"Demons to some, angels to others." That's one of the ways we're introduced to the Cenobites in Hellraiser, horror author and director Clive Barker's most enduring contribution to the visual lexicon of horror cinema. These "explorers in the further regions of experience" come when you solve a puzzle box called the Lament Configuration, and usually they drag you off to join them in a labyrinth that just might be hell. Not all of the Cenobites in Hellraiser originally had names - not even the "Lead Cenobite," who came to be known and loved as Pinhead - but they all have nicknames that stuck, and over the course of several movies, a number of other Cenobites were introduced. And between movies, books, and comics, the Cenobites have done some pretty gruesome things.
What are the Cenobites? In Hellraiser and its sequels, the Cenobites are explained as a sort of monastic order that serves Leviathan and views flesh as something to be modified and sculpted and that seems to draw no distinction between pleasure and pain. Here's a list of all the nastiest Cenobites from the Hellraiser, ranked by how vile and unpleasant they are. See if you agree!
- Photo: Hellraiser/RLJ Entertainment
Sure, she doesn't get many ines, but the "Female Cenobite," sometimes referred to by fans as "Deep Throat" due to the peeled-open throat wound she sports, gets to deliver some particularly chilling dialogue during her two appearances, helping Pinhead to explain to Kristy how Cenobites work.
Appearances: She never gets a real name, but the Female Cenobite shows up alongside Pinhead and the rest of his original crew in both Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. A different Female Cenobite also appears in Hellraiser: Revelations.
Origins: The films don't give the Female Cenobite an origin, but like the other Cenobites, she reverts back to her human form when she is slain by Dr. Channard in Hellraiser II.
What Makes Them Nasty: Because she wasn't covered over with as much prosthesis as some of the others, the Female Cenobite is the only one of the original group besides Pinhead who has any lines, meaning that she gets to say things like, "Perhaps we prefer you," when Kristy offers to lead them to Frank.Nasty?
Even before he is transformed into a Cenobite, Dr. Channard is no angel. Obsessed with the Lament Configuration, Channard uses his connections at the mental hospital where he works to resurrect Julia Cotton and bring home mental patients for her to feed on. He also has a puzzle-obsessed young patient solve the box for him, so that he can dodge the Cenobites who will come calling - or so he thinks. Betrayed by Julia, Channard is gruesomely transformed into a Cenobite by Leviathan, the god at the center of the labyrinth that waits on the other side of the puzzle box.
When Kristy, the protagonist of the first and second Hellraiser films, reveals that Pinhead and the other Cenobites were once human, they try to fight Channard, but he defeats them all, making him certainly one of the nastiest Cenobites around.
Appearances: Dr. Channard only shows up in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Origins: Before his transformation, Dr. Channard was a neurosurgeon who had a lust for blood and had enjoyed dissecting animals at a young age. His obsession with the Lament Configuration and Leviathan drove him to experiment upon his patients.
What Makes Them Nasty: Channard seems to take a vile pleasure in his new state after he has been transformed into a Cenobite, but nothing he does is ever quite as nasty as his own metamorphosis, in which wires are wrapped around his face and a dripping, phallic tentacle tipped with a whirring blade fastens itself onto his head.Nasty?
The later Hellraiser sequels are (mostly justifiably) dismissed by fans of the franchise, but they did contribute a few new Cenobites, including this variant on the fan-favorite Chatterer from the first couple of films. According to the packaging that accompanied a toy line featuring the Torso, he is "one of the most brutally altered former humans" among the Cenobites, being little more than a torso, head, and arms.
Appearances: The Torso Cenobite appears in Hellraiser: Inferno where it is one of a handful of Cenobites (including Pinhead) who torment a unscrupulous Denver police detective named Joseph Thorne.
Origins: According to the packaging for the Torso toy, this twisted Cenobite was created by the Chatterer "in his own image" and now searches the corridors of the Labyrinth in search of his master.
What Makes Them Nasty: His face has been peeled back to mimic the Chatterer Cenobite, his skin is scored with gashes, and from the waist down his body is missing entirely. That's pretty nasty.Nasty?
ButterballPhoto: Hellraiser/RLJ Entertainment
As his name might suggest, Butterball is an obese Cenobite who was part of Pinhead's coterie in the original Hellraiser films. He wears round sunglasses, and when he takes them off, reveals his eyes are sewn shut. He also has a bloody gash in his stomach held open with hooks.
Appearances: Butterball showed up in the first two Hellraiser films and was slain by Dr. Channard in the labyrinth at the end of Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Origins: The films don't tell us much about Butterball's origins before he was a Cenobite, but we know that he, like the other Cenobites, was once human.
What Makes Them Nasty: Obese in life, Butterball has taken that corpulence to disturbing lengths as a Cenobite, his skin appearing as waxy folds and bulges of flesh. His eyes are sewn shut, and a bloody gash disfigures his stomach. He was also originally intended to utter the line that ultimately went to the "Female Cenobite," when she tells Kristy "perhaps we prefer you," but the actor was under so much makeup that speech was impossible.Nasty?