hell on Earth. Regardless he is still The Heavy. Until then, Frank Cotton serves that role in the original while Dr. Channard plays this in the sequel.
Bigger Bad: Leviathan, the God and creator of the Cenobites. It only appears in Hellbound, but is featured with much more prominence in the comics.
Body Horror: The cenobites are sadistic monsters; this happens regularly.
Breaking Speech: As time went on Pinhead became more and more prone to these; psychological pain instead of simply physical pain.
Dark Is Not Evil: More evident in the first two films, in which the antagonists are invariably human and the Cenobites, despite being Demonic Invaders, are clearly only an interested third party. They assistThe Protagonist in both films. Pinhead explicitly describes his group as "angels to some, demons to others" in the first film.
Even more so in the novel, where (except for the soul rape you forever thing) the Cenobites are quite amiable, and do not renege on their deal with Kirsty as they do in the movie.
Dark World: The implicit setting after a character solves the puzzle box but before they're taken to the Labyrinth: the surroundings change to become deserted, blood-drenched and adorned with chains.
Deal with the Devil: When it comes right down to it, this is what the whole series is about. The pursuit of ultimate pleasure or forbidden knowledge, wherein the seeker places their trust and fate in the hands of unknown entities of supernatural origin. The Cenobites deliver. It's just that, in true Deal With The Devil style, the ultimate pleasure that the seekers get is not usually the kind they want.
Fanservice: As the series went on, there seemed to be more and more topless women just for the sake of having topless women.
Final Girl: Played straight in the first three and Hellworld but subverted in Hellseeker. Kirsty lives, but she's murdered people to escape this time. Since her husband went to Hell partly due to his desire to murder her, this implies she's condemned herself.
Gainax Ending: Hellworld, and all the made-for-video sequels to some extent. Before that, the second film, with many a movie critic complaining that the climax didn't make sense. At the very least, figuring out what the Leviathan Configuration does, and what happened at the end when Tiffany resolved it will take some guesswork on the viewer's part.
Gorn: Lots of visceral and bloody; the cenobites are delivers of pain after all.
Hellseeker: There are several characters with this mindset, and for some of them it even kind of works out: they're turned into Cenobites, and enjoy it.
Infant Immortality: Averted in a sense. The Chatterer's original, human form is briefly revealed in one scene to be a young boy.
Legacy Character: The Lemarchand family, though the Chatterer's more visible and continuously invoked. It's debatable whether it's the same character throughout the series.
Mind Rape / Mind Screw: To put it mildly, once somebody opens that puzzle box, they will never get to experience normality again.
Motive Decay: Originally, Pinhead's goal was to claim whoever opened the box (with the twist being that he was open to compromise and making deals with his victims to spare them, at least temporarily) and bring them pleasure via intensely violent and gore-filled sadomasochism. By the third film, he's a general of a hell dimension and the box, rather than being a tool for pleasure/pain, is nothing more than a cursed object used by Pinhead to ensnare fresh victims to turn into lackeys to swell the ranks of his unholy army. It is implied that having his orderly half split off at the end of the second film is largely to blame for this.
Pinhead vs. Marshall Law, which came out during a period when Clive Barker attempted to launch a Pinhead-centric comic book for Marvel, attempts to save throw Pinhead's Re Tool within the context of the then pending third film by suggesting that while the Cebonites are agents of Hell, they believe in order over chaos and that Pinhead's various schemes to conquer Earth are all an elaborate plan to scare humanity, make them stronger, and ultimately more fearful of evil.
Hellraiser IV did this far more blatantly. While there was at least an explanation for Pinhead's decay in III, in IV he had been re-merged with his human half... and yet he was AGAIN trying to plunge the entire world into hell.
Mr. Fanservice: Pinhead's human self, Captain Elliot Spencer... and Pinhead himself. As mentioned earlier, the fanservice and fan disservice is mixed...so...hot zombie?
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job restoring Pinhead's humanity, Kirsty. Too bad that his evil side no longer follows his rules.
No Name Given: "Pinhead" actually started out as a Fan Nickname (and creator Clive Barker did not like it, saying that it was undignified). He was referred to as “Priest” in scripts and “Lead Cenobite” in the credits of the films. It wasn’t until the third film (when a backstory for the character was given) that it was revealed that the name he had when he was human was Elliott Spenser. Barker has stated that his actual name as a Cenobite will be revealed in the upcoming novel The Scarlet Gospels.
