Early this month in October 2022 I noticed a trailer for a new movie known as Hellraiser showing up in Hulu.
As the title image card shows above this classic look of pins on the face reminded me of the original Hellraiser (1987) movie that I barely remembered. So after watching this remake I realized I needed to re-watch the original. Little did I know that there were 9 more films following the original. So for the past few weeks I watched every single Hellraiser movie and this is my recap.
The original movie had an interesting plot that I think was pretty unheard of for a movie in the 80s, but were known to some via the related books. We saw director Clive Barker invent these characters known as Cenobites that are prison guards of Hell. They inflict massive amounts of damage, pain and more to those unlucky enough to unlock a box known as the Lament Configuration.
So the film starts with an individual drawn to pleasure via pain purchasing a box said to open a realm to great pleasure. This of course is via the arrival of Cenobites to capture that soul and trap it in endless pain. This movie sets up the possibility that blood spilling on the same spot where the soul was captured leads to that individual being revived as skin and bones in the real world.
The revived clump of bones and blood must kill and collect blood working their way up to stealing the skin of another individual. So this movie continues the dynamic between the Cenobites working with a human to figure out how someone has escaped Hell.
Towards the end of the movie - its clear many people are dead or trapped in Hell and the Cenobites are still in full swing. This makes it clear there must be another movie coming and sure enough one year later there was.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
This film starts with another individual obsessed with the Lament Configuration who accidentally ends up freeing a woman killed in the first movie from Hell. This movie takes us further into the ecosystem of Cenobites as there appears to be some power dynamic between the god of Hell - The Leviathan and the Cenobites.
The world is depicted as an endless labyrinth and we see how a Cenobite is made. It appears some captured souls instead of being given an endless life of torment are instead mutilated beyond belief and converted into a Cenobite. The main character we've been following between the movies ends up surviving a trip to Hell and escapes just barely after witnessing the Cenobites killed via a Leviathan's created Cenobite.
Which is the first time I lost track of what was going on. Since if the Leviathan produced the other Cenobites, then why does a recently produced Cenobite have more power and urge to eliminate the others?
All in all though, a good follow up film to further the story line from the first. With the original Cenobites dead though - the next movie would begin a deviation from the story thus far.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
The 3rd movie I was glad to see feature Doug Bradley (The lead Cenobite) again, but the story I couldn't follow. Apparently when he (Pinhead) was killed in the 2nd movie, a fragment of the Cenobite was burned into a statue. That statue could revive him back onto Earth after he drained a few bodies of blood.
After alive on Earth, he slaughtered hundreds at a dance club and began creating Cenobites from all the characters we recognized as important to the main character. This was just odd as the Cenobites in the first film were absolutely straight to code when it came to whose soul was taken. It was strictly related to whomever opened the box.
So for the lead Cenobite to return to Earth and murder a ton of people didn't really make sense to me. His grudge was with The Leviathan in Hell, so why kill a bunch of humans on Earth?
It just kinda bugged me and it looked the only thing in this movie that could be called Hellraiser was the lead Cenobite and everything else was just an attempt at a crash grab.
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
This movie was an attempt like most films to go back and time and try and establish some history of characters via a prequel and a far off sequel. It does help in some regards as we see Pinhead was left to reign hell after one character (Angelique) leaves Hell for Earth in 1796. This helps establish why Hell transitioned to a more structured pain/pleasure approach under new leadership.
We get to see the history of making of the Lament Configuration and how this blood line of family have been building traps/boxes for Cenobites for hundreds of years.
Though it all just felt odd as we were learning about the past from the far future in the 2100's when some futuristic space ship is building a weapon which apparently only a bloodline human can do to destroy the Cenobites. It just made no sense to me what made this specific family so special and how they could build something that suddenly gained the power to transcend worlds.
They do end up killing Pinhead - so we know in 2127 all the Cenobites will be killed by a device built solely for that purpose. So after watching this film I was hoping the next film would be more about Cenobites and what happened during this 200 year period that Pinhead reigned over Hell.
Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
The 5th movie didn't deserve Hellraiser in the title in my brutally honest review. The plot was just basically about a scumbag person that was slowly watching his friends get killed by an assailant. Towards the very end of the movie we learn this was just physiological torture from Pinhead and the movie is over.
I couldn't find anything redeeming about this film since it felt like it changed Pinhead to be more attracted to physiological torture than physical and only had a few lines in the entire film. I guess though after the 4th film it does make sense that perhaps Pinhead is still adjusting his technique for ruling Hell.
Since it was the first Hellraiser film to go directly to video - it made sense that perhaps the quality of these films had begun to decrease.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
The 6th movie was going to be different for sure, because I saw the main character from the first two films reprising her role in the 6th film. The plot however was just a bit odd. We learn Kristy was being cheated on and her husband was planning to kill her. So we learn after she was forced to open the Lament Configuration she struck a deal with Pinhead to deliver five souls in exchange for hers.
