Warning! This article contains spoilers to Hulu’s Hellraiser!The latest iconic slasher film to be rebooted, David Bruckner’s Hellraiser brought the franchise into a modern era, along with some new Cenobites. The demonic purveyors of pain and torment, the Cenobites were introduced in Clive Barkers original masterpiece, Hellraiser, and are a fixture of the movies. With the film now available to watch on Hulu, here is a look at the new demons introduced.
The Cenobites have returned to show mortals the apparent pleasure of brutal torture, following their enigmatic leader Pinhead, also known as the High Priestess. Along with an updated appearance, Pinhead is also now canonically female. She returns along with the harrowing Chatterer, whose only remaining recognizable facial feature is his incessantly clacking teeth that protrude from his face beneath a mass of warped and stretched skin. Both have received an updated design in the Hellraiser reboot, Bruckner deciding to ditch the original Hellraiser‘s black leather in favor of an anatomical structure. Much like the film itself, the new Cenobites are the perfect balance between honoring and elevating the original.
The Gasp is Pinhead’s right-hand woman. Her appearance is an amalgamation of two previous Cenobites, Deep Throat (Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II) and Angelique (Hellraiser: Bloodline). Both of these iconic Cenobites were popular in the original franchise, making The Gasp a fitting tribute. The Gasp features Deep Throat’s nose piercing and slashed open neck, which is held in place by surgical pins and greatly hinders her breathing. The Gasp’s scalp is stretched downwards and hooked to her shoulders and throat in a manner reminiscent of Angelique’s torn scalp. The Gasp can control wires, which appear from nowhere to entangle victims like Pinhead’s infamous chains. The Gasp is undoubtedly one of the more disturbing new characters in 2022’s Hellraiser.
One of the more visually horrific new Cenobites, The Weeper is the next most prominent. Her deep blue skin and large black eyes, endlessly wet with black tears, lend her an alien-like appearance, with her inhuman visage countered by her haunting sobs. Ribbons of her flesh have been removed and are wound onto spools attached to her skin and part of her lower lip and chin is missing, baring the flesh beneath. The Weeper has the ability to split her arms open, to create a second pair held together by surgical pins. The Weeper is truly one of the most disturbing additions to the new Cenobites, as led by Hellraiser‘s new Pinhead.
The Asphyx is smothered by the skin from its own flayed body, wraped and twisted over its face. The skin is pinned in place along a string of nerves and muscles, stripped from its flesh to reveal its heaving chest as it struggles to breathe against its own disfigured skin. The Asphyx is initially bound with wires which hold its hands in a prayer position via a mechanism attached to its front and back, which much like its fellow Cenobites, is mostly stripped of its skin. Initially calm in demeanor, conjuring images of religious ceremony, once The Asphyx’s hands are unbound, its threat becomes much more immediate.
The Masque is highly reminiscent of the most memorable death in the original Hellraiser, that of Frank during the infamous “Jesus wept” scene. His face is stretched out and over a surgical wire which encircles his head. His white, pallid flesh is dissected and presented like a medical specimen. Two strips of skin upon his chest contain passages of text which continue the themes of ancient religion prominent in Hellraiser. Wires and pins hold most of its body in place, truly driving home the medically anatomical design of Bruckner’s Cenobites as it resembles an antique surgical illustration.
The Mother is only glimpsed briefly but promises to be a truly upsetting Cenobite in future installments, which will hopefully be more successful than previous Hellraiser sequels. The Mother’s body is dissected to reveal and highlight her disturbing pregnancy. As she gently holds her heavy stomach, The Mother recalls the infamous crying baby from Hellbound: Hellraiser II, which also exploited and subverted maternal instinct. The Mother’s appearance is draped in the trademark Hellraiser blue-tinged lighting, which when bathed upon her headscarf is highly suggestive of the Christian Mary, bringing the maternal theme together with the religious. An illustration of The Mother is visible on the wall of Voight’s office, alongside depictions of The Gasp and The Weeper.
As Voight is introduced in Hellraiser as a human, he is the only Cenobite whose backstory we are privy to (presuming that Doug Bradley’s Pinhead backstory is no longer canon). After opening the Lament Configuration, Voight is offered the power of the Cenobites, whereupon he is tortured until transforming into a new Cenobite. His mouth is torn open and peeled back, revealing his teeth like The Chatterer as his remaining flesh is cut and pinned back into place, lending Voight the appearance of a dressmaker’s mannequin. The closing scene which reveals Voight’s transformation in Hellraiser, is the movie’s major hint at a potential sequel, it also centers the pseudo-Christian themes, mutilating Voight to the sound of angelic, heavenly choral vocals while bathed in the blinding white light.
Hellraiser has managed to expand upon its lore and legacy while still maintaining the tone of the original. These new Cenobites both honor previous demons from the franchise and emphasize the new, more medical design. They also manage to recapture the beauty of the ordinal Cenobites, who, despite their graphic deformities, still embody elegance and artistry. Hellraiser is available to stream now on Hulu.