It’s a strange feeling, watching a friend go through a horrible experience and chuckling the whole way through, eager for things to get so much worse.

That’s how it feels watching Decker Shado (the Internet personality with…well, you know) have to endure THE SUMMER OF HELLLLLLLLRAISER!!! He first told me his plan to view and review all nine installments in the horror movie franchise last year when we did MetaCon together, and immediately I was abuzz with excitement. The original Hellraiser is a masterpiece, one of my favorite scary movies by my hero and inspiration, Mr. Clive Barker. The sequels, however, follow the laws of diminishing returns like no other franchise before. Each one is worse than the last, starting with the good but not great Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 and ending with the unwatchable Hellraiser: Revelations, a movie slapped together solely so the studio could hold on to the rights while they plan a reboot.

This week Decker’s journey with the demon fans have dubbed “Pinhead” ends. However, for those who check out his Revelations review I’d hate for you to think that “movie” is at all representative of the Cenobites and their mythology. Pinhead is a horror icon for a reason – he’s the Pope of horror. What other monster can claim a title like that?

Back in the 80s Hellraiser was lumped in with the never ending deluge of slasher flicks that nearly destroyed the horror genre with sheer laziness. Hellraiser was not a slasher movie, though it’s sequels increasingly wanted you to believe they belonged in such a category. Hellraiser was a metaphysical masterpiece that avoided the horror cliches of the day. Pinhead was not Freddy or Jason or Chucky, he wasn’t even the main villain. Pinhead was merely a nameless demon, and leader of a tribe from beyond our realm who show up when a puzzle box is solved. Those inquisitive enough to summon the Cenobites want an experience beyond the limits, pain and pleasure – indivisible. But there is no safe word with the Cenobites. They will get their meat hooks into your flesh and tear you apart, all to get you off.

In explaining who Pinhead really is I’ll be avoiding all the sequels beyond the third movie and including the recent comic book series written by Clive Barker (which I consider the true continuation of the franchise). So those of you wondering why I won’t mention the events of Hellraiser 4-9…