From left to right: Butterball, Pinhead, The Female, and The Chatterer
"No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering."
— Pinhead, Hellraiser
Hellraiser is a 1987 film based on Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart. The film has gone on to spawn eight sequels (only one of which - the second - Barker was directly involved with) as well as an upcoming 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:
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996). Last theatrically-released entry.
Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
This film provides examples of:
All There in the Manual: Blurbs on the packaging of several of the minor Cenobites' action figures give them backstories.
In the book, Pinhead is present but is not the lead Cenobite. The female Cenobite, the Chatterer, and the Engineer all have more prominent roles, but the film adaptation prevented this. The Chatterer could not speak (and the actor could not see), the Engineer was completely remade to the point it's unrecognizable and demoted and the female Cenobite, while capable of speaking, has makeup that severely limited the actress' head and facial movements. Though fixed by the sequel, these problems meant Pinhead took point. Now he's the face of horror films to the western civilization.
Butterball had some lines in the original script but due to the makeup preventing the actor from speaking, his lines were either cut or given to the female Cenobite.
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.
Bittersweet Ending: End of the first film. The Cenobites have been defeated and Kirsty has escaped the flaming wreckage of her father's home with her boyfriend but her dad is dead. Also the box she tried to destroy is saved and she spends the rest of the series trying to escape the Cenobites.
The novella and the first movie or so. The Cenobites inhabit a dimension of pure pleasure...only their idea of "pleasure" is so far removed from what is "normal" that an ordinary human would consider it weirdly discomfiting at best, agonizing torture at worst. The Cenobites don't consider their victims to be victims at all: they're giving them what they think they want.
Those who use the box with better understanding are people who are addicted to the extremes of sensation, both pain and pleasure, amd often blurring the line between the two before ultimately erasing it completely. The Cenobites are effectively priests of an S&M religion.
Body Horror: The cenobites are sadistic monsters; this happens regularly.
Bondage Is Bad: A popular misconception of the Cenobites. The first film portrays them as amoral, if extreme, Sense Freak types.
Broad Strokes: Word Of God has stated the Boom! Studios comics will be taking this approach to the post-Hellbound sequels.
Brother-Sister Incest: Steven and Emma in Revelations. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Dirty Cop: Detective Joseph Thorne in Inferno. He cheats on his wife with prostitutes, neglects his family, brutalizes his informant, steals evidence, does drugs, frames his partner...
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The female Cenobite inserting her fingers into her own exposed trachea in the first film - among innumerable other examples likely to make you ill.
Doomed by Canon: Hellraiser: Bloodline. You know that the past attempts of the Merchant family are completely useless throughout the entire film. If they weren't, then Dr. Paul Merchant would not still be trying to undo his ancestor's mistake at the film's start.
Downer Ending: Amy Klein may not have been taken by Cenobites, but she's still dead.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Angelique is the princess of HELL. After she fails to corrupt the modern descendant of Lemarchand, Pinhead takes her to Hell with him and remakes her in his image. The next time we see her, she's just another Cenobite in his retinue.
Eye Scream: The Butterball Cenobite has his eyes sewn shut; Chatterer, meanwhile, usually has skewers through his. Also, one of the nightclub patrons in Hell on Earth gets hooked right in the eye. Finally, the Wire Twins in Inferno seem to be lacking eyes.
Fanservice: As the series went on, there seemed to be more and more topless women just for the sake of having topless women.
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.
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.
For Want of a Nail: A rather literal example in the first movie. While moving furniture, Larry cuts his hand on a protruding nail and bleeds all over the floor. It's this blood that Frank first uses to reconstruct his body and return to the world of the living. If not for that stupid nail, Larry, Julia and Kirsty might have just gone on living in the house, and Frank might have stayed in Hell.
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.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: The two detectives from Hellseeker. They're the same entity, torturing the villainous protagonist throughout, and a callback to the question of whether the cenobites are angels or demons.
Gorn: Lots of visersal and bloody; the cenobites are delivers of pain after all.
