Hellraiser was released 30 years ago and it remains one of the best horror movies to ever grace screens. Directed by Clive Barker from his own novella, The Hellbound Heart, it tells the story of a puzzle box with the power to raise hell… literally.
When a man escapes from the abyss and returns to reignite an affair with his brother’s wife, he forces her to bring him human sacrifices so he can return to his former glory as a fully-fleshed human being. It’s a bizarre family drama, to say the least.
Hellraiser was made for $1 million and went on to multiple its budget by 30. It also spawned a franchise that quickly took a nosedive into direct to video hell. While the series ultimately didn’t reach its full potential, the first movie is a classic that has managed to stand the test of time as one of the most original offerings the genre has to offer.
To celebrate the occasion, here are 15 Shocking Things You Never Knew About Hellraiser.
When Doug Bradley was cast as Pinhead, he probably had no idea that the character would go on to become a pop culture icon. At the time, the actor felt like it was more important to have his face known if he was going to cut it as an actor. He was wrong.
In an interview on the DVD featurette, he said: “Since I'd be appearing onscreen for the first time, it would be a good idea if people could see me and… be able to recognize me. These are solidly good, actorly decisions to make… If I would have been offered one of the leads, I would have taken it without a moment's hesitation. And I would have been dead wrong.’’
Oliver Parker, who played one of the delivery men we see in the movie, was also in the running for Pinhead. He didn’t want to play the iconic villain either, though.
Barker never planned on the name Pinhead becoming a thing. Originally, he referred to the character as "Priest" or "Lead Cenobite". The name Pinhead was invented by the makeup crew that applied the prosthetics on Bradley as a way to distinguish the character from the other Cenobites. Apparently, Barker didn’t like the name because he thought it was undignified.
But the name took on a life of its own and was even mentioned in Hell On Earth and Hellworld. Barker has never felt tempted to use it in any of his later works featuring the character, however. In his novel The Scarlet Gospels, the character is referred to as Hell-Priest and we learn that even the fictional demon despises the nickname. Talk about hammering a point home...
If you think Hellraiser is sexy the way it is now -- with the chains piercing flesh, leather-clad demons, and make out sessions with skinless people -- then wait until you get a load of this. There were hotter scenes planned, but they were too perverse for public consumption.
In an interview with Samhain magazine back in 19987, Barker said: “I had a much more explicit sexual encounter between Frank and Julia, but they said no, let's take out the sodomy and put in the flick knife.”
He also noted how another scene was much kinkier: “We did a version of this scene which had some spanking in it and the MPAA was not very appreciative of that. Lord knows where the spanking footage is. Somebody has it somewhere…”
On top of that, there was another scene where they had to put clothes back on one of the actors who played one of Julia’s murder victims. He apparently insisted on being naked for the slaughter. Is there any other way?
In the movie, Clare Higgins’ character, Julia, plays the wicked stepmother who lures men to their deaths while simultaneously having an affair with a guy who doesn’t have skin. It was a horrific character to play but she knocked it out of the park and now it’s regarded as one of the best performances in the history of cult horror cinema.
Apparently, though, the actress isn’t a fan of horror movies and couldn’t bear to see her character’s atrocities unfold on screen. So, at the film’s big premiere, she walked out and went to a bar while the theater watched her make out with a skinless dude.
She did return for part two, so clearly there was no bad blood after she abandoned her co-stars and crew to have a good time elsewhere without them.
There’s definitely a level of kink to the Cenobites. The hooks, the chains, the leather outfits, the notion of pain and pleasure being interlinked... not exactly what you’d call subtle. Well, that was the intention all along, and Barker took inspiration from time spent in some of the world’s sexier and seedier hotspots.
According to the DVDs linear notes, Barker talks about how the costumes were inspired by “"punk, Catholicism, and [the] visits I would take to S&M clubs in New York and Amsterdam." Looking at the Cenobites, you could imagine them being a punk or industrial band - if they weren’t demons.
It should also be noted that much of Barker’s work was inspired by Marquis De Sade, who’s an O.G. of sexual debauchery and kinky experimentation. He’d have fit right in with the Cenobites.
Even though Barker directed a film based on one of his own stories, he didn’t have any problem taking some liberties with the source material for its cinematic translation.
The first big change pertains to Pinhead. For a start, his name isn't Pinhead. Second, he might not actually be male. That's right, the lead Cenobite demon in the novella might be a female demon. It isn't made clear, but the description in the novel is certainly more feminine.
That isn't the first big change either. In the book Kirsty is a close family friend, not the daughter of Larry (whose name in the book is actually Rory). The decision to make Kirsty Larry's daughter in the movie was to add bizarre incest undertones, because why not?
The vagrant who steals the box and turns into a dragon isn't in the book either, but cheap special effects aside, he was a marvelous addition.
Christopher Young’s chilling score is a highlight of Hellraiser and it’s hard to imagine the movie or our nightmares without it. However, Clive Barker’s original choice was the electronic band Coil. According to the band, they withdrew from the project because they feared their music would not be used -- and because the corporate big-wigs were leaving them in the dark. They also took credit for the creation of Pinhead after showing Barker a body piercing magazine.
The unused music can be found on Youtube and it’s pretty weird and chilling in its own right. As for the band, they would score the movies Blue and The Angelic Conversation. Additionally, some sick person synched their music to the 1990 movie Begotten, which is a match made in heaven but still an extremely unsettling experience.