The same came be said for the members of Pinhead's entourage that appeared in the first two films. None of them were referred to by name. (The credits billed them as “Butterball”, “Chatterer”, and “Female Cenobite”, which were more descriptions than names.)
Religion of Evil: the Cenobites themselves in the original novella, as servants of the Order of Gash (the word Cenobite means a monk or nun in a convent).
Romanticized Abuse: The Hellraiser films have this as a component, creeping most viewers out even further. "We have such sights to show you". The novel version The Hellbound Heart has the initial description of the female cenobite invoke piercing fetishism.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The Lament Configuration again, and the pillar in the third film, plus the floorboards and the mattress in the first and second films. All of them contain cenobites in one form or another.
Sense Freak: The Cenobites. Albeit to a very, very extreme degree.
Bloodlines: The space station is the perfected "anti-Lament Configuration" that previous Merchants couldn't get quite right.
Inferno: Joseph is a Tomato in the Mirror and his investigation of the Engineer serial killer case has been his personal Hell.
Hellseeker: Kirsty's outwitted her husband and traded him to Pinhead in exchange for her own safety.
Hellworld: A double whammy: There's nothing supernatural going on at the party. The Host has drugged the protagonists so they'll have potent enough Hellworld-related hallucinations to kill them as ironic payback for his son's Hellworld-inspired suicide. Then, when the Host is idly playing with his son's homemade Lament Configuration, it works, and the real Pinhead explains his son simply opened a gate to Hell. The Host pays for doing the same.
Revelations: The second Pinhead is Steven, the skin-stealing trick hasn't fooled Pinhead at all, and Niko's bargaining chip is worthless.
The Voiceless: Every Cenobite (except Pinhead) that appears after Bloodline.
One character in the second film solves puzzles reflexively, as she has a psychological detachment that forces her to do so whether she wants to or not. She's given the Lament Configuration so that someone else can sacrifice her to the Cenobites, while he can safely watch what happens. The Cenobites ignore her, and proceed to hunt him — his was the desire that led to the box opening.
Pinhead: It is not hands that summon us. It is desire.
In Revelations, Niko tries the same trick and also fails, although Pinhead doesn't bother spelling it out this time.
In Bloodline the same trick is used again, but with a robot. It works because the robot, being programmed to open the box, does want to in a sense close enough to draw the Cenobites to it. They are able to move through the station afterwards, once the room the box was opened in is opened.
Came Back Wrong: While most of the Deaders in the seventh film look like disheveled people with some injury relating to their death, Marla looks like an outright rotting zombie; apparently her lack of faith in Winter is the cause of this.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The film involves the fans of a cenobite-themed online group/game apparently also called "Hellraiser". This leads to lots of double entendre dialogue as, while the story still refers to the series' background as canon, there's also lots of talk about "Hellraiser fans" and whether Hellraiser is a healthy interest or something that should worry parents.
Token Minority: Derek seems to be the only black member of the cast that goes to the party.
Brother-Sister Incest: Steven and Emma. Subverted and downplayed; it's her missing boyfriend wearing her brother's skin.
Call Back: Revelations to the first film in many scenes. Niko is essentially a younger Frank, and even his first opening the box is a visual callback to Frank doing the same. As is Niko stealing someone else's skin. There's even a callback to the original novella when someone looks up the word 'Cenobite' in a dictionary and reads the actual definition aloud.
Deal with the Devil: Played with in Revelations: Niko tries to make a deal with Pinhead like Kirsty did, but Pinhead takes one look at the person he wants to trade for himself and realizes she's the kind of person who will open the box of her own accord one day, thus making her worthless as a trade.
Foreshadowing: Emma making out with her brother in Revelations even though it turns out not to be her brother later on hints at what Pinhead's opinion of her will be.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Just before Pinhead drags Niko away, Ross shoots him, saying that he has more of a claim to Niko's life than anyone. Niko thanks him with his last breath, as he's now spared an eternity with the Cenobites. Pinhead, annoyed, promptly gives Ross a Breaking Speech explaining that the suffering Niko would've endured is beyond what vengeance would call for, and calls him out for having acted purely out of a selfish need to be the instrument of vengeance himself. To satiate their appetite and claim their debt of flesh, they take his wife as a replacement for Niko.
The Other Darrin: In Revelations, it's very noticeable that Doug Bradley isn't Pinhead.
The comic books:
Broad Strokes: Word of God has stated the Boom! Studios comics will be taking this approach to the post-Hellbound sequels.