“Hellraiser” isn’t for the weak-hearted. We have heard this line several times when someone new is introduced to this franchise. Over the decades, the dreaded “Hellraiser” franchise has been adapted into several forms, such as comic books, short stories, and a little shy of a dozen feature films. But what’s the ‘x’ factor in “Hellraiser” that Hollywood, and the audiences, can’t get enough of? Is there something about the inherent perverse sadomasochism that houses every human being owing to our evolutionary behavioral history? Or is it the thrill of watching something so exhilarating that it gets our hearts pumping fast, owing to the satisfaction of our inherent sense of adventure? Whatever it is, the makers of “Hellraiser” know how to cash in on that primal human instinct, and hence, in 2022, we are introduced to a new entry into the Cenobites universe, the “Hellraiser” reboot. But what exactly is it about?
Well, “Hellraiser” was created in the mind of Clive Barker, centered on the devilish entities known as the Cenobites. The perverse mind of Clive has resulted in several storylines across the decades that have collectively turned “Hellraiser” into a pop culture icon of sorts. Its main villain, Pinhead, has changed shape and size across the history of the franchise, but his origins remain the same.
The extensively rich “Hellraiser” universe has a long history of its own, albeit the fans’ response has not been very uniform. But it can’t be debated that the entire universe has been crafted with intimate details, and thus, the audience experience gets richer every time any “Hellraiser” film or short story enters the public domain. In retrospect, each time, it has succeeded in registering its solid presence and remaining etched in the minds of the generation it caters to. But there are many of us who might be unaware of the timeline of this intricate universe that has been crafted with careful details. For them, here is a brief history of the “Hellraiser” cinematic universe to catch up on the past so as to comfortably immerse in the new “Hellraiser” film.
How Did It All Begin?
Chronologically, the timeline of “Hellraiser” exactly begins in late 18th century France. Yes, around the time of the great French Revolution and Napoleon’s conquests. The story begins in 1796 with a French toy maker named Philip Lemarchand. The famous toy maker catches the fancy of a wealthy Frenchman named Duc de L’Isle, who commissions him to create a puzzle piece. Lemarchand knows he is good at his job. But he finds out that he is actually way too good in the hardest way possible. He accidentally creates a device that can open the portal to hell. Named the Lament Configuration, the device creates a bridge between the earth and the nether region, which frightens Lemarchand, who never had any evil intention. When he finally gets the hang of the device he has created, he becomes aware of Duc’s sinister intentions and sets out to create another device that can counter the impact of his Lament Configuration. The new device is named Elysium Configuration and serves as an antidote to the first one. But before the Elysium Configuration is properly put to use, Lemchard gets murdered by Duc’s assistant.
This anecdote was featured in the early “Hellraiser” films and became the origin of the “Hellraiser” saga. But this was the event that got the franchise into motion and was followed by numerous sequels every few years, sometimes doing a lot to move the story forward and often only using the lore to fabricate entire new stories.
Meanwhile, in the early 20th century, the story continues with a British World War I soldier named Elliott Spencer. As shown in “Hellraiser III,” Spencer fought in France in the war and was absolutely horrified by the bloodshed and blatant disregard for human life he had to witness. Disheartened by it, he decided to move to India, and there he came across the Lament Configuration. He succeeded in assembling it and became the dreaded villain of the original “Hellraiser,” Pinhead. Thus, Spencer became the master of hell and the Cenobites and went on to rule the nether world. Hence, the future of “Hellraiser” was set in motion. After some hiccups and some bad films, the franchise sailed through the decades and brought us to 2022, when the long-awaited “Hellraiser” reboot will be released. Let’s now take a quick look at the cinematic timeline of “Hellraiser.
In the original 1987 “Hellraiser” film, Frank Cotton buys the Lament Configuration, unaware of what horrors he is about to unleash on himself, and mistakenly sets Pinhead and the Cenobites free. His soul is seized, and Pinhead retreats back to hell. Frank’s brother, Larry, accidentally resurrects Frank as the flayed monster that he has become after submitting his soul to hell. However, Frank is dragged back to hell when the Cenobites unleash yet again on him. From the second film that took the franchise forward came the third film in the early 1990s, which gave the fans a peek into the world of Pinhead and explored his backstory, which we have already covered. The film was noted for concentrating mostly on Pinhead, setting up the stage for the complex villain that helped further expand the lore in further installments.
The fourth installment of “Hellraiser” takes the story many leaps ahead and is set in the future. It centers around a mission to the past to capture Pinhead and the Cenobites once and for all and bring an end to all the terror. The Captain of the ship, Dr. Paul Merchant, travels to 1794 France and meets the original creator of the Lament Configuration along with the rich aristocrat that commissioned it. By the end of the film, Pinhead is destroyed, and it is assumed that he is gone for good.
After that, many writers and directors attempted to capture the magic of the original trilogy but failed.
Also, overdosing the audience with “Hellraiser” films at regular intervals did more harm than good. Hence, the next few installments found it impossible to secure a theatrical release and were released ‘direct-to-video.’ While the critical reception to those films was not really as good as the first few installments, they still form a major part of the entire lore. “Hellraiser: Inferno” was released in 2000 and took the “brutal ritualistic murder” turn, which delivered a very familiar whiff of air for the “Hellraiser” loyalists. The next installment did very little to take the story forward. In 2005, two back-to-back “Hellraiser” films were unleashed for the audience, titled “Deader” and “Hellworld.” The first focused on a cult, worshipping the original creator of the Lament Configuration, while the other one focused on a role-playing game based on the theme of the franchise.
In 2006, Dimension Films, the owners of the copyrights, announced that a “Hellraiser” remake of the original 1987 film was in the works. It was also rumored that Clive Barker would return as the writer of the film. However, the film got stuck in development hell for years, and Barker shocked the world in the mid-2010s when he announced that he had no idea that a reboot was in the works.
By then, even the most hardcore fans of the franchise had given up on it since the previous few VOD films compromised on the quality and took a major detour from the original Pinhead and Cenobites story. In between, two films in the franchise, ‘Judgement’ and “Hellraiser,” were released in the 2010s without making a lot of fuss. The franchise was considered to be dead officially with no more films.
Now, in 2022, the remake finally sees the light of day on Hulu with David Bruckner at the helm of it. With the ongoing culture of cinematic universes and reboots of classic films, it can be assumed that Pinball might become another iconic villain with a fresh treatment of the franchise. With glowing reviews across the platforms, it seems like the long-term fans of “Hellraiser” have finally earned what they have been clamoring for so long; a good “Hellraiser” film.
See More: ‘Pinhead,’ Explained In Hulu Original Film ‘Hellraiser’