Hellraiser

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Angels to some, Demons to others.[1]


"No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering."
Pinhead, Hellraiser

A 1987 film based on Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser has gone on to spawn eight sequels (only one of which - the second - Barker was directly involved with) as well as an upcoming remake. The series has at its heart a puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration, which when properly solved summons the Cenobites, a cadre of sadomasochistic Humanoid Abominations. The mascot of the series is the only recurring Cenobyte after the second film, the iconic Pinhead, played by Doug Bradley. He was given a choice, when filming the first movie, to play either the Cenobite or a workman who showed up for all of ten seconds - bet he's happy he went with the Cenobite.

Because it's a Clive Barker production, expect much Body Horror and gleeful blurring of the line between Fetish Fuel and Fan Disservice.

Films of this series include:

  • Hellraiser (1987)
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
  • Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
  • Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996). Last theatrically-released entry.
  • Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
  • Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
  • Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
  • Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
  • Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Tropes used in Hellraiser include:


  • Above Good and Evil: The Cenobites, usually, there was Pinhead's little descent into Chaotic Evil in Hell on Earth.
  • All There in the Manual: Blurbs on the packaging of several of the minor Cenobites' action figures give them backstories.
  • Arc Words: "Hunt the Engineer, and the Engineer hunts you."
    • "Come to daddy."
    • "What's your pleasure, sir?"
  • Artifact of Doom/Summoning Artifact: The Lament Configuration. Leads to an Oh Crap moment at the conclusion of each of the first several sequels.
  • Ascended Extra: In the book, Pinhead is present but is not the lead Cenobite. The female Cenobite, the Chatterer, and the Engineer all have more prominent roles, but the film adaptation prevented this. The Chatterer could not speak (and the actor could not see), the Engineer was completely remade to the point it's unrecognizable and arguably demoted to a Non Sequitur Scene when it does appear, and the female Cenobite, while capable of speaking, has makeup that severely limited the actress' head and facial movements. Though fixed by the sequel, these problems meant Pinhead took point. And now he's pretty much the face of horror films to the western civilization.
  • Ascended Meme: The "Lead Cenobite" of the first film was given the nickname of Pinhead by the film's fans. In the second film, Pinhead became his official name, and remained such through all the other sequels.
  • Beat Still My Heart: The second and fourth films.
    • Also the first. Frank's heart is still there, after all.
  • Bedlam House: The Channard Institute.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: The cenobites are an extreme example of this. They've been quite literally turned into monsters by years of hellish torment. Also Frank, debatably. Even if he was a scheming jerk as a human, he didn't turn into a sadistic, vampiric killer until he had spent years in hell with the Cenobites.
  • Bigger Bad: Leviathan, the God and creator of the Cenobites. It only appears in Hellbound, but is featured with much more prominence in the comics.
  • Big No: The ending of the fifth film.
  • Bittersweet Ending: End of the first film. Kirsty is safe. The Cenobites have been defeated, and she has escaped the flaming wreckage of her father's home with her boyfriend... doesn't make her dad any less dead.
    • And the box she tried to destroy is promptly saved. And she spends the rest of the series trying to escape the Cenobites.
    • This is one interpretation of Inferno. While it can be argued that he's stuck in a Groundhog Day Loop forever, it can also be read as him escaping his Ironic Hell via suicide, jolting him back into the real world, but knowing that he'll be haunted by his Hell Realization forever.
  • Blondes Are Evil: Julia.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: At least in the novella and the first movie or so. The Cenobites inhabit a dimension of pure pleasure...only their idea of "pleasure" is so far removed from what is "normal" that an ordinary human would consider it weirdly discomfiting at best, agonizing torture at worst. The Cenobites don't consider their victims to be victims at all: they're just giving them what they think they want.
  • Body Horror: So much.
  • Bondage Is Bad: A popular misconception of the Cenobites. The first film actually portrays them as amoral, if extreme, Sense Freak types.
  • Boom! Headshot!: Kirsty's MO in Hellseeker (though in a few instances, it appears to have been a Coup De Grace).
