Hellraiser’s Director and New Pinhead on What Makes the Hulu Film Feel Fresh — and Scary

Hellraiser’s Director and New Pinhead on What Makes the Hulu Film Feel Fresh — and Scary

The new Hellraiser arrives on Hulu next month, and fans of Clive Barker’s horror franchise are eagerly waiting to see what director David Bruckner does to differentiate his film from the many series entries that’ve come before. One big change that makes this 11th Hellraiser film stand out: casting Jamie Clayton as demon antagonist Pinhead.

Ahead of the film’s release, Gizmodo got a chance to talk with Bruckner (The Night House) and Clayton (Sense8) over video chat about what the Hellraiser faithful — and franchise newcomers — can expect.

Cheryl Eddy, Gizmodo: The Hellraiser franchise has been around for 35 years. How do you approach balancing the appeal for long-standing fans and people who may be watching a Hellraiser movie for the first time?

David Bruckner: Being a Hellraiser fan myself, it’s pretty easy to instantly want to resurrect everything that you love about the original movies, and you can’t get it all into one film. So it’s easy to sort of follow those inspirations — but you also have an obligation to this story. This was always a new story and that sometimes carries you in different places, and you have to follow your inspirations where that’s concerned. The spirit of Hellraiser is one that I think embraces invention and advance of design and is always willing to go [to] some crazy places. So we wanted to find something that hit the notes that fans would like — but also allowed itself to do new things for new audiences and look at this as a gateway for people to the older movies. That’d be great. That’d make me very happy.

Gizmodo: Jamie, Doug Bradley’s portrayal of Pinhead is obviously so beloved and iconic. Did you study his performance when shaping your approach to “the Priest”?

Jamie Clayton: David and I had many conversations before I would shoot any of the bigger scenes about what the intention would be, what the Priest was sort of feeling and thinking, and all of those things. He did send me one particular scene to watch — that’s our little secret — but he did send me one scene that was his favourite from the original film, and I remembered it. It was so helpful because it really was just sort of tonally an idea. It was this abstract idea, you know, it was one of the many colours with which we painted this beautiful portrait. And so there was that. But I really did just want to just make it my own. That was the goal. I mean, the goal was, even in casting a woman, it was seeking to take the burden off the audience’s shoulders of even trying to compare the two performances, because just right off the bat, they’re just going to be different.

Another Cenobite would like to make your acquaintance. (Image: Spyglass Media Group)
Another Cenobite would like to make your acquaintance. (Image: Spyglass Media Group)

Gizmodo: How much of the make-up was practical and how much was CG, and how did you develop your character’s particular speaking voice?

Speaker 3: The makeup took four and a half to six hours depending on the day, how many other Cenobites would be working, and how many people I had working on me. But it’s all — everything that you see, if anybody knows the lingo of Hollywood, “last looks” are when the makeup artists jump in before you’re about to start actually shooting a scene. For any actor, it’s a little bit of powder on the forehead, some lip gloss. But for me and the rest of the Cenobites, it was all kinds of blood and, like, straightening a pin. All of those things [were] practical. There are some bits that are painted to get rid of seams, but that’s all me in all of that.

The voice was interesting because I had done a voice when I taped my audition, and I was just having fun with something. In the callback, we did some funny things that were playing with volume and projection and all of that. And then once it finally got down to [filming] in Serbia, there was a moment too, when we talked and I was like, “Maybe I’m not even going to do as much as I’ve been doing.” But then the neck piece is so tight and so restricting, I kind of can’t do anything more than what I’m doing. Once [the costume was] all on, [I was not] able to expand [or take a full breath], so it all kind of lived back here [in the back of the throat]. We just found it, and we found levels in it, and expression and tone, the disappointment or the sensuality. We found those things in there..

Gizmodo: David, after all the Hellraiser movies that are out in the world, some of which are pretty corny, and related work including a recent Rick and Morty episode, how do you continue to make Hellraiser scary?

Bruckner: It’s always a challenge to make things scary. And I feel like if you’re doing anything in a horror film, you’re out on a crazy limb — you’ve got prosthetic monsters, you’re usually battling the elements, and when you’re there on the ground, there’s always the peril that none of it may work. But look, Hellraiser is about a lot of different things. It’s fantasy. It’s horror. There’s surreal qualities to it. It’s a reflection of the inner dilemma of the characters. I liked to say we sort of chased the sick giggle, the side of us that feels like we’re getting away with something, and then also allow ourselves to experience a bit of awe in horror, and to be smaller than the material in some ways. So I think you just trust in that and believe in it. There’s a sincerity to Hellraiser that I admire. And of course, when something’s become iconic on the pop culture front, there’s going to be another satirical side to it necessarily. But I don’t think that that challenges the experience in any way that that we can’t get behind.

Gizmodo: Are you involved at all in the HBO series that was announced in 2020?

Bruckner: I don’t know anything about it, but I wish them the best. I know Clive [Barker’s] working on it. And I think if they can get it going, I’d be a fan. I’d love to see what comes of it.

Gizmodo: Speaking of Clive Barker, he’s listed as a producer on your film. How involved was he?

Bruckner: He was great. He was very involved. We had a lot of conversations when I was in prep, and a lot after the fact on the edit, and he’s a creative producer, so he was there to look into the material, to challenge me, to encourage me to look into various ideas. He sent me lots of art. We had lots of conversations about theme. He fully embraced the idea that this was after the essence of Hellraiser, but was also a departure in some ways. Even before he’d seen the designs, [he] said to me, we’ve got to find a new way to do some of this; times have changed and the spirit of it has to be rejuvenated. And so I hope that that’s something that we accomplished. But I’m grateful to him for his time, and he’s a marvel to work with and speak to. And he was very generous with us.

Hellraiser premieres October 7 on Hulu.

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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