In 1987, 35 years ago, the premiere of the first Hellraiser (Hellraiser) took place – Clive Barker’s cult horror about cenobites, “demons of pain”, caused by a mysterious box. The film was met with mixed reception at the time of its release, but over time has become a classic – and, as often happens, the basis for an endless cycle of bad sequels that exploit the central idea. Film critic Ivan Afanasiev tried to figure out what the feature of the Cenobites and their leader Pinhead is and why they, being far from the main characters of the film, became its highlight.
Have you ever wondered why we are sometimes so attracted to films that depict violence in a grotesque way? All those intestines out, torn pieces of flesh, severed body parts and blood flowing in a stream. I think you will agree that seeing something like this in real life would be, to put it mildly, very unpleasant, even if all this was just a sham and not real. But on the TV screen (cinema / computer) everything looks different. Imagine this picture from the side and with another person: you enter, then, into the room, and your friend watches how one person, perhaps with a face pierced by nails, scrolls through a giant meat grinder, turning another person into a bloody pulp. Is there an element of … voyeurism in this? Some kind of shameful pleasure from watching something forbidden?
Perhaps this is the question that Clive Barker was asking himself when he created Hellraiser. By the way, the intermediate title of the film was consonant with the story of the author himself – “Connected with Hell” (film producer Christopher Figg suggested that the director change it). And the original, working title completely reflects its whole, so to speak, essence – “Sado-masochists from the underworld.” I think no one will deny that the brightest part of the film is the cenobites, mysterious creatures from hell, “demons for some, angels for others.” The paradox, by the way, is that “Hellraiser” refers to Frank (Sean Chapman), the central character of the original film, whom his ex-lover Julia (Claire Higgins) tried to return from the underworld, where he was thrown by hellish monsters – in subsequent sequels he was no longer there.the only bright part (and even then not always).
Why did the viewer love these wild guys so much, all pierced with various pieces of iron, one way or another deforming their own flesh? Perhaps we are amazed at how calmly they endure the suffering caused to them by their own physiology. Here lies the answer to why many of us, in principle, like horror antagonists: will you now remember right off the bat what were the names of Freddy Krueger’s victims? Hardly, but you remember his name very easily: he is charismatic, he is powerful, there is a mystery in him and he is not afraid of pain. All these qualities are inherent in men in the traditional, patriarchal system of values: we often bow before them and are afraid of them. Therefore, most often in classic horror antagonists were men: Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Wolfman … And if this is not a man, or a creature of indeterminate sex, then this makes her / it even more powerful: remember, at least , “Carrie” or “Jaws”.
The trick of Pinhead and his comrades was that it was not so easy to visually determine their gender / gender on the go. This is especially pronounced in Barker’s original story, where the Engineer (the monster’s original name) was an androgynous creature with a hoarse female voice. As a result, Barker called his friend and colleague in the theater troupe The Dog Company Doug Bradley for the role of Needlehead – he eventually became the canonical Pinhead in the movie. By the way, I would like to immediately say here to those who swear that in the new Hellraiser, the trans-actress Jamie Clayton was taken for the role of the Hell Priest – you are acting stupid when you shout about “not canon”. Firstly, this is more than canon (see above about Pinhead’s appearance in the text of the book). Secondly, Barker personally approved such a move: he talked a lot with director David Bruckner and fully supported his achievements.
And most importantly, Pinhead was supposed to be like this from the very beginning : Barker talked a lot about the fact that the script was rewritten several times under pressure from the producers, who were embarrassed by the excessive frankness and provocativeness of the film. For example, the sex scene between Frank and Julia was much more erotic and violent. Later, Barker even complained that he was not allowed to leave slaps on Julia’s butt in the film – “God knows where they are, these slaps, but they are not in the film”. BDSM is an integral part of the Cenobites: the very idea of demons who do not see the difference between pleasure and pain came to the director’s mind after visiting London BDSM clubs. He also had to significantly shorten the scene in which Frank “falls” to hell again: in the original, the process of tearing him to pieces with chains looked much more detailed. Considering how much pleasure he experiences in this (remember his face before death), the parallel drawn between pain and pleasure is obvious.
