Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Hellraiser'

With its blend of psychosexual themes and cosmic terror, there's no denying the impact Clive Barker's debut film Hellraiser has had on horror movies. Pinhead, the Cenobites, and the Lament Configuration are now thoroughly ingrained in pop culture, and the franchise they spawned is a well-regarded institution in horror circles.

However, the road to infamy wasn't an easy one for Barker, or anyone involved in the first film's production - as these Hellraiser behind-the-scenes stories will attest.

Photo: Hellraiser / Entertainment Film Distributors

  • Clive Barker Knew Almost Nothing About Filmmaking

    While Clive Barker would eventually become a household name for both his writing and filmmaking, prior to beginning production on Hellraiser (circa 1986), he had zero experience directing a film. Barker needed a crash course in filmmaking, but he met an early roadblock to his education:

    I went to my local library to find a book on film directing and they had two but they were both checked out and I thought, 'Oh, I'm so f*cked, I don't even have a book!'

    Barker added to this anecdote later in a retrospective piece from The Guardian:

    Luckily, the crew were very gentle with me. You can only go that far into darkness if everybody’s on board. I had Richard Marden, who had worked with David Lean, as editor, and Bob Keen, who had done special effects on Star Wars and came up with Frank’s resurrection scene. We had a nice working rhythm.

  • Pinhead Actor Doug Bradley Briefly Considered Playing A Minor Part 

    Hellraiser writer/director Clive Barker and actor Doug Bradley first met in school, where Bradley played an early iteration of the character Pinhead in one of Barker's stage productions.

    Though playing the role of the lead Cenobite was, for Bradley, a foregone conclusion, there was a brief moment of reconsideration when producer Christopher Figg mentioned Bradley possibly playing another character. The actor told The Guardian:

    I was also offered the role of a removals man. For a split second, I had an actorly conversation with myself: because Hellraiser was my first movie, I thought it might be a good idea to be seen on screen as myself. But it was a brief conversation. There was no doubt in my mind that this unnamed guy with the pins in his head had a certain je ne sais quoi that a mattress-delivery guy didn’t.

    Bradley later said he regretted sharing this anecdote, because it made it sound as though he'd seriously considered playing the mover over Pinhead, or that, even worse, he didn't really want to play the now-iconic character. 

  • Barker Wanted To Direct The Film Because He Trusted No One Else To Capture His Vision

    Prior to Hellraiser, there had been two adaptations of Clive Barker's works to hit the big screen: Underworld and Rawhead Rex. Barker penned the scripts for both films but was unhappy with the end results.

    The writer decided that, if his vision was to be preserved, he needed to direct the next adaptation himself. Barker stated:

    I directed the first Hellraiser movie back in 1986 in order to protect myself from truly appalling adaptations of my short stories for example, Rawhead Rex, which is one of my favourite tales from the Books of Blood, reduced to a mockery of a picture back in 1985. I decided to direct pictures to protect myself from BS like that.

  • The Film Had Some Eyebrow-Raising Working Titles

    Barker originally wanted to call the film The Hellbound Heart, after the title of the novella on which Hellraiser is based. However, the studio backing the film, New World Pictures, thought The Hellbound Heart sounded like a title for a romance novel. Hellraiser was pitched as a possibility, though the powers that be still weren't wild about it

    Barker himself remained open to suggestions. The most sordid title was offered by a crewmember. As Barker explained: 

    One of the very English, very proper ladies working on the set said it should be called 'What A Woman Will Do For A Good F*ck.'

    Barker himself bandied the title Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave and even used this phrase in an interview to describe the Cenobites. 

  • Pinhead Was Inspired By A New York S&M Club Barker Attended

    The Cenobites' leather attire and elaborate body modifications are clearly inspired by the world of bondage, a fact Clive Barker affirmed in an interview with The Guardian:

    The look of the Cenobites, such as the pins in their leader’s head, was inspired by S&M clubs. But I was emotionally inspired by them, too. On S&M’s sliding scale, I’m probably a 6. There was an underground club called Cellblock 28 in New York that had a very hard S&M night... It was the first time I ever saw people pierced for fun... The austere atmosphere definitely informed Pinhead: "No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering!"

    ...And I got a good reaction from the S&M crowd - and still do. I was validating a lifestyle. It was a celebration of the beauty of these strange secret rituals.

  • Jennifer Tilly Auditioned For The Role Of Kirsty

    Perhaps best known to horror fans as Tiffany, the psycho female doll counterpart to Chucky in Bride Of Chucky and its sequels, Jennifer Tilly read for the part of Kirsty Cotton, the "final girl" of Hellraiser.

    Ashley Laurence ultimately won the role, however.