So now we learn via a mix of events that her husband is trapped in Hell reliving a nightmare as we learn how all five souls were obtained. Much like the last movie - we only see Pinhead via a few flashbacks and a tiny portion at the end of the film. Once again another disappointing film - it seems like a cheap plot for a regular horror film, but carries the Hellraiser title for no real reason.
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
The 7th movie tries to tie back to the 4th film with another family member from the toy maker (who made the box). This time this person believes if they kill a person after they open the Lament Configuration, but before the Cenobites arrive to take the soul they can build up an army to gain access to Hell.
So once again just an odd plot change. Since the Cenobites have not shown delay or ignoring souls without a trade for every other film. This was a new pattern starting that showed we'd really only see Cenobites for an extended period of time at the very end of the film.
So it was another film that seemed to change the rules established by the previous films and didn't have much of a redeeming factor.
Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
The 8th movie attempted to add some technology into the mix, but it was so poorly executed I'm not sure what the point was. Apparently there was a game that if beaten invited you to a Hellworld party. With characters that we had to force ourselves to believe were actually nerds invested in a demonic series of games. However, we learn near nothing about the back story and only know their friend commits suicide from getting too invested in this game prior to the party.
These nerds show up the party for beating Hellworld with hundreds of others. This plot felt more like SAW than a Hellraiser film as we learn the party host is actually the father of the dead child and intending to inflict pain on the friends for causing the death of his son. So am I really expected to believe that best friends don't know their dead friend's father?
Turns out the kids were drugged and buried alive and hallucinated about getting killed via the characters (Cenobites) from the game while at the party. So we are watching the party from the point of view of the hallucinations of those buried alive. So once again at the very end of the film Pinhead arrive to claim the soul of the party host who summons the Cenobites.
At this point I was really only watching the films for Doug Bradley (Pinhead) as he carried the films.
Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
The 9th film I did not know what to expect as I saw that Doug Bradley would no longer play Pinhead. Additionally learned before watching that this film was made in two weeks solely to prevent losing the rights to the series. So boy what a horrible movie this was.
It starts off near immediately with two punk kids and no story line who end up disappearing. Years later the families reunite to mourn the lost of kids who then discover the video of the adventure when they went missing has been documented. Of course the Lament Configuration is in the belongings alongside the video and it is opened and one of the kids returns. This very much reflects the story line of the 1st and 2nd film, but this time represents a character we know nothing about.
Much like the first film we discover the kid is actually wearing the skin of another child and the Cenobites arrive to collect souls as the box is opened. This time it turns out everyone is cheating on everyone and people are killed and souls taken and the movie is over.
I wanted to like the new Pinhead, but I felt like he just made a bunch of facial expressions and did not contribute to the vibe of Pinhead I expected. This movie was not great and I got mad for watching it.
Hellraiser: Judgement (2018)
At this point I was at the last movie before the reboot and all my hope was lost, but I pushed on. This movie progressed some unexplored areas of the Cenobites and introduced some new characters which was welcome.
It appeared we learned some adaptions of harvesting souls using some truly gruesome and demonic characters. What really separated this film is instead having us follow a main character who we learn is actually the serial killer they are hunting. So evil finds evil and Pinhead vs the main character goes down. This time though an angel intervenes in all white.
There is some biblical dialog here about good doesn't exist without evil and to allow the serial killer to remain on the planet. The killer interprets this as a blessing from God, but gets quickly corrected to only a temporary blessing to instill fear in sinners for the example they will make out of him in time.
People die again and this time Pinhead kills an angel and this upsets God. God expels Pinhead from Hell and he becomes a mortal on Earth and the movie is over. So at this point if we know Pinhead dies in 2127, but is no longer the ruler of Hell somewhere in 2000's then we either have a plot hole or he is reinstated between those dates.
So now we were caught up for the real remake. A restart of the 1987 film and I enjoyed it. The new Cenobites reminded me of the first film with a great desire to go according to the code.
The Lament Configuration box now had to adapt between each sacrifice before making the final shape which would call upon The Leviathan for a selection of riches for whomever holds it. However, knowing the Cenobites the best option refers to becoming a Cenobite and living an eternity of ruling and torment.
The story progresses with twists and turns and this time we get to see the Cenobites very often with dialog. This was such a great change of pace from the previous films where we really only saw dialog from the Cenobites at the end of the film.
This time we had steady interactions with Pinhead and a less visually dark movie than the previous. The plot had some tiny issues here and there, but otherwise was a good reboot to the series.
So I could have gone on in life without seeing probably five of those films, but I'm glad I watched the entire series for this post.