"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!
The nastiest of the Cenobites has to be Pinhead, who has been played by Doug Bradley in no less than eight Hellraiser films. Pinhead wasn't always going to be the main antagonist of the series, though. Credited in the first film simply as "Lead Cenobite," even as the sequel was being made, the creators still planned to position Clare Higgins' Julia Cotton as the main villain. It wasn't until fans reacted to Pinhead with such enthusiasm the studio and the filmmakers realized they had a star on their hands.
While working as the screenwriter for the 1985 film Underworld, Clive Barker had envisioned a special effect in which syringes sprouted from a person's skin. Combining that imagery with elements from nkondi figures of the Congo, he created the character who would become known as Pinhead on set, a name that would ultimately stick and become canon. As the leader of the Order of the Gash, Pinhead is the lead Cenobite, and as played by Barker's friend Doug Bradley, he gets all the best lines.
Appearances: Pinhead is the only Cenobite who shows up in literally every Hellraiser movie, from the first to the most recent. In all but the latest two, he is played by Doug Bradley.
Origins: In his previous life, Pinhead was Captain Elliot Spencer, who fought in the Battle of Somme during WWI. The bloodshed and loss of life he saw on that battlefield ultimately pushed him to seek the Lament Configuration and become a Cenobite. In Hellraiser III, Pinhead and Captain Spencer are split into two separate entitites, only to be gruesomely fused back together before the end of the film.
What Makes Them Nasty: As the lead Cenobite for no less than 10 films, Pinhead has orchestrated all sorts of nastiness, though he may never have topped the visceral gruesomeness of his revenge against Frank Cotton at the end of the first film. When he's confronted by two security guards who are, unwittingly, about to become Cenobites themselves in Hellraiser IV, Pinhead memorably informs them that "pain has a face" and this is it.78992Nasty?
- Photo: Hellraiser/RLJ Entertainment
A fan favorite, the Chatterer Cenobite has a particularly grisly appearance and a hauntingly tragic implied backstory. His face appears to be a featureless mass of scars except for his teeth, which are exposed by wires that pull his lips back into an eternal chattering grin. His origins are perhaps even more disturbing than his appearance. In Hellbound: Hellraiser II we get a glimpse of what the Cenobites were before they became what they are, and it is revealed that the Chatterer was a little boy who had solved the puzzle box and found himself at the mercy of the Cenobites.
Appearances: The original Chatterer Cenobite was only in Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, where he was slain by Dr. Channard, but several similar-looking Cenobites have shown up in later Hellraiser sequels including Hellseeker, Deader, and Hellworld.
Origins: In the movies, we're given very little insight into Chatterer's origins, other than that he was a young boy before becoming a Cenobite.
What Makes Them Nasty: In later films, it is revealed that the Chatterer Cenobite was especially favored by Leviathan for his ability to remake others into Cenobites, often in his own image, thus leading to the creations of other Chatterer-like Cenobites, including the Torso, "one of the most brutally altered former humans" among all the Cenobites.962129Nasty?
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.41479Nasty?
True to their name, the Wire Twins are twin Cenobites in revealing costumes whose frames and faces are pierced with thin wires. They also have long, black, serpentine tongues.
Appearances: Along with Pinhead and the Torso Cenobite, the Wire Twins appear in Hellraiser: Inferno where they torment a crooked police detective named Joseph Thorne.
Origins: The packaging of a toy line featuring the Wire Twins calls them, "Leviathan's sisters of tormented pleasures, two perfect twins in their human form who stumbled into the dark world of the Labyrinth." Elsewhere, we're told that one or both of them may have been a centerfold in their former life, "who worshiped at the altar of beauty myth but found herself wanting."
What Makes Them Nasty: More than perhaps any of the other Cenobites, the Wire Twins seem to really relish the sadomasochistic ideals of the Order of the Gash, mixing sensual pleasure with exquisite pain.40390Nasty?