Just because it’s called “Hellraiser,” don’t assume the latest entry in the long-running horror franchise is a remake of Clive Barker’s 1987 original.
In fact, director David Bruckner bluntly shut down that train of thought when he discussed his upcoming film in an interview with EW: “This is not a remake,” explained the filmmaker. “I just didn’t think you could ever remake the original ‘Hellraiser.’ It’s too much its own thing and it would be, I think, perilous territory for filmmakers, because how do you top that?”
“Hellraiser” follows a recent trend of horror reboots that take the original film’s title, including “Halloween,” “Candyman” and “Scream.” Like those films, it’s not a remake, but a new entry in the ongoing franchise. However, it remains to be seen how the new film will fit within the world fans know considering that, after following cenobites through hell portals and back again across 10 films, the “Hellraiser” franchise encompasses a vast and wild mythology.
“This is a new story in the Hellraiser universe,” said Bruckner, explaining the film as “the tale of a young woman, who’s struggling with addiction and compulsive behavior, that comes in contact accidentally with the box and unfortunately begins to dabble with it.” Naturally, “chaos ensues.”
EW also debuted first-look images from the film and from the looks of things, that chaos will exist at the signature junction of grotesquery and elegance that defines “Hellraiser” and its sadomasochistic demon-esque monsters, the cenobites. Among them is the iconic horror character Pinhead, reimagined here by “Sense8” star Jamie Clayton, who is a trans actress, after being played by Doug Bradley in eight films (and a handful of other actors in recent sequels).
“We knew we wanted Pinhead to be a woman. Jamie was just the right person for the role,” he continued. “A person’s identity can be really exciting for a role in many ways, but I have to emphasize that Jamie absolutely killed, that’s how we got there.”
Discussing the decision to cast Clayton in the role, Bruckner said he “felt a kind of anticipation around the fans to reimagine the character,” so audiences shouldn’t expect a redux of Bradley’s version of Pinhead.
“What Doug Bradley did with the character is so iconic,” said Bruckner. “We didn’t want to do a Doug Bradley impression, we just didn’t think that’s possible to do. There will be suffering, but you’re going to get a sense of what Pinhead’s desires might be in a way that hits a little different.”
And Bradley himself recently lent his support to the new Pinhead while appearing a Silver Screen Con. “It’s an interesting piece of casting,” said the actor. “I don’t know Jamie. Of course, they’ve taken even a little bit of a wrinkle in that, because Jamie is transgender. I’m not familiar with her recent work, but there was a science fiction series on Netflix several years ago called ‘Sense8,’ which I was quite a fan of. Jamie was in that, and I really, really liked her performance in that.”
“We say ‘female Pinhead’ like we know what that means,” he continued, “but there are a million shades of femininity. Where exactly are they going to go with that?” Adding, “Everything about ‘Hellraiser’ has always been transgressive. Everything, always, from start to finish. It’s not a new idea in that sense, but I’m intrigued. I’m in the same position as all the rest of you, I guess, to see where that goes.”
The new “Hellraiser” also has the support of original writer and director Clive Barker, in a much more active capacity — he’s a producer on the film, and according to Bruckner, the horror legend has been both “very involved” and “really generous.”
“Clive’s been very involved,” said Bruckner. “Clive came on before the shoot, when we were in prep, and was really just a wonderful resource for me. He was really generous with his time, and very welcoming of the idea that this was a new group of artists, and that they were going to run with this and land in different places with it. He was very supportive of that.”
“Hellraiser” arrives on Hulu Oct. 7.