  • Broad Strokes: Word of God has stated the Boom! Studios comics will essentially be taking this approach to the post-Hellbound sequels.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Steven and Emma in Revelations. Subverted; it's actually her missing boyfriend wearing her brother's skin.
  • Call Back: Revelations to the first film in many scenes. Niko is essentially a younger Frank, and even his first opening the box is a visual callback to Frank doing the same. As is Niko stealing someone else's skin. There's even a callback to the original novella when someone looks up the word 'Cenobite' in a dictionary and reads the actual definition aloud.
  • Came Back Wrong: While most of the Deaders in the seventh film just look like disheveled people with some injury relating to their death, Marla looks like an outright rotting zombie, apparently her lack of faith in Winter being the cause of this.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Probably just a coincidence, but at one point in Bloodline its mentioned John has a brother, and at the end of Deader its revealed Winter is descended from Lemarchand...
    • The strange hobo from the first film.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Kirsty boyfriend, Steve.
  • Coolest Club Ever: The Boiler Room from Hell on Earth.
  • Cross-Melting Aura: Pinhead melts a cross and badly burns a priest.
  • Creepy Twins: The Siamese Twins from Bloodline and Wire Twins from Inferno.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Marla (depending on how rotten she is in a particular scene) in Deader.
  • Cyborg: Most of the Hell on Earth Cenobites.
  • Darker and Edgier: Yes, even for a series like this. The fifth (Inferno) and sixth (Hellseeker) films don't have the Gorn from the other films and are more psychological, dealing with characters who have become ensnared by the box. Instead of immediately getting dragged in and ripped apart by Pinhead and his cronies, they live out a personal Hell with manifestations of their wrongdoings tormenting them. No happy endings are to be found here. At the end, Pinhead - who acts more like a judge - Gives a Hannibal Lecture and drops a Laser-Guided Karma bomb on our Jerkass protagonists.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: More evident in the first two films, in which the antagonists are invariably human and the Cenobites, despite being Demonic Invaders, are clearly only an interested third party and in fact assist the protagonist in both films. Pinhead even explicitly describes his group as "angels to some, demons to others" in the first film.
    • Even more so in the novel, where (except for the soul rape you forever thing) the Cenobites are quite amiable, and do not renege on their deal with Kirsty as they do in the movie.
  • Dark World: The implicit setting after a character solves the puzzle box but before they're taken to the Labyrinth: the surroundings change to become deserted, blood-drenched and adorned with chains.
  • Deal with the Devil: Kirsty makes one with the Cenobites in the first and sixth films.
    • When it comes right down to it, that's what the whole series is about. The pursuit of ultimate pleasure or forbidden knowledge, wherein the seeker places their trust and fate in the hands of unknown entities of supernatural origin. And the Cenobites deliver. It's just that, in true Deal With The Devil style, the ultimate pleasure that the seekers get is not usually the kind they want.
    • Played with in Revelations: Niko tries to make a deal with Pinhead like Kirsty did, but Pinhead takes one look at the person he wants to trade for himself and realizes she's the kind of person who will open the box of her own accord one day, thus making her worthless as a trade.
  • Death by Materialism: Everybody just has to have the Lament Configuration.
  • Defiant to the End: When Channard kills all the other Cenobites and takes Pinhead's power away turning him human, he gives Kirsty a warm smile before taking out one of his bladed tools to threaten Channard while Kirsty and Tiffany escape. Channard slits his throat to kill him, before he even does anything, but it's the thought that counts.
  • Did Not Do the Research: People who describe (or dismiss) Hellworld as "Pinhead killing hackers online".
  • Dirty Cop: Detective Joseph Thorne in Inferno. He cheats on his wife with prostitutes, neglects his family, brutalizes his informant, steals evidence, does drugs, frames his partner...
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The female Cenobite inserting her fingers into her own exposed trachea in the first film - among innumerable other examples likely to make you ill.
  • Doomed by Canon: Hellraiser: Bloodline. You know that the past attempts of the Merchant family are completely useless throughout the entire film. If they weren't, then Dr. Paul Merchant would not have still been trying to undo his ancestor's mistake at the film's start.
  • Downer Ending: Amy Klein may not have been taken by Cenobites, but she's still dead, though.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Dr. Channard, after becoming a Cenobite.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Leviathan. Also, possibly, the Engineer.
