While 1987’s Hellraiser never set the box office on fire and split critics down the middle, Clive Barker’s supernatural horror film has gone on to become a cult classic, spawning nine sequels. The films, centered on a mystical puzzle box called the Lament Configuration that summons extra-dimensional, sadomasochistic beings called Cenobites who cannot differentiate between pain and pleasure, are anchored by their leader Pinhead, who has rightfully become a horror movie icon.
Since the movie monster’s big screen debut, most of the sequels have featured English actor Doug Bradley in the role of Pinhead, and all of the Hellraiser films up to this point have portrayed Pinhead as a male character. That all changes with Hulu’s upcoming Hellraiser reboot from director David Bruckner. For the first time, Pinhead will be presented as a woman and portrayed by Sense8 actress Jaime Clayton. You can see the first look of Clayton as Pinhead below.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Bruckner explained the decision to cast Clayton, a trans woman, in the role. “We felt a kind of anticipation around the fans to reimagine the character,” Bruckner said. “We knew we wanted Pinhead to be a woman. Jamie was just the right person for the role. A person’s identity can be really exciting for a role in many ways, but I have to emphasize that Jamie absolutely killed, that’s how we got there.”
Pinhead wasn’t originally planned to be such a dominating presence in the Hellraiser films. Barker originally wanted one of the original film’s human antagonists, Julia, played by Clare Higgins, to be the central villain of the Hellraiser films moving forward, with the Cenobites serving more of a background role. However, when Higgins declined to participate in a sequel and audiences gravitated toward Pinhead, a new horror star was born.
It remains to be seen just how central Pinhead will be to the new film. Bruckner emphasized to EW that his Hellraiser film is not a remake, but will set out to tell its own story. “I just didn’t think you could ever remake the original Hellraiser. It’s too much its own thing and it would be, I think, perilous territory for filmmakers, because how do you top that? This is a new story in the Hellraiser universe.”
Bruckner’s Hellraiser focuses on a character named Riley, played by Odessa A’zion. “It’s the tale of a young woman, who’s struggling with addiction and compulsive behavior, that comes in contact accidentally with the box and unfortunately begins to dabble with it,” Bruckner revealed. “And chaos ensues.”
Clayton’s Pinhead will certainly be a component of that chaos. However, Clayton’s version of Pinhead will be specific to Bruckner’s story and won’t simply be an impression of Bradley’s version of the character. “What Doug Bradley did with the character is so iconic,” Bruckner said. “We didn’t want to do a Doug Bradley impression, we just didn’t think that’s possible to do. There will be suffering, but you’re going to get a sense of what Pinhead’s desires might be in a way that hits a little different.”
And while several Hellraiser sequels came and went without the blessing of original mastermind Clive Barker, Bruckner’s film has Barker onboard as a producer. “Clive’s been very involved,” Bruckner said. “Clive came on before the shoot, when we were in prep, and was really just a wonderful resource for me. He was really generous with his time, and very welcoming of the idea that this was a new group of artists, and that they were going to run with this and land in different places with it. He was very supportive of that.”
We’ll be able to witness Hellraiser and all of its hellish pleasures once it hits Hulu on October 7.