Listen up, horror babes: There’s a new Hellraiser movie on the horizon this year, which will once again bring back Clive Barker’s Pinhead character from the dead, presumably against his will, for the tenth time in twenty-nine years. It will continue a “tradition” but make a huge change, as it’ll be the first major Hellraiser installment to star someone other than the O.G. Pinhead Doug Bradley in the leading role. But sometimes change is good. The original, 1987’s Hellraiser, remains a low-budget horror classic, but even the most passionate of fans will agree that subsequent installments have been, um, underwhelming.
What’s that, you say? Sometimes change isn’t necessary because a movie franchise is better left dead, for good this time? Oh, honey, you don’t know the half of it. I was tasked with sifting through all nine films this past week, in order to get you, dear reader, all caught up for Hellraiser: Judgement, and to test the limits of my psyche.
Grab your closest high-alcoholic beverage; you’ll need it for this one.
Summary: Wife Julia (Clare Higgins) meets her thought-to-be-deceased brother-in-law Frank (Sean Chapman), who returns to this mortal world as a withering hell-demon when Clare’s husband accidentally spills his blood in the house. As Julia goes on a killing spree to nourish Frank the Monster (Oliver Smith) back to life, stepdaughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) starts to put the pieces together and accidentally unleashes the Cenobite demons.
1. I honestly have no idea if we are supposed to be as horny for Frank as we are afraid of him, or if we’re supposed to think the original female protagonist Julia is completely out of her mind. It’s funny to see the flashbacks of pre-hell Frank kicking down the door and seducing his brother’s fiancé on their wedding day with some good old-fashioned physical aggression that we’re to believe, like, really turns her on.
2. Important to mention: The Chekhov’s Gun in this franchise is a little Rubik’s Cube puzzle box that unleashed the Cenobite hell-demons, who can make you cum or die, and I don’t think anything else. This becomes a go-to prop throughout the franchise, and handling it usually unleashes a series of cheap visual effects.
3. Arguably, the Hellraiser franchise can be boiled down to “how far will I go to escape my cuck husband”? The British-made film came in the waning years of the Reagan administration, when yuppie greed reigned (lol, it still does), and Julia is apparently in love after cheating with her brother-in-law on her wedding day.
4. JULIA CUMS ON HER OWN WEDDING DRESS AND THEY CUT BETWEEN SHOTS OF HER CUMMING WITH SHOTS OF FRANK’S BACK TAT. A lot of the plot of this movie is hitched to a promise Julia made Frank for reasons unclear, as are most things said while cumming.
5. The phrase “come to daddy” is used no less than six times in this movie. Never not as a threat.
6. The practical effects in this film are so well-done that they appear to be genuinely dangerous to the cast. The twitching rats are animatronic, but all records of the making of the film indicate that real-life maggots and cockroaches were used for the duration of production.
7. So, like, would Frank have wanted to have sex with his niece if he wasn’t a hell demon, or is he truly the worst person to have ever lived or died?
Best Line: “She’s got her mother’s looks!” “Her mother’s dead.” “Oh.”
Where the Movie Leaves Us: Frank is re-killed by Pinhead and his weird Village People style troupe of hell demons, all of whom have incredible bone structure, except for the fat one. Frank’s head explodes. It’s pretty cool.
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
Summary: Kirsty is pulled back into hell with the Cenobites after being in a psychiatric hospital for years, along with hot-but-troubled teen Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), learning that Pinhead was once a human naval officer named Elliot Spencer. She gets revenge on her good ol’ Uncle Frank and must destroy Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who has brought Julia back to life the same way Julia brought Frank back to life in the first movie: by feeding her random people, this time from the mental hospital.
1. Okay, so I knew that Clive Barker would feel the need to up the gross-out ante on the sequel, but Jesus Christ, this movie is disgusting.
2. I love the vagaries that land people in this fictional Channard Institute. Kirsty claims she saw demons, and it’s never explained how the destruction of the house or the numerous casualties from the first movie are justified to her. She’s also the token “hot patient who doesn’t talk,” and all the patients who are carted away to become Julia food are barely addressed.
3. Whenever the puzzle box drags someone to hell, it always hooks them by the nipples first. I appreciate it.
4. We see Frank again in hell, suffering the punishment that the Cenobites assigned him: being seduced by a bunch of hell babes but never getting to give them a lil’ kiss. It’s so hokey, but I love it.
5. As much as Julia is the most oppressively British thing in this movie series, which itself is a British series pretending to be an American series, seeing her slice Frank after being brought back to life in the same way she was brought back to life, with the power of loser blood, was pretty satisfying.