In short, since even by today’s standards Hellraiser is an extravagant film to say the least, it’s easy to imagine why in London under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, the idea of making a sadistic demon also genderless was doomed to failure. Meanwhile, there is an opinion that it was Pinhead’s male gender that became the reason why Hellraiser quickly turned into a B-movie, after the shameful fourth part, it completely moved from cinemas to DVD and video cassettes. The Lord of Hell from an imposing “Minister of Pain and Suffering” turned into a toxic man who rushed from the role of a stereotypical maniac to the image of a judge with the functions of an executioner and a craving for violence. So the leveling of his gender identity only returned him to his original meaning.
The trick of the Cenobites is precisely that in the first film they did not have a specific role, but simply were the executors of a certain supreme will, such officials, whose task, like escorts, is to send the sinner who escaped from hell back. That is, they are like an element. For them there is no difference between life and death, as well as between pleasure and pain. At the same time, Pinhead in the second part shows some semblance of emotions and even humanity, leaving alive the autistic girl Tiffany, who turned out to be a victim in the hands of Dr. Channard and Julia from the first part and called the Cenobites against her will. Perhaps, including the desire to give the demons individuality and character, played a cruel joke: Pinhead’s charisma in the first film is chaotic, not personalized. An attempt to endow him and his accomplices with “characters” and doomed the series to go to trash.
Senobites are needed to inflict pain – for no reason, reason or meaning. It’s just their nature. When we want to have sex, we are not looking for any of this: we just have it and that’s it. For the servants of hell, pain and sex are one and the same: in both there is something of an act of violence, and in this case it is done by a certain agreement. Picked up a puzzle box, twisted and turned – and called the Sonderkommando, which will satisfy your craving for thrills, the last in your life, but not the last in your death. Roughly the same thing happens while watching Hellraiser: you voluntarily agree to one of the wildest and most insane spectacles in cinema, and don’t complain later, you yourself wanted this pleasure. As Sergeant Barnes of Platoon would say, “Shut up and take the pain!”
What about Hellraiser movie
The new Hellraiser begins with footage from Belgrade (Serbia). A certain woman exchanges a suitcase with money for a box, inside of which is the same Lemarchand box, known to everyone who watched the original franchise. However, we do not know what explanation of the origin of this item the authors can provide in the hypothetical following parts, so we can simply call it: a puzzle.
The delivery of the mysterious artifact was ordered by the rich man Roland Voight. We are transported to his mansion in Massachusetts (USA), where an orgy takes place, which turned out to be a guy named Joey. He meets with the woman who bought the puzzle in the previous episode. Her name is Sirena and she is Voight’s assistant.
The woman says that the rich man will certainly want to meet the guy, so that he should come at the appointed time to the room at the end of the corridor. Joey accepts the invitation. Entering the room, he sees a puzzle in its center. Now it is not a cube, as it was originally – it looks like the item has changed its configuration.
Joey takes it in his hand. Voight appears and insists that the guy find the answer to the puzzle. Just as Joey does this, a blade is stabbed into his arm. Turns out it was a trap. The guy tries to escape from the room, but special metal gates are in his way.
The puzzle assumes the configuration of Leviathan (the same has the supreme deity of the Cenobites of the same name), known to the audience from the second part. Joey is stabbed with chain hooks and subjected to horrific torture. Voight places the artifact in front of him and, looking up into the gathering clouds, asks for an audience with Leviathan.
We fast forward six years and meet the main character – a girl named Riley, as well as her boyfriend Trevor, neighbor Nora, brother Matt. His boyfriend Colin lives with him. Riley struggles with alcohol and drug addiction and goes through a rehab program. She also temporarily lives with Matt. The latter shows concern, but the girl perceives this as an attempt to control her.
Already in the next scene, Riley and Trevor are drinking alcohol and talking about what are the easy ways to get money. The guy says that he knows one warehouse that is not guarded. There is a safe there, but what is in it is unknown. Riley supports the idea of committing a heist. The idea succeeds. And the mysterious contents of the safe turn out to be the same box, stained with blood inside, with a puzzle.
Riley takes the artifact for herself. Returning home, she quarrels with her brother, who is tired of her lifestyle and the constant violation of promises to quit alcohol and drugs. Matt kicks Riley out of the house, and she immediately goes outside. At night on the playground, a girl takes drugs and begins to solve a puzzle. She succeeds, the blade pops out, but does not hurt. The Cenobites show up and say that the blade was meant for Riley.
