Hellraiser: Then and Now
Hellraiser is a long-running franchise in the horror realm. Pinhead is an icon in horror cinema. Even those who haven’t seen a frame of the film would recognize him.
But not everyone knows that Hellraiser was actually an adaptation. The first movie is based on a novella by Clive Barker, titled The Hellbound Heart. As the movie franchise has progressed, it’s lost plenty of its ties to the original source material. However, with the announcement of the upcoming reboot that debuts on Hulu on October 7th, I wanted to take a look at the novella, the original film, and what we need to see in the reboot.
The Hellbound Heart
The entire Hellraiser franchise owes its start to the 1986 novella, The Hellbound Heart. The story begins with a man named Frank purchasing a puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration. He is given a warning that solving the puzzle will bring about beings known as Cenobites, which are extra-dimensional beings who experiment on humans while pushing the boundaries of hedonism.
Frank, of course, ignores these warnings and is brought into the dimension of the Cenobites, but realizes quickly that they are so separated from human emotions that they can not differentiate between pleasure and pain.
We then find ourselves following Frank’s brother, Rory, along with his wife, Julia. They are moving into the house in which Frank solved the puzzle and was taken by the Cenobites. A series of gross events involving Rory’s blood come to pass and Frank is brought back to our realm. However, he’s not the same.
Differences in Hellraiser (1987)
To spare any further spoilers, we’ll just look at a few key differences in the film up to the point previously discussed as most of what takes place after isn’t vastly different.
In this film, the basic plot is very spot on. This is likely due to Clive Barker having a direct hand in the making of the movie. However, there are a few key differences that will likely play a huge part in the upcoming reboot.
The first, and probably most significant, difference is Pinhead himself—or now, herself. While Pinhead has become something of a household name of horror, this is actually strictly because the film’s production team felt that needed a lead villain.
In the novel, Pinhead is only mentioned once. Rather than having one primary antagonist, the novel shows the Cenobites as an equal group of antagonists without a dedicated leader. In the 80s, however, horror movies were tied to iconic villains—Freddy, Jason, Michael, etc…—and the studio knew they would need a leader. When the make-up and effects team were done, Doug Bradley’s Pinhead stood out among the rest. They had found their leader.
Most importantly, while the Pinhead we all know and love is a man, the Pinhead that appears in the book is female. We’ll come back to that later.
Another key difference is Frank’s journey through the tortures of the Cenobites. In the movie, Frank’s story line is rather quickly run through without too much detail. They just include the essentials to get to the point of him being brought back. In the book, we get much more information on the realm the Cenobites are from, who they are, why they exist, and more. I will spare the details, as I highly recommend giving the book a read to get more of the lore.
Most of the other differences between the book and movie are smaller. For instance, Rory’s name in the movie is Larry. The book takes place in England, while the movie is in the US. Then there’s the protagonist, Kirsty. In the film she is Larry’s daughter, while in the book she’s just a friend of Rory’s with a romantic attraction to him.
Hellraiser‘s Reboot: What We Hope to See
In early 2019, it was announced that Hulu would be debuting a reboot of the original Hellraiser film on October 7th, 2022. This film will feature a female Pinhead as the primary antagonist, played by actress Jamie Clayton, while the story follows a young woman named Riley as she tries to find the connection between the puzzle box and her brother’s mysterious disappearance.
While this is clearly a further deviation from the source material in terms of the baseline story, modernizing it to make it more in tune with current times is not a bad thing. However, there are some things we hope to see in the reboot that didn’t make it into the original, which could be incredible additions to the new story.
First and foremost, we need more depth into the lore of the Cenobites. We need to see more of the Labyrinth, Leviathan, The Order of The Gash, all of the things that were heavily detailed in the book. Some of the later movies in the original run did explore these more, but for a new audience that hasn’t seen the full run of the first ten Hellraiser films this could be a great establishing point for the lore itself.
We’d also love to see more new Cenobites. We have gotten a few glimpses of the upcoming movie in screenshots and stills, where one new, never before seen Cenobite has been featured. Known as The Masque, it looks incredible! The creative possibilities in this realm are endless.
Even a revamped look at some of the original, fan-favorite Cenobites should be exciting. With modern special effects, looking at a Cenobite like Chatterer could potentially be the thing of nightmares!
Lastly, but quite possibly the most important, give us some depth to Pinhead. In the original, the only thing that really separated Pinhead from the rest of the Cenobites was that he was the mouthpiece. That’s all. He spoke the most. There is a mythology of Pinhead being the priest of hell, and that needs to be explored more to add more depth to the character.
I’m really excited for the potential of this reboot, and hope that it’s a smash hit. Hulu has already released a new title in a beloved franchise with Prey, which you can read my thoughts on here. This is another opportunity for them to breathe new life into a beloved franchise that has been struggling.