6. Poor Kirsty. She can’t stop fiddling with that Rubik’s Cube and making the undead horny as hell!
Best Line: “It is your flesh we want to experience, not your skill at bargaining.”
Where the Movie Leaves Us: Kirsty and Tiffany kill Julia and Dr. Channard once and for all, and leave the mental hospital. Poor Kirsty, she has to be in another Hellraiser movie.
Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992)
Summary: Oh honey, Pinhead is back! But writer/director Clive Barker isn’t involved in this one, and it shows. This time, the puzzle box is discovered by a sleazy nightclub owner and young reporter, Joanne “Joey” Summerskill (Terry Farrell). She must pursue Pinhead in his split forms — his evil id and the gawky military man Elliot Spencer. More blood and stuff!
1. For the third time, we are introduced to a series of ostensibly doomed female ingenues; this time it’s Joey, the brave young reporter who gets — in a twist that will surprise no one — perhaps a little too involved in the story. Like Kirsty in the prior two movies, Joey is able to escape Cenobite hell, which is maybe the filmmakers trying to create a strong female character, but also, it could simply be proof that Cenobite hell isn’t hard to escape?
2. This is the first time in the marathon that I am beginning to feel what I will hereafter refer to as “goop exhaustion.” I’m starting to get tired of Pinhead and his rag-tag gang of misfits. Here are some things I did while I was supposed to be giving my complete attention to this movie: I finally figured out what the Fyre Festival was, read about Ja Rule’s career, texted my brother, tried to find a better value on that goop you use when you’re a girl, but also, you have a mustache on Amazon, which turned up nothing.
3. It will never not make me laugh when a Cenobite smokes a cigarette. It looks cool, still. Guys, I think cigarettes … might be cool as hell.
4. For a movie where a key location is a night club, there aren’t enough strippers or saxophones.
5. It goes without saying that everyone in Cenobite hell is, once again, extremely horny, and the writers of the Hellraiser series truly never run out of specific perversities to throw at a weeping female character while her nipples are hard. This time Pinhead calls Joey “ripe,” and upon hearing that, I had to take a shower.
6. So, maybe this is a dumb question, but is there any way to destroy the puzzle box that doesn’t release Pinhead? Has anyone tried? Has anyone asked? Am I disturbing a fictional universe that no one cares about anymore?
7. While the quality of the films steadily declined in the way that horror franchises tend to do, plenty of people were still interested in seeing Hellraiser movies in ’92; the film grossed over twice what it cost to make. Even though the $5 million budget for Hell on Earth is five times what the original Hellraiser cost to make, they still didn’t nail one convincing visual effect. Oh well!
Best Line: “I will enjoy making you bleed. And I will enjoy making you enjoy it.”
Where the Movie Leaves Us: Joey buries the puzzle box on a construction site, and the building that subsequently appears there has the same patterns of the box, i.e. the “Lament Configuration.” Does Joey win a Pulitzer for her journalistic investigation into hell? Probably not, but who cares!
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
Summary: Bloodline is the last theatrical Hellraiser release that had Clive Barker’s involvement, and it finally gives us the backstory no one was asking for: the explanation for the goddamn puzzle box that no one in the movie’s eight-year legacy thus far had ever made a sincere attempt to destroy! We learn that the device was made by an extremely French toymaker in the late 1700s, the descendant of whom has inadvertently built the Lament Configuration building we see at the end of the third movie. A sexy lady named Angelique vows to get to the bottom of it, winds up teaming up with Pinhead, and they both end up back in Cenobite hell. Flash forward to the future, and Pinhead is destroyed permanently with a laser … or is he?
1. ADAM SCOTT IS IN THIS MOVIE AND HE’S MURDERED BY A DEMON.
2. This movie has weird, unconvincing scenes that take place in the past, present, and future, but the tag scene to the film is especially great/bad for its futuristic vagueness. It, of course, is very white, there are “pods” and “lasers,” and everyone is talking about how silly people were in the past.
3. Angelique is pretty much a dummy who uses sex to solve the mystery of the puzzle box to avoid being sent back to hell. She fails to seduce men at least three times in the movie and does a fun arm-folding thing whenever she fails to do so. She never tries to get a GED or reads a book, so it kind of makes sense that her death vagina fails to win her freedom.
4. Again, I love watching how these films deal with British vs. American culture: We are hot idiots, the British are reserved geniuses, and nothing in between.
