Hellraiser – Hulu’s re-imagining of the sadistic soul-harvester Pinhead


Hellraiser is now streaming on Hulu.

Ben Kaiser, Reporter

Michael. Freddy. Jason. Chucky. Leatherface. These are all familiar faces of ‘80s horror films, known for stabbing and killing countless innocents for audiences. But one ‘80s icon stands apart from the rest – the living pin-cushion hell priest, Pinhead. 

Pinhead is a killer not known for knives or chainsaws; he summons disembodied chains and hooks. He’s not here for revenge; he’s here to enhance life’s means of pleasure – through extreme measures of torturous and gruesome pain. To Pinhead, pain and pleasure are indivisible. 

So what’s your pleasure? 

Recovering addict Riley McKendry (Odessa A’zion, Netflix’s “Grand Army”) comes across an alluring puzzle box during a risky warehouse heist. As she messes with it, it soon changes configurations and summons dark figures known as the Cenobites. Their leader, Hell Priest (Jamie Clayton, Netflix’s “Sense8”), entices Riley to choose victims for the box or sacrifice herself instead. After accidentally sacrificing his brother, Matt (Brandon Flynn, “12 Reasons Why”), to the Hell Priests, Riley must prevent anyone else from touching the box. However, Roland Voight (Goran Višnjić, NBC’s “ER”), a tormented past victim of the Cenobites, will force more sacrifices so that the box will gain him a dark wish. 

“Hellraiser” is directed by David Bruckner. Bruckner has only directed two other full-length movies: “The Ritual” and “The Night House.” He has also directed segments in anthology horror films and episodes from the streaming series “Creepshow.” One segment from “V/H/S” spun off into its own film, “Siren,” which Bruckner also produced. His work has been in horror, often with bizarre entities and dark aesthetics.  

“Hellraiser” is a long horror franchise dating back to 1987. Created by horror author Clive Barker, the series is centered on a 3D puzzle box called the Lament Configuration. Once solved, the box opens a doorway to the Cenobites, mutilated creatures who come for those who solved the box and bring them back with them for an eternity of torture. The most famous of the Cenobites is Pinhead, the face of the “Hellraiser” series. 

The new “Hellraiser” reboots the whole series and even rewrites the rules of the Cenobites and the puzzle box. If you opened the box (even by accident), you were doomed to the hideous experiments that the Cenobites had in store for you. Sometimes, you get your skin flayed off, and sometimes, you relive an endless loop of your worst nightmare in life. The Cenobites are weird that way.  

And before I forget to mention, torturing is the Cenobites’ sick way of providing “pleasure.” Hence some of Pinhead’s disturbing quotes: “We have such sights to show you,” “No tears, please. Such a waste of good suffering,” or “Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.” 

However, some things changed in the reboot. The obvious might be that Pinhead (credited as Hell Priest) is a female. Although technically, Cenobites are sexless, it’s a female actress playing the role. Jamie Clayton plays an effective replacement for Doug Bradley, the original Pinhead. She’s freaky and intimidating with her blank stares and gravelly voice. 

The Cenobites are redone to look more unsettling than their former leather-clad versions. They’re mostly stripped of clothes with their skin mutilated to look like clothing. Yes, it’s pretty messed up, but then, welcome to “Hellraiser.” 

The Lament Configuration also has new rules to its lore. It takes multiple configurations, each time popping out a nasty blade. If it draws blood, it summons the Cenobites, and they take one unlucky customer to their dimension. Once the Configuration reaches its final form, the holder can make a wish to the Cenobites and their god, the Leviathan. Naturally, these wishes come with drastic consequences. 

Something that is also new is that whoever opens the box can choose someone else to take their place as long as they are still holding the box. The Cenobites never care as long as they get someone to brutalize with hooks, chains, and wires. They even kill one of their own when Riley manages to stab it with the blade. 

Major horror franchises have been getting remakes and reboots for a while now. Everything from “Friday the 13th” to “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has some attempt to restart the franchises. They’ve been mostly crap.  

The original “Hellraiser” in 1987 was a different kind of horror; instead of mute killers stabbing babysitters or horny camp counselors, “Hellraiser” delved into forbidden pleasures and deals with “devils.” It focused more on dark atmosphere and body mutilations instead of kill counts and jump scares. 

As far as this reboot goes, though, it’s actually pretty good. It reinvents a lot of the original series’ established lore and makes it a completely fresh take. The human characters aren’t that compelling; they’re kinda just there to run around and get caught by the Cenobites. There’s little feeling of loss when they get picked off one by one. It’s a regular horror stereotype; it adds some flaws to the film, but it’s not an unexpected trope. 

“Hellraiser” 2022 is a decent reboot of the series. It’s waaay better than most of the franchise’s sequels. I don’t know if this is the start of new series like 2018’s “Halloween,” but there’s also a new series being made on HBO. That series has Barker on board as an executive producer, so it’s likely it’ll stick to the original films instead. 

“Hellraiser” is currently streaming on Hulu. 

Doug Bradley as Pinhead in Hellraiser 2.