One of them (appearing to be a female version of the needle-headed cenobite from the previous parts, nicknamed the Priest) says that now the girl must find another victim. Hooked chains shoot out of Riley’s chest, grabbing Matt as he lays down. The latter wakes up abruptly from such a nightmare, goes to look for his sister and finds her on the playground unconscious under the influence of drugs. Matt accidentally grabs the puzzle and cuts his hand on the blade.
The artifact absorbs his blood and assumes a different configuration. Cenobites are cut off with the guy. In the toilet where he tried to wash his hands, all that remains of him is a bloody stain. Before the massacre and disappearance, Matt (along with the audience) heard a sound resembling a bell ringing.
Riley gives a statement to the police, tells about the disappearance of a roommate and goes to Trevor. While making love to him, she sees one of the Cenobites. Shocked, the girl tells Trevor about what happened, offers to check how the puzzle works, but the guy refuses to touch her.
While trying to find Matt, Riley and Trevor figure out the name of the person on the container’s lease. It turns out to be Sirena – Roland Voight’s assistant. Young people visit her in the hospital – the woman is suffering from a fatal illness. She says that Riley must have seen the Cenobites, whom Voight called angels – however, this man was a sadist, so “the devil did not recognize the devil.”
Riley uses the Internet to find out that Roland Voight disappeared six years ago, and in front of him are several employees of his mansion. The girl goes to this place in the hope of finding her brother. There she discovers the same sacrificial room with a movable metal grille. In Voight’s office, Riley finds his diary. From the entries in it, the girl learns about the cenobites: “Each cenobite is uniquely cut and crippled – more than the human body can withstand.” It also follows from the diary that the puzzle has six configurations:
At Voight’s house, Riley sees her brother, but it turns out to be an illusion. The whole company enters the mansion to stop the girl in her search: Trevor, Colin and Nora. Riley talks about the diary he found, which also says that by opening the last combination of the puzzle called Leviathan, you can get an audience with the “god” of the same name.
This essence for everyone who has reached this stage grants a wish corresponding to the name of one of the six configurations of the artifact. Riley hopes to use Lazarus’ wish to resurrect his brother. To do this, you need to go through the remaining three stages, marking the puzzles of the victims with a blade.
Meanwhile, Nora, left alone for a while, finds a secret room. She goes there and is locked up. There, Roland Voight wounds her with a blade puzzle in the back. The girl breaks out of the trap, but too late – she is marked as the next victim. Friends try to take Nora to the hospital. She, getting into the car, says that she hears bells. The portal opens again, through which the Cenobites come, take Nora and torture her.
The survivors have an accident and decide to return to the mansion, where there is another car left. Riley tries to get rid of the puzzle. The Cenobite Priest stops her, insisting that she must accept the suffering caused – great pleasure lies ahead. The priests of pain want the sacrifice to continue. To the question “What are you?” The cenobite replies: “We are explorers of new frontiers of experience in the realm of sensuality, our gifts are limitless.” The priest says that Riley knows what they have to offer – the resurrection of a brother. The sinobit marks the girl with a blade, adding that she is now in their hands. Riley needs to tag two more people or she will become a victim herself.
In order to provoke the heroine to mark the remaining friends with a blade, the Priest directs another cenobite, the Nutcracker, in their direction. He passes by Colin, but hurts Trevor. Riley plunges the blade into the Nutcracker. Chains with hooks dig into the cenobite and tear him apart. The puzzle is transformed – there remains one more sacrifice.
The friends get to the mansion and lower the iron frame so that the Cenobites can’t get in. Roland Voight approaches Trevor, who is left alone (there is a painful mechanism in his body) and accuses the guy of deviating from the originally planned plan. After all, the henchman was supposed to open the puzzle himself and make sacrifices, and not give it to Riley.
The girl is going to lure one of the Cenobites and injure him. Friends open the passage to the building, Riley goes outside. She asks the Cenobites to take her away, just as they took the others. They object: “We didn’t take them away, but released them.”