5. Things I did when I was supposed to be devoting my full attention to this movie: Cut my toenails, checked my ex-boyfriend’s Twitter, and then was like, “Ugh Jamie, why did you do that,” and read a few episode recaps of Fargo so I wouldn’t need to watch them.
6. The visual effects are still so bad. We have to believe that some technological progress was made between 1988 and 1996, right? Toy Story came out a year before this thing!
7. I love that the French toymaker is gaslighted (gaslit?) into creating a hell portal.
Best Line: “He’s got … pins in his head.”
Where the Movie Leaves Us: In the future, Pinhead is dead. The movie franchise … is over.
Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Summary: JUST KIDDING, BITCHES! After waiting the mandatory four-year period, the straight-to-DVD Hellraiser era began with a whimper. Corrupt Denver cop Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) is addicted to drugs and cheating on his wife when he discovers the goddamn why-can’t-we-just-smash-it puzzle box and starts having dreams about getting horny for mutilated goop-ladies. Then, of course, he finds out that he is in fact the murderer he’s been trying to track down… and his therapist is Pinhead. Sure!
1. Please understand that four Hellraiser movies deep, my vital organs began to fail. My brain began to gelatinize. I couldn’t remember the word for “pan” and had to Google “fire bowl” to figure it out. My notes, they grow less clear. My faith, it grows more shaken.
2. You can tell that this movie came out on the heels of The Sixth Sense and Fight Club because it borrows the same perfunctory twist: turns out the guy looking for the guy was actually the guy all along!
3. Inferno uses the split-personality device again, just as it did with Pinhead and Elliot Spencer in past installments. Thorne is himself, but he’s also “The Engineer” murderer he’s pursuing… and he’s also the child whose fingers are always left at the crime scene, a truly hilarious and ironic signature for a murder. Pinhead explains this all at one point, but I can promise you it doesn’t get less convoluted when he does.
4. Why is Pinhead working as a therapist?
5. Things I did during this movie: Fell asleep for twenty minutes but I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss anything. Cleaned out my hamster’s cage. Reflected on past mistakes, and how little I’ve grown as a person in an effort to correct them.
6. John Turturro’s little brother is in this one. He does a bad job!
7. I’m pretty sure that the lesson to this one is “if you are addicted to drugs and cheating on your wife, the worst possible thing you can do is go to therapy.”
Best Line: “Are ya gonna frisk me or fuck me?”
Where the Movie Leaves Us: I don’t know. I thought the fourth one was supposed to be the last one. So this means that this one was, I don’t know. Probably the puzzle box is fine.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Summary: It almost doesn’t matter because this movie and Inferno before it were both originally not even supposed to be Hellraiser movies; they started other horror scripts and were adapted to be a part of the straight-to-video Hellraiser collection. But hey, good news for the criminally insane people who still care: KIRSTY COMES BACK and this time, she’s married to Dennis from 30 Rock (Dean Winters). They get into a car crash and Kristy is presumed dead, until our boy Pinhead shows up and reveals to Dennis from 30 Rock that he was a lousy cheating husband and that Kirsty arranged to save her soul after nearly dying in the crash by giving Pinhead five souls: three of Dennis from 30 Rock’s mistresses, one of his friend, and you guessed it…Dennis from 30 Rock!
1. You don’t have to believe that I squealed “Nice!” when Kirsty was brought back for the sixth (I repeat, sixth) installment of Hellraiser, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
2. Pinhead is less of a menace in this movie and more of a goop-covered plot device, probably because the original script didn’t include him. His function is to reveal to Dennis from 30 Rock everything he missed in the Cenobite world while he was believed to be in a coma.
3. Getting to see Kirsty kick ass for the first time since 1988 was great. She’s still got it, baby.
4. To that point, man has Kirsty struck out with men in her life. The list is not pretty: Her horny stepdad Frank, her horny high school boyfriend Steve, her horny mental health doctor, and now her horny-horny husband who appeared on 30 Rock. The movie ends with Kirsty retreating, still alive, and I hope she took a good long look in the mirror and took some time for herself because, jeez.
5. Things I did during this movie: Paused it and watched an episode of 30 Rock with Dennis in it. And, honestly, fast forwarded through some of the murder scenes.
6. Dennis from 30 Rock looks great in this movie. I hope he likes playing dirtbags because he’s never not going to play a dirtbag. I wonder what it’s like having resting dirtbag face! Maybe I know already, and everyone’s afraid to tell me. Maybe I’m a dirtbag. We don’t know.
Best Line: “Welcome to the worst nightmare of all…reality!”
Where the Movie Leaves Us: Kirsty is alive! Dennis from 30 Rock is dead!
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Summary: They get more dead.
1. The “not written as a Hellraiser movie originally” trend continues, and I didn’t even need to fact-check it this time. We are not completely sure if Clive Barker even knows this movie exists.
2. Deader was shot in Romania and kind of borrows the plot from the third movie as a hot young reporter is investigating something Pinhead-adjacent and, surprise, ends up releasing Pinhead again.
3. If nothing else, Doug Bradley has been Pinhead in every single one of these movies, and my hat is off to him. Now there is a man who is committed to putting his kids through grad school using only royalty checks from terrible horror movies.
4. There is a character named Winter LeMarchand in this one, which sounds like a twelve-year-old trying to name their own Game of Thrones character.
5. This movie was shot at the same time as the other Hellraiser movie that came out in 2005, a fact for which I couldn’t find a reasonable explanation and resent deeply.
6. The protagonist, hot reporter Amy, kills herself at the end of this movie to avoid having to deal with Pinhead and his stupid, stupid puzzle box for another moment. Same.
7. This one wasn’t horny enough.
Best Line: I wasn’t really listening.
Where the Movie Leaves Us: Still having to watch two more movies.
Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Summary: WHAT IF HELLRAISER, BUT INTERNET???????
1. Maybe I’m just numb at this point, but I kind of liked this one? It’s about a bunch of kids that get obsessed with the video game series based on the Hellraiser movies and end up, you know, Pinhead and stuff. Is it because after so many movies, they realized six are essentially the same story and were forced to go meta? Don’t even care, this one’s fun!
2. Some really amazing 27-year-olds playing 14-year-olds in this one. Liked it. Pay your student loans, baby.
3. I love movies, gimmicks, characters, virtually anything with a vague understanding of what the internet is. While the hacker-y “I’m in the mainframe!” kind of jargon in this movie is great, it’s still not as good as Chris Jericho’s Y2J bit, which he has yet to scrap as a part of his act. Bless up.
4. There’s a lot of hotties stuck in a house for a long time with “the Host,” i.e. Pinhead, for the majority of the movie. Somehow Doug Bradley must have found time to shoot two Hellraiser movies that year.
5. I think I changed my clothes twice during this movie but I don’t think there was a reason to do so. I think I was trying to become a different person.
6. Henry Cavill (Superman) is in this movie, and stinks. Bring back Dennis from 30 Rock.
Best Line: Pinhead literally says “I love to party” in this one and I made it my ringtone.
Where the Movie Leaves Us: With a bunch of sexy dead teens, baby!
Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Summary: This movie was made in three weeks.
1. This is the first original Hellraiser script since 1996 and it’s extremely bad.
2. This movie is horrible, and it’s rumored that it was only made so that Dimension Films’ rights to the characters wouldn’t expire. So, you know, hopefully the next one doesn’t suck!
3. Even Doug Bradley didn’t want to be in this one. 😔
4. This movie is bad.
5. There’s a rape and murder scene more or less at the top of this movie and it’s lame and upsetting and did I mention this movie was made in three weeks?
6. Pinhead is very horny in this one, at least.
7. I was pacing through most of this and skipped a lot of the second act because I hadn’t been outside in fourteen hours or something and was beginning to think that there was a gas leak in my apartment but there wasn’t, it was just the feeling of nausea associated with watching every single Hellraiser movie.
Best Line: “End.”
Where the Movie Leaves Us: Wondering how on earth there is going to be another Hellraiser movie this year. Wondering what Doug Bradley thinks when he reflects on his life.
To close, I will leave you with a quote from Hellraiser creator and original writer/director Clive Barker. The series’ origins were pretty revolutionary for the time from a story standpoint, even if that story included the catchphrase “Come to daddy.”
“Generally [in monster movies] the monsters don’t talk about their condition - about being a monster. What I wanted Frank to be able to do was have dialogue scenes, even romantic scenes that play between him and Julia. I wanted Frank to be able to stand around and talk about his ambitions and desires because I think what the monsters in movies have to say for themselves is every bit as interesting as what the human beings have to say. That’s why in stalk and slash films I feel that half the story is missing. These creatures simply become, in a very boring way, abstractions of evil. Evil is never abstract. It is always concrete, always particular and always vested in individuals. To deny the creatures as individuals the right to speak, to actually state their case, is perverse - because I want to hear the Devil speak. I think that’s a British attitude. I like the idea that a point of view can be made by the dark side.”
You see? Work really hard and perhaps someday you, too, will live to see your creations be destroyed by a series of straight-to-video cash grabs. Keep on dreaming, dreamers!