Hellraiser director David Bruckner discusses the creation of the latest batch of Cenobites for his take on the iconic horror franchise. Clive Barker wrote and directed the original 1987 Hellraiser film, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. The new Hellraiser‘s story will stick closer to Barker’s source material and follow Riley (Odessa A’zion), a young woman struggling with addiction, who acquires an ancient puzzle box containing unknown horrors. This latest installment in the Hellraiser franchise is the eleventh film overall, but is a soft reboot to the series drawing inspiration directly from Barker’s novel. Bruckner, whose previous horror credits include V/H/S and The Ritual, serves as director for this iteration.
The Hellraiser franchise revolves around a mysterious puzzle box with the ability to summon a group of extra-dimensional demons known as the Cenobites. These beings are former humans warped by their own ambitions into sadomasochistic abominations that can no longer distinguish between pain and pleasure. Doug Bradley previously played Pinhead, the lead Cenobite in the other Hellraiser movies, will not be returning in his iconic role. Instead, Jamie Clayton (Sense8) will play Pinhead this time around transforming into The Priest with impressive practical effects, and now, ahead of her debut, the man at the helm for Hellraiser is sharing how they created some of these characters.
While speaking exclusively with Screen Rant interview, Hellraiser director David Bruckner opened up about his thought process behind designing the newest Cenobites. Bruckner comments on how the Hellraiser world offers a lot of creative freedom, allowing for some extreme designs, and that when concocting the Cenobites, the team focused on augmenting each demon’s human qualities, pushing their features to the absolute limit. Read Bruckner’s full quote below:
David Bruckner: There’s so much you can do in the Hellraiser world; Cenobites as a concept are just such incredible movie monsters. We really enjoyed focusing on their human qualities and thinking about the human body augmented and how far you can push that in different directions. We tried to give each of them a personality that was a combination of the stories as revealed in their designs, but also what each of the actors brought to them.
One of the great things about doing practical work is that you’re there on the ground. It’s everybody’s having an experience together, and the limitations that you face become things that you pull from, and you use. Just like the way Jamie was fighting the voice in the throat, for some of the other Cenobites’ movement was tricky. We found ways to use that in strange ways, and it’s just a testament to the virtues and the pain of working practically.
Practical Effects Helped Hellraiser Make Better Designs
Though his team ran into a variety of limitations with the practical effects, Bruckner’s Hellraiser crew clearly pivoted in unique ways with their creative decisions. Between finding ways to give the various Cenobites, including Clayton’s The Priest, their own unique traits to pushing for the thematic weight of each transformation, the director seems to have a proper grasp on Barker’s source material, and for helping expand its roster of monsters past simple killing machines. Clayton herself previously described how her makeup transformation into The Priest was essential to getting in the headspace and physicality of the iconic character, showing the importance of reverting to a practical approach for Hellraiser‘s effects.
Additionally, with the over saturation of CGI in modern filmmaking, Hellraiser‘s practical effects are a welcome change of pace. When CGI is used to enhance rather than supplement practical effects, monster movie villains can take on a more real and imposing presence on screen, and in the case of Bruckner’s Hellraiser, this presence is essential to understanding the torturous existence of the Cenobites. Hellraiser premieres October 7 on Hulu.