When Hellraiser was released, typical horror villains were silent hack n’ slash types who did their talking with sharp weapons and bad puns. Pinhead didn’t start getting his puns on until Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth.
The appeal of Pinhead, though, is his intelligence. If he wasn’t trying to end your days, he’d probably be fun to play chess with and discuss philosophy. Barker wanted his creation to have a little more class, like a certain classic Count of horror lore.
Writing in The Hellraiser Chronicles, he said: "In that sense he harks back to the perverse elegance of Dracula, particularly as incarnated by Christopher Lee. Like Lee, Bradley is a very polite, even reticent, gentleman when out of pins and leather: a loving family man whose perversities are, I'm (reasonably) certain, limited to his life on screen.”
In 1990, there was a game for the NES console in the works. It probably wouldn’t have been good. Gameplay focused on a character that was trapped in the Lemarchand's puzzle box from the movie, and the objective was to evade Cenobites and escape.
The game was developed by Color Dreams, who are infamously known for creating unlicensed video games of questionable quality. In all fairness, you could say the same thing about Dimension regarding some of the Hellraiser sequels they’ve green-lit throughout the years.
Apparently, the game was scrapped because Color Dreams didn’t want to pay Nintendo a fee to evaluate the game and give it a license, which was commonplace at the time. It probably wouldn’t have been very good, but we’ll still spend the rest of our lives wondering what could have been.
There’s no denying that the Cenobite makeup looks awesome. You can genuinely believe that Doug Bradley is a demon - to the point that even his own cast and crew buddies didn’t recognize him in the real world.
During the wrap party, Doug Bradley was upset to find the people he’d spent weeks working alongside ignoring his presence. People he thought were his friends. However, it wasn't until later that he realized he’d been in makeup the entire he played Pinhead and most of the cast and crew hadn’t even met him as a regular person. Most of the time was spent applying his makeup and leaving him in a leather-bound costume to stew.
Hopefully, he learned from that experience and showed up to all future parties dressed as the demonic priest that made him a household name.
As the old saying goes, if you want to do something right, do it yourself. Prior to Hellraiser, the only Barker stories that had been adapted for the screen were Underworld and Rawhead Rex. The latter is a masterpiece in its own right, but general consensus regarding the former is steaming turd. However, Barker didn’t like either of them, so he took matters into his own hands.
It’s actually somewhat of a miracle that Hellraiser turned out as well as it did, though. Barker was an inexperienced filmmaker, so he went to the library to find books so he could self-teach.
As he told Bravo in 2004: "I went to my local library to find a book on film directing and they had two, but they were both checked out. And I thought, 'Oh, I'm so f--ked, I don't even have a book!'" Clearly he managed to pull through just fine in the end.
Canada has a pretty lax history when it comes to gruesome genre fare. In fact, the government funded most of David Cronenberg’s movies during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and that was during arguably the director’s most deviant period. Therefore, it’s quite surprising that Hellraiser struggled to make it past the country’s censors.
Despite numerous cuts being made prior because of the content, the film was banned in Ontario until 40 seconds more were trimmed. The reason for their decision was “brutal, graphic violence with blood-letting throughout, horror, degradation and torture."
To appease the censors, New World Motion Pictures of Canada removed a torture scene featuring hooks pulling apart a body and face, as well as a scene showing squirming rats nailed to a wall. Afterwards, it was given an R rating and Canada was a better place with Hellraiser in its life.
As the film is based on Barker’s novella, The Hellbound Heart, he originally wanted to call the movie just that. The studio thought that it sounded too romantic, however, so he changed it to the unsurpassed Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave.
While Hellraiser is certainly shorter, snappier, and easier to market as a name, they made the wrong decision. But it could have been ever sexier if one of the crew members had their way. According to Barker, “One of the very English, very proper ladies working on the set said it should be called 'What a Woman Will Do for a Good F--k.'"
Maybe if they used one of those sequels for a future sequel more people would be inclined to rent it. It couldn’t be any worse than Hellraiser: Revelations after all. What’s the harm in trying?
Can violent movies inspire real life crimes? That’s an argument that’s been the source of much debate for decades. However, those who believe it to be true would have a field day with this next story.
Last year, two people wearing Pinhead masks tried to rob a bank in Moncton, Canada. A few days later, a 36-year-old man named Terry Babineau was arrested and charged with five offenses. He was jailed earlier this year. The other suspect is still out there.
Thankfully no one was hurt, apart from Babineau, who’s now rotting in jail, forced to live with the knowing that he tried to rob a bank in a Pinhead mask, failed, and lost his freedom as a result. How silly must he feel right about now?
Every popular horror movie is gettting a reboot these days. It is therefore surprising that Hellraiser has still to receive the treatment. It’s not out of a lack of trying, however.
Back in 2011, Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier, the duo behind the excellent My Bloody Valentine remake and Drive Angry, were in talks to helm a remake. Apparently, the studio wanted a PG-13 movie and the duo’s involvement didn’t materialize to much.
Clive Barker was also planning a remake in 2013, but that project is dead in the water as well. But at least we have another DTV sequel to look forward to in the near future, which we get every five years or so because Dimension don’t want to lose the rights to the franchise.
Do you have any hair-raising facts about Hellraiser to add? Sound off in the comments!