CATEGORIES Halloween, Horror


The Movie:
'Hellraiser' (1987)

The Scene: Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), having been assaulted by the skinless, reanimated corpse of her uncle, is spending some alone time in a hospital room. Her doctor, who hasn't believed a word of her story, leaves her the ornate box she was found clutching for dear life in the hope that it will jog her memory. It doesn't, but it does occupy her time once she realizes it's a puzzle box. What happens when she solves the puzzle, however, is even worse than when her skinless uncle tried to make out with her.

Unbeknownst to Kirsty, solving the box (officially called the Lament Configuration), is akin to ringing the doorbell at the gates of hell. Hells' denizens, dubbed the Cenobites, simply don't understand why anyone would ring the bell unintentionally and so their leader, Pinhead (Doug Bradley), kindly invites her to come have her soul ripped apart.



Why It's Iconic: This is cinema's first introduction to Clive Barker's gift to cinema: The Cenobites, a race of extradimensional beings whose sole pursuit is the sadomasochist marriage of pleasure and pain across various planes of existence. In the words of Pinhead, they are "Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, Angels to others."


These self-mutilated horrors don't fully introduce themselves until over an hour into 'Hellraiser,' but their arrival left such an impact on horror fans that the Cenobites went on to have a further seven horror movies crafted around them. Sure, most of those movies were straight-to-video, but a grand total of eight feature films built around any villain is impressive regardless of whether or not they were box office smashes or rental shelf mainstays.

Imitators/Flatterers: The lasting legacy of the Cenobites, aside from their own eight films, is clearly their look. The pale skin, vinyl-clad, tattered flesh aesthetic can be seen referenced in a number of films and TV shows, both for better ('Farscape's' Scorpius bares more than a passing resemblance) and worse ('Stan Helsing'). In particular, Pinhead would go on to become one of the most recognizable faces of horror born of the '80s and is regularly championed for being a more sophisticated villain than Freddy or Jason, though that hardly gives him immunity from being parodied (Adult Swim's 'Robot Chicken' has summoned him for laughs a number of times).

As for the actual Cenobite introduction scene, its impact is a bit more subtle. Kirsty's journey into and subsequent fleeing out of the nightmarish hallway that leads to a presumably horrifying other world is quite like the inter-dimensional hallway from the 2007 film 'Coraline' -- particularly so when both Kirsty and Coraline are running for their lives from arachnid monsters. Said monster that Kirsty is running from also looks an awful lot like the abominations that charge down the hall after Sam Neil's character in John Carpenter's supremely underrated 'In The Mouth of Madness.'