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Franchise: Hellraiser
aka: Hellraiser III Hell On Earth
Angels to some, Demons to others.note 

"Oh, 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:

These films provide examples of:

The series in general:

  • All There in the Manual: Blurbs on the packaging of several of the minor Cenobites' action figures give them backstories.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Come to daddy."
    • "What's your pleasure, sir?"
  • Artifact of Doom/Summoning Artifact: The Lament Configuration; leads to an Oh Crap moment at the conclusion of each of the first several sequels.
  • 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.
  • Badass Boast:
  • Bald of Evil: You'd be hard-pressed to find a Cenobite who isn't bald.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: The second and fourth films but started with the first. Frank's heart is still there, after all.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil:
    • 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.
  • Breakout Villain: Pinhead.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Probably just a coincidence, but at one point in Bloodline its mentioned John has a brother, and at the end of Deader its revealed Winter is descended from Lemarchand...
    • The strange hobo from the first film. It turns out he's a demon and he takes the box back for himself.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Kirsty's boyfriend Steve is never mentioned after surviving the first film.
  • Darker and Edgier: Yes, even for a series that started off the way this one did.. The fifth (Inferno) and sixth (Hellseeker) films don't have the Gorn from the other films and are more psychological, dealing with characters who have become ensnared by the box. Instead of immediately getting dragged in and ripped apart by Pinhead and his cronies, they live out a personal Hell with manifestations of their wrongdoings tormenting them. No happy endings are to be found here. At the end, Pinhead, who acts more like a judge, gives a Breaking Speech and drops a Laser-Guided Karma bomb on our Jerk Ass protagonists.
  • 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 assist The Protagonist in both films. Pinhead explicitly describes his group as "demons to some, angels 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pinhead is very deadpan on the snark.
  • 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.
  • Death by Materialism: Everybody just has to have the Lament Configuration.
  • Development Hell: The remake is stuck in it.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Leviathan is a deity in the Cenobite dimension and never seen directly because it's too weird.
  • Expanded Universe: A surprisingly large, detailed one.
  • Evil Is Visceral: Uses this trope in the extreme; lots of gorn and body horror.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Pinhead's signature deep voice. "WE'LL TEAR YOUR SOUL APART!"
  • Evil Versus Evil: Sadistic aliens/demons vs antagonistic humans.
  • 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.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Show up quite often, and not just in the film set in space.
  • 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.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The word "cenobite" originally referred to a monastic living as part of a religious community. Since the release of Hellraiser and its sequels, however, the word now brings to mind pain-loving demons.
  • 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.
  • Hooks and Crooks: Cenobites attack their victims with hooks on chains.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Cenobites.
  • 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.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The Cenobites, but also most of the people who knowingly use the box. The latter tend to regret the choice, however.
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: As the series went on, Pinhead starts to give these speeches to the people he tortures.
  • The Power of Blood: The first three films have Frank, Julia and Pinhead coming back via blood.
  • Variable-Length Chain: Pinhead's specialty is shooting out chained hooks from nowhere with no indication on how long they are.
  • The Voiceless: Every Cenobite (except Pinhead) that appears after Bloodline.
  • Was Once a Man: Every Cenobite was once human, which would later become an inspiration for one Kentaro Miura. Also, when a Cenobite dies, his or her body returns to its original form.
  • Weapon of Choice:
    • Pinhead: The hooked chains.
    • Female: A sickle
    • Julia likes hammers.
  • Welcome to Hell: Literally, in this case.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Most of the Cenobites, when you understand that all of them were created from severe, unyielding emotional pain.
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic:
    • 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.

The comic books:

  • Bad with the Bone: Refugees from the Labyrinth in the Hellraiser Summer Special craft the bones of one of their dead members into weapons to battle the Legions of Hell, since only something "of Hell" can harm something else "of Hell".
  • Broad Strokes: Word of God has stated the Boom! Studios comics will be taking this approach to the post-Hellbound sequels.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: One comic featured one of these. She summons the Cenobites and agrees to go with them willingly if they help her take revenge on the neighbor who had been capturing and torturing her cats to death.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Clown from the comic series was originally a Saturday morning show host named Winky Dink who wound up becoming a Pseudo-Cenobite, charged with keeping the children who wind up in The Labyrinth occupied so they don't run amok, causing chaos. He does so through pretty disgusting ways (not entirely by choice though, since Leviathan punishes him if he does anything remotely pleasant). A later story reveals he'd been upgraded to a complete, overly-sadistic Cenobite at some point, having finally gotten his "routine" right.
  • Fartillery: The Harrowers, a shortly-lived Spin-Off, has Ovid. A cherub who serves the goddess of life and chaos. One of his powers is anti-demon farts.
  • Hand Of Glory: Balberith, Hell's Librarian created a Hand from the man who summoned her that turned her invisible.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: It's stated that Leviathan abhors humanity, viewing it as chaotic and disgusting.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: The comics had the series crossover with Marshal Law and Nightbreed.
  • Jack the Ripper: One comic reveals that The Ripper became a Cenobite.
  • King of the Homeless: One comic has a literal King of the Homeless, holding court in the sewers.
  • Monster Clown: The comics gave us the Clown Cenobite (aka Winky Dink).
  • Order Versus Chaos: According the comics, the Cenobites are order. In one of the more comedic stories, an obnoxious, lazy office worker spends all his time tinkering with one of the puzzle boxes, distracting his fellow employees and annoying his borderline Clock King boss, who easily solves the puzzle for him, summoning some Cenobites. The Cenobites prepare to take the boss to the Labyrinth, only to be told off by him; the boss says he only solved the puzzle because it was disrupting the order, productivity and perfectionism he constantly strived for, which the Cenobites are now doing. The Cenobites mull this over for a bit, eventually decide the boss is essentially "doing Leviathan's work" and decide to take the employee, who the boss had earlier described as "a gear that has become misaligned", in his place.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: In the comics, Pinhead wishes to become human again because all Cenobites experience Sense Loss Sadness when they are transformed, and he is sick of it. But to do that, he needs to find a suitable replacement...

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alternative title(s): Hellraiser; The Hellbound Heart
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