Identical Grandson: Bruce Ramsey portrays three members of the Merchant family across 400 years (Phillip L'Merchant in 18th century France, John Merchant in 20th century France, and Paul Merchant in 22nd century space) in Bloodlines.
Impaled Palm: In Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Pinhead pulls two nails from his head and shoves them through the palms of his hands, deliberately mocking the resultant crucifixion imagery to freak out Joey.
When Frank accidentally stabs Julia in the first film, he states that it's "nothing personal, baby". In the second film, Julia throws that line back at Frank when she quite intentionally (and quite literally) rips his heart out.
When the Cenobites finally recapture Frank in the first film, he delivers this last line to Kirsty before being ripped apart: "Jesus wept." Kirsty throws that line back to him in the second.
Ironic Hell: Often. Prominently with Frank's own Hell in Hellbound.
It Gets Easier: Julia starts off reluctantly killing a man to restore Frank's body. The subsequent ones are easier, but for a while she still pleads for her husband's life. By the end she is completely calm and at ease when Frank kills Larry and steals his skin.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The sequel Hellworld 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.
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.
Monster Clown: One shows up in Tiffany's Hell in Hellbound, and the comics gave us the Clown Cenobite (aka Winky Dink).
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.
Nice job restoring Pinhead's humanity, Kirsty. Too bad that his evil side no longer follows his rules.
In Revelations, 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.
Off-the-Shelf FX: Pinhead's "pins" in Hellbound are Q-tips without the cotton-balls, painted gray.
Tap on the Head: Half the horror comes from averting this trope, in much of the first film. Murders are by smashing someone on the head with a small hammer, and the first blow NEVER works.
The Other Darrin: The actress who played the Female Cenobite in Hellbound isn't the same one who played her in the original, but it's not that noticeable. In Revelations, it's very noticeable that Doug Bradley isn't Pinhead.
Flashbacks in Deader implicate Amy was sexually abused by her father.
The lurking phantom of parental incest is all over the first two films. "Come to daddy" and all that. There's no evidence that it actually happened, but the idea is pretty firmly put into viewer's heads. Well, aside from Frank not being above sleeping with his brother's second wife. Even if he's not Kirsty's father, though, the implications as her uncle aren't much better.
Incidentally, that was a line taken directly from the novella where Kirsty is twenty-six and a friend rather than the daughter. Doesn't make it any less creepy though.
Redemption Equals Death: Pinhead, Butterball, Chatterer and the Female all die shortly after remembering their humanity in Hellbound.
Religion of Evil: The Deaders in Deader, and 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.
Larry from the first film. Paying so little attention to your house and to your wife's strange behavior can get you killed.
Kyle from the second; went to a house where Julia was, then decided to split up, didn't ask a strange woman who she was and what was doing there, and when she started to behave oddly didn't run away. What an Idiot indeed.
Took a Level in Badass: Julia went from being a reluctant and remorseful killer who tried her best to save Larry Cotton from Frank in the first film to a hardened killer in the second, who took great joy in being evil. Probably an after-effect from being betrayed, killed, tortured and resurrected. This is explicitly stated in the sequel as Julia is now an agent of the Leviathan, the same possibly divine entity that commands the Cenobites.
The Power of Blood: The first three films have Frank, Julia and Pinhead coming back via blood.
This Was His True Form: After being killed by the Channard Cenobite in Hellbound, the other Cenobites turn back into humans.
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. Also, Tiffany from Hellbound.
What Could Have Been: The music for the first film was originally done by Coil (they were hired by Clive Barker after he listened to one of their albums and nearly got sick due to how brutal their music was) but the studio ended up rejecting it due to its content. Their score ended up getting released separately and Christopher Young did the score that ended up in the film (which launched his career as a composer).
Where The Hell Is Springfield: Larry refers to the city they've moved to as Julia's "turf" yet the residents have an odd mixture of both American and English accents. One person is seen wearing a New York Yankees ballcap
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 Bloodlines 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.