The idea fails: one of the cenobites falls into a trap, but Voight intervenes, who takes the puzzle and plunges the blade into Colin. The villain also exposes Trevor to the rest: the guy worked for him and actually helped to sacrifice friends for money. Voight reveals that he had already reached the Leviathan configuration and made his wish in accordance with the Liminal – Sensuality configuration, because he had tried all the pleasures in the world, but wanted even more. But the sinobites played a cruel joke with him: now he feels everything much sharper thanks to a mechanism built into his body that literally pulls on his nerves and causes terrible pain. Having reached the stage of the audience again, Voight wants to get rid of this torment.
Trevor opens the passage to the building for the Cenobites, who overtake Colin. The puzzle transforms into the final configuration. Voight requests an audience before Leviathan. The latter in the form of a huge geometric figure hangs over the building. In his direction, the blood of the victims shoots up straight from the puzzle. Voight, using the same iron bars, locks the Cenobites and demands that they rid him of the mechanism built into his body.
Riley steals the puzzle and reopens the passage to the center of the cenobite chamber. She runs up to Colin, for whom the torture is already beginning, and asks to spare him. In response, the cenobite offers to choose another victim. Then the girl plunges the puzzle into Trevor, with whom the creatures immediately deal with.
Voight kneels before the Priest – now he is in the position of a loser. He begs to be put out of his misery and let him die. But the cenobite says: “There is no turning back. Once you have crossed the threshold, you can only look for new thresholds – higher and higher. Gifts cannot be given away – only an exchange can be made.
The priest says that in fact, Voight never sought sensuality – all his pleasures and achievements were in power. Therefore, the cenobite offers him the Leviathan configuration – that is, the desire called “power”. Voight agrees. The mechanism disappears from his body, the wounds heal. However, further hooks on chains pierce him and his body is carried away towards the floating geometric figure – Leviathan. After all, according to the Priest, the power of the Cenobites lies in domination, in the full right of torment.
Riley steps out to the center of the room. The Cenobites ask her which of the wishes, according to the configurations, she wants to fulfill. To tempt the girl to choose resurrection, they again show her brother in his lifetime appearance. However, realizing that these creatures always fulfill wishes with a trick, the heroine refuses to make a choice. This means that her fate Lament – a life full of regrets. Now Riley will live, constantly aware that she caused suffering for her friends.
In the end, we are shown Roland Voight, who is now in a hellish dimension on a certain crucifix. His flesh is transformed – with the help of torment, he turns into a new cenobite.
Hellraiser Ending explained
The meaning of the ending of the film “Hellraiser” is that each of the main characters got what they deserved. Roland Voight has been a sadist all his life, desiring new pleasures and power. Both he received from the Cenobites in a perverted form. Pleasure in their understanding is pain. After all, it reveals new facets of sensuality. And power is the power of the priests of pain over those who are marked as their victims. Therefore, instead of getting rid of torment, Voight becomes a new cenobite.
Trevor served Voight and became a traitor – he is overtaken by punishment. Riley, thanks to her selfishness, put her friends in danger and some of them became victims of the Cenobites. Now she is doomed to live with an oppressive sense of guilt and regret that she will never be able to return the people she loves.
Such an explanation of the ending, on the one hand, returns the franchise to the original concept, in which the Cenobites were not a banal evil, but were, in fact, only a tool for punishing sinners. The puzzle initially fell into the hands of those who followed the wrong path and deserved to be punished. Positive characters avoided punishment. But, on the other hand, in the new Hellraiser there are victim characters who are, if not positive, then at least neutral. And in this there is a commonality with the less developed later parts of the franchise.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of such things that destroy a great concept in the film. The creators of the new picture treated the original with respect, but still added details reminiscent of the not-so-thought-out details of the slashers of the zero. The film is basically similar to them in structure: young people who do not cause much sympathy, in turn become victims. Only instead of maniacs here are cenobites.
Even a detailed analysis of the film will not give an answer to the question of what was the point of starting a gamble with the “stealing” of the puzzle. Why couldn’t Roland Voight, using his money and connections, continue to make sacrifices on his own in his estate? Why did he need Trevor? Why did he wait six whole years? Why did Voight decide that if someone else (Trevor or Riley) gets the puzzle, he still has the right to make a wish?
Why didn’t the rich man try to get medical help to remove the mechanism from his body, but instead tried to remove the device himself? Why do metal bars stop not only people, but also cenobites? After all, we were shown that these creatures can penetrate anywhere through portals.
Alas, there is no hidden meaning that gives a reasonable explanation – it’s all just plot holes.