    • The first movie treats the Cenobites as such.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Pinhead's human self, Captain Elliot Spencer... and probably Pinhead himself.
  • Expanded Universe: A surprisingly large, detailed one.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Angelique.
    • Angelique is the princess of HELL.
      • Further subverted. After she fails to corrupt the modern descendant of Lemarchand, Pinhead takes her to Hell with him and remakes her in his image. The next time we see her, she's just another Cenobite in his retinue.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Angelique originally had a really hot accent. It was cut.
  • Evil Feels Good: Frank's entire motivation.
    • Channard: "And to think... I hesitated."
  • Evil Is Visceral: Uses this trope in the extreme.
  • Evil Uncle: Frank.
  • Evil Laugh: The Channard Cenobite from Hellbound had a weird one, while Pinhead also gets one in Hell on Earth.
  • Evil Versus Evil
  • Eyeless Face: The Engineer in Inferno.
  • Eye Scream: The Butterball Cenobite has his eyes sewn shut; Chatterer, meanwhile, usually has skewers through his. Also, one of the nightclub patrons in Hell on Earth gets hooked right in the eye. Finally, the Wire Twins in Inferno seem to be lacking eyes.
  • Fan Service: As the series went on, there seemed to be more and more topless women just for the sake of having topless women.
  • Foreshadowing: Emma making out with her brother in Revelations even though it turns out not to be her brother later on hints at what Pinhead's opinion of her will be.
  • Film of the Book: The first film.
  • Final Girl: Played straight in the first three and Hellworld only.
    • Especially subverted in Hellseeker. Kirsty lives, but she's murdered people to escape this time. Since her husband went to Hell partly due to his desire to murder her, this implies she's finally condemned herself.
  • For Want of a Nail: A rather literal example in the first movie. While moving furniture, Larry cuts his hand on a protruding nail and bleeds all over the floor. It's this blood that Frank first uses to reconstruct his body and return to the world of the living. If not for that stupid nail, Larry, Julia and Kirsty might have just gone on living in the house, and Frank might have stayed in Hell.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Show up quite often, and not just in the film set in space.
  • Gainax Ending: Hellworld, and all the made-for-video sequels to some extent. Before that, the second film, with many a movie critic complaining that the climax didn't make sense. At the very least, figuring out what the Leviathan Configuration does, and what happened at the end when Tiffany resolved it will take some guesswork on the viewer's part.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Joey in Hell on Earth, Amy in Deader.
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: The two detectives from Hellseeker. Subverted. They're the same entity, torturing the villainous protagonist throughout, and a callback to the question of whether the cenobites are angels or demons.
  • Gorn
  • Hannibal Lecture: As time went on Pinhead became more and more prone to these.
  • Hell Hound: The Chatter Beast from Bloodline.
  • Hell Seeker: There are several characters with this mindset, and for some of them it even kind of works out: they're turned into cenobites, and enjoy it.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Kirsty in Hellseeker.
  • Ho Yay: In Deader, Winter resurrects his followers by pretty much making out with them.
  • Hooks and Crooks: Cenobites attack their victims with hooks on chains.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Cenobites.
  • Incoming Ham: "The box. You opened it. We came."
  • Infant Immortality: Somewhat averted. The Chatterer's original, human form is briefly revealed in one scene to be a young boy.
    • Plus the Hell Baby, one of the props in Hell on Earth, with its eyes and mouth showed up. Possibly averted because it started as a doll, but it was thoroughly alive by the time Pinhead had been through the club.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: The comics had the series crossover with the Marshal Law and the Nightbreed.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Joey from Hell on Earth, for a wannabe example.
  • Ironic Echo: When Frank accidentally stabs Julia in the first film, he states that it's "nothing personal, baby". In the second film, Julia throws that line back at Frank when she quite intentionally (and quite literally) rips his heart out.
  • Ironic Hell: Often. Prominently with Frank's own Hell in Hellbound.
  • Large Ham: Pinhead and the Channard Cenobite.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The sequel Hellworld involves the fans of a cenobite-themed online group/game apparently also called "Hellraiser". This leads to lots of double entendre dialogue as, while the story still refers to the series' background as canon, there's also lots of talk about "Hellraiser fans" and whether "Hellraiser" is a healthy interest or something that should worry parents.
  • Legacy Character: The Chatterer.
    • Also the Lemarchand family, though the Chatterer's more visible and continuously invoked. It's debatable whether it's the same character throughout the series.
  • Mad Doctor: Dr. Channard in Hellbound, later upgraded to a Deadly Doctor when he becomes a Cenobite.
  • Made of Iron: Pinhead shrugs off laser blasts in Bloodline.
  • Mind Rape
  • Mind Screw
  • Monster Clown: One shows up in Tiffany's Hell in Hellbound, and the comics gave us the Clown Cenobite (aka Winky Dink).
  • Motive Decay: Pinhead. In the early installments he put a great deal of emphasis on the idea that his victims, on some level, wanted pain, and had even sought him out. In Hellbound, he even stopped the other cenobites from attacking a traumatized girl who'd been tricked into solving the lament configuration. By Bloodline, though, he was actively attempting to drag the entire world into Hell, whether they liked it or not.
  • Nasty Party: The Host's plan in Hellworld.
  • Nice Guy: Larry. Despite an obvious rough patch between the two, he does love Julia very much and loves Kirsty all the same. After moving his stuff in Frank's house, he invites his movers to dinner and drink to celebrate. Makes his death all the more tragic as he had no idea about Frank's situation, nor Julia's murders or even Kirsty witnessing one until it was too late for him. Even Pinhead looked disgusted when he found Larry's skinless corpse on the floor, demanding an unknowing Kirsty to bring the person that did it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job restoring Pinhead's humanity, Kirsty. Too bad that his evil side no longer follows his rules.
    • In Revelations, just before Pinhead drags Niko away, Ross shoots him, saying that he has more of a claim to Niko's life than anyone. Niko even thanks him with his last breath, as he's now spared an eternity with the Cenobites. Pinhead, annoyed, promptly gives Ross a Hannibal Lecture explaining that the suffering Niko would've endured is beyond what vengeance would call for, and calls him out for having acted purely out of a selfish need to be the instrument of vengeance himself. To satiate their appetite and claim their debt of flesh, they take his wife as a replacement for Niko.
  • Not So Different
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: Pinhead's "pins" in Hellbound are Q-tips without the cottonballs, painted gray.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Hellbound's Tiffany (that was a name given to her by the staff) and the Host from Hellworld.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Elliot's wayward soul in Hell on Earth.
  • Parental Incest: Flashbacks in Deader implicate Amy was sexually abused by her father.
    • The lurking phantom of parental incest is all over the first two films. "Come to daddy" and all that. There's no evidence that it actually happened, but the idea is pretty firmly put into viewer's heads. Well, aside from Frank not being above sleeping with his brother's second wife. Even if he's not Kirsty's father, though, the implications as her uncle aren't much better.
      • Incidentally, that was a line taken directly from the novella where Kirsty is twenty-six and a friend rather than the daughter. Doesn't make it any less creepy though.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Played about as straight as possible in the first film.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Several. For example, "Play dead" (to a demon dog) or "Welcome to oblivion" (to Pinhead) from Bloodline.
  • Recycled in Space: Bloodline.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Pinhead, Butterball, Chatterer and the Female all die shortly after remembering their humanity in Hellbound.
  • Religion of Evil: The Deaders in Deader, and the Cenobites themselves in the original novella, as servants of the Order of Gash (the word Cenobite just means a monk or nun in a convent).
  • Romanticized Abuse: The Hellraiser films have this as a component, creeping most viewers out even further. "We have such sights to show you". The novel version The Hellbound Heart has the initial description of the female cenobite invoke piercing fetishism.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Lament Configuration again, and the pillar in the third film, plus the floorboards and the mattress in the first and second films.
  • Self-Constructed Being: The plot of the first movie as far as Frank Cotton was concerned.
  • Sense Freak: The Cenobites. Albiet to a very, very extreme degree.
  • She's All Grown Up: Kirsty in Hellseeker. This was also Frank's reaction to her in the original.
  • Sinister Geometry: Leviathan is a lozenge!
  • Sinister Shades: The Butterball Cenobite, who wears shades because his eyes are sewn shut.
  • Sinister Subway: Deader
  • Slasher Smile: The Chatterer. (not that he can really make any other expression).
  • Smith Will Suffice: This exchange from Hell on Earth:

J.P. Monroe: "Jesus Christ!"
Pinhead: "Not quite."

  • Spin-Off: The Harrowers.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: An entire sequence in Hell on Earth just has Joey running down the street as stuff explodes around her.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Tiffany in Hellbound, after seeing the Channard Cenobite:

Tiffany: "Shit!"

  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Larry.
  • Token Minority: Derek in Hellworld.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The ending of Inferno.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Hell on Earth and Hellseeker.
  • Throw It In: Andrew Robinson thought "Jesus wept" sounded so much cooler than the scripted line "Fuck you". He was right.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Channard's reaction after his transformation into a cenobite is to question why he had any doubts about it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Larry from the first film. Paying so little attention to your house and to your wife's strange behavior can get you killed. And Kyle from the second. Went to a house where Julia was, then decided to split up, didn't ask a strange woman who she was and what was doing there, and when she started to behave oddly didn't run away. What an Idiot! indeed.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Julia went from being a reluctant and remorseful killer who tried her best to save Larry Cotton from Frank in the first film to a hardened killer in the second, who took great joy in being evil. Probably an after-effect from being betrayed, killed, tortured and ressurected.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Pinhead is prone to these as well.
  • This Is Sparta: "We'll tear your soul...APAAAAAAHHHHT."
  • The Power of Blood: The first three films have Frank, Julia and Pinhead coming back via blood.
  • This Was His True Form: After being killed by the Channard Cenobite in Hellbound, the other Cenobites turn back into humans. Also arguably how Pinhead is defeated in the third.
  • Twin Threesome: Inferno has a disturbing version.
  • Twist Ending: Several:
    • Bloodlines: The space station is the perfected "anti-Lament Configuration" that previous Merchants couldn't get quite right.
    • Inferno: Joseph is a Tomato in the Mirror and his entire investigation of the Engineer serial killer case has been his personal Hell.
    • Hellseeker: Kirsty's actually outwitted her husband and traded him to Pinhead in exchange for her own safety.
    • Hellworld: A double whammy: There's nothing supernatural going on at the party, the Host has drugged the protagonists so they'll have potent enough Hellworld-related hallucinations to kill them as ironic payback for his son's Hellworld-inspired suicide. Then, when the Host is idly playing with his son's homemade Lament Configuration, it turns out that it actually works, and the real Pinhead explains his son simply opened a gate to Hell. The Host pays for doing the same.
    • Revelations: The second Pinhead is Steven, the skin-stealing trick hasn't fooled Pinhead at all, and Niko's bargaining chip is worthless.
  • Variable-Length Chain
  • The Voiceless: Every Cenobite (except Pinhead) that appears after Bloodline. Also, Tiffany from Hellbound.
  • Was Once a Man: The Cenobites.
  • Weapon of Choice: The hooked chains.
    • Julia likes hammers.
  • Welcome to Hell: Literally, in this case.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Julia.
  • Words Do Not Make the Magic: One character in the series solves puzzles reflexively, as she has a psychological detachment that forces her to do so, whether she wants to or not. She's given the Lament Configuration so that someone else can sacrifice her to the Cenobites, while he can safely watch what happens. The Cenobites ignore her, and proceed to hunt him—his was the desire that led to the box opening.

Pinhead: It is not hands that summon us. It is desire.

    • In Revelations, Niko tries the same trick and also fails, although Pinhead doesn't bother spelling it out this time.
  1. From left to right: Butterball, Pinhead, The Female, and The Chatterer