The original Hellraiser, directed by Clive Barker, is a horror classic. The movie’s signature villain, Pinhead, played originally by Doug Bradley, is a lot different than the contemporary villains of the era like Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. Those characters are basically killing machines. Each has their own peculiar reasons, but the end result is about the same. Pinhead, on the other hand, at least in the first Hellraiser movie, isn’t even the one responsible for most of the killings in the movie. Someone has escaped Hell and Pinhead and his Cenobite pals are in charge of getting that soul back. At times, it seems like pinhead is kind of put out by the whole thing. And, pound for pound, is probably the most reasonable horror villain.
After ten Hellraiser movies, the franchise is being rebooted with a brand new Pinhead (aka the Hell Priest), now played by Jamie Clayton. Director David Bruckner’s story involves a young woman, Riley (Odessa A’zion), who is involved in a plan to steal a mysterious ancient box, but then realizes that not only is the box supernatural, but it might also be able to bring back her long lost brother who died under mysterious circumstances. That is, if she can trust the Cenobites.
Ahead, David Bruckner and Jamie Clayton explain why another sequel was eschewed and what they wanted to pull off with a Hellraiser reboot (which will be on Hulu starting October 7th), which, in the end, comes down to they just wanted to make, “a fucking great Hellraiser.”
I like Pinhead because Pinhead is the most reasonable villain in horror movies, especially in the original movie.
Jamie Clayton: A hundred percent.
David Bruckner: Well, it’s the staple of the Hellraiser movies. You have to negotiate with Cenobite. And they’re at their best when they’re dignified, and you believe that they might keep their word. And if their word, or the testament, or the challenge, that they’re putting forth to you is one that you can achieve, then you get really interesting tension there. But, yeah, that’s something that interested us.
There are not many horror villains that, half the time, seem put out by doing what they do. Basically, “Someone opened this box. Now I have to deal with this.” I think Pinhead would rather want to relax.
Jamie Clayton: That’s a great perspective. I love that. Yes, absolutely. It’s like, “You opened it!”
Jamie Clayton: “I didn’t want to be here!”
Even in this one, a Cenobite doesn’t attack a character because that person didn’t open the box.
David Bruckner: Yeah, they have rules. They all have interests. I mean, one of the scariest lines for me, in the original film, was when Kirsty begins to negotiate, is where the female Cenobite says, “Perhaps we prefer you.” And I always thought that was so frightening, the idea that there was preference involved. Your fate was a matter of taste. That just gave me chills. We talked about a bunch in this, and I think what Jamie brings to life in the character is a sense of desire and sensuality. You get a kind of hungry sense from the priest of what she wants to see from the people around her. She’s curious. And I just found that really frightening.
Going into this, how much of a direct reboot did you want to do? And how much did you want to create something new? Because the original Hellraiser, the Uncle Frank storyline is pretty grim.
David Bruckner: Well, I mean, I think the original Frank story… I mean, obviously, it’s super revered. It’s fantastic in so many ways. We didn’t want to try and remake the original movie. It’s too iconic and it’s too unique and it’s too its own thing. And that would be pretty perilous place for filmmakers.
I guess my question is why a hard reboot instead of another sequel? Or one of those things where it is only a sequel to the first movie like Halloween? Obviously, you have a new Pinhead is a reason, but I don’t know how this was constructed.
David Bruckner: I think, for us, it was really, honestly, the focus was like, let’s just make a fucking awesome Hellraiser movie. You know what I mean? Let’s not burden ourselves, or the audience, too much on what is strict canon and what isn’t, necessarily, in that regard.
It’s a lot. I haven’t even seen all the Hellraisers, and I like these movies.
David Bruckner: It’s gone in too many different directions, and then you have… not too many, I mean so many. And in a way that I think is great.
I would argue maybe it is “too many.”
David Bruckner: I think what it inspires in me is that it’s a big, wide-open canvas. That there’s a world to explore here. And the thing that we really tried to get right, and a lot of what came out of our collaboration with Clive, is about theme. It’s about getting at the roots of what the story is expressing and trying to find a balance between understanding what he was doing, and then also being true to our story and understanding what we are doing and what we bring to it, 35 years later, both in terms of this narrative, but also for us as artists. And Jamie’s performance, for instance, we talked a lot about how you can’t do an impression of Doug Bradley. If we try to do something exacting in that regard, we’re going to create this weird museum piece that’s not going to work. And it’s too iconic. We have to lose ourselves. And I think she understood in her gut, from the beginning, that she just had to pull from somewhere else to this, and showed us things that were different but fascinating. And I lose myself on the idea of what if? What if this was the character? What if this was the world? What if this was the next thing that happened? And just being true to that voice.
I’m curious what’s going through your head while playing Pinhead? Is it, well, Pinhead has a job to do. Or is this Pinhead a little more sinister?
Jamie Clayton: Well, David and I had a lot of discussions about what the priest’s intentions were, what she was thinking in certain moments, what she was feeling in certain moments. But there definitely is… I don’t know that I was consciously thinking it, or if it’s something that we had discussed, but there definitely is, hearing you say it, I mean, there is this element of, “I didn’t come here on my own. You did this. You touched the box. Now I’m here.” But my intentions, everything that I was thinking, I think the biggest thing that we talked about was bringing a sort of sensuality to it. A very grounded, like a stillness, which I hope you like.
I did. Though, this time, it does feel like Pinhead does cheat a little bit, by making the box open when she didn’t actually open it.
Jamie Clayton: Oops!
So this Pinhead’s a little more sinister, or maybe the word is more playful?
Jamie Clayton: I mean, my priest is a little, “Fuck around and find out,” if you know I mean.
I’m curious, how many, if any, of the old movies did you watch? I can see watching those going against the idea of doing something new.
Jamie Clayton: I watched the original the night before I auditioned. I wanted to just bring a bit of… I wanted to understand the tone. Just as an actor, I wanted to understand the tone of it. And I didn’t realize how sexy it was. Just incredibly sexy, and very sensual. I didn’t understand all of those things. And so, once I saw that, and then I taped my audition, I mean, I’d like to think that that’s one of the elements I brought. That’s why I got the callback.
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