If you aren’t sure what a Cenobite is, David Bruckner, director of the new Hellraiser, has the answer—“It’s an interdimensional BDSM thing that shoots chains at you from an ancient labyrinth.” It sounds outlandish but is actually astonishingly accurate.
The original Hellraiser (1987), written and directed by Clive Barker, is forever a classic horror hall-of-famer. It centers around a mysterious puzzle box that, when used, summons the Cenobites— a sadistic group of hell dwellers who take pleasure in torturing their unfortunate summoner for eternity. This new Hellraiser film will be the 11th installment of the franchise. “I think a lot of things are going to hit just a little bit different,” says Bruckner. “But you’ll find that most of what you love about Hellraiser is there in the movie, and sometimes in slightly different ways.”
While Bruckner can’t give too much away, there were a few details he could share. “Hellraiser‘s one of the great practical effects efforts,” he says. “We knew that we had to be true to the practical roots in every way possible.” For fans of the franchise, this means you can look forward to the visceral and realistic gore you’ve come to expect.
The puzzle box, known as the LeMarchand or Lament Configuration, will, of course, be returning to kick off all the hellish events, but not necessarily as we know it. “I think we have a lot of surprises in store where the box is concerned,” says Bruckner. “I think the audience is going to see the box do things they’ve never seen before.” The box will, naturally, still raise up demonic beings, although, Bruckner noted, “every Hellraiser movie should have a collection of brand new Cenobites.”
However, one familiar needle-filled face will be returning. This time around, the leader of the demonic sect, Pinhead, is played by Jamie Clayton. “Jamie scared the hell out of me,” Bruckner jokes about his lead actress. “Jamie always had a handle on it. She was always doing something with it that I would just come back to over and over again.”
With practical effects comes prosthetics, which can be awkward at the best of times and torturous at the worst, but Clayton was up to the challenge. “She was truly fearless. Those aren’t easy shoes to fill,” says Bruckner. “In that space, she was as strong and confident as anyone could imagine.”
Pictures of Clayton as the infamous Pinhead have been released, and suffice to say, they are striking. According to Bruckner, everyone on set felt the same upon seeing her. “You could hear a hush fall over the crew because it was like the hell priest is here, behold! She definitely conducted the character with a sense of majesty.”
With features The Ritual (2017) and The Night House (2020) under his belt, Bruckner has already become an exciting director to watch, and it looks like horror is where his heart is. “Horror is the only genre in film where it is still permitted to be a bit surreal,” he says. “Reality is agreed upon in a different way. There’s a freedom to it, and you can get weird.”
On the idea of taking a stab at other horror franchises, Bruckner was humble, “I dare not say. I think I have to respect the movie gods.”
New franchises or not, Bruckner’s future will certainly contain horror as well as continued collaboration with writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski. And as for whether more Hellraiser films could be on the way? “Should the fans respond to this, should there be a desire to go further with it? I would be absolutely honored.”
Meet the New Pinhead
We recently sat down with Jamie Clayton, who shared what it was like to become the new Cenobite leader. Below is the edited interview:
Den of Geek: How do you approach a dark and iconic role like Pinhead?
Jamie Clayton: I’ll be brutally honest. I started with therapy. I can go to these dark places, but also I was terrified.
How was it physically becoming Pinhead?
The life cast was awful! They told me, “This is the worst of it,” and I was like, “Oh, okay.” [They] were lying. I had the opportunity to get into the makeup twice completely before my first night of filming, [which made] my first night of filming really easy.
What can you tell us about the film?
This is a re-imagining. It’s not a continuation. It’s just a brand new imagining of this world, these characters, and this box, this game, this puzzle.
Are there good scares in this film?
I saw it a week ago. [I was] terrified. I was like, “Oh my God, they did that thing.” It’s disgusting. It’s very good. We got an R for a reason.
What was it like working with David Bruckner?
David is incredible. I get emotional when I talk about David because he’s so good. He’s really, honestly, one of the good ones.
Did you see yourself doing horror before this?
I want the opportunity to play all different kinds of parts. Being a trans woman, being queer, I’ve go-go danced, I’ve DJ’d, I’ve hostessed, I’ve waitressed, I’ve been a makeup artist. I like the opportunity to do different things.
Why do you think people love horror so much?
I don’t know. I mean, I love it. I love escaping into other worlds, and oh my God, you know what it is? I think it makes us realize that our lives really aren’t that bad.
Hellraiser premieres on Hulu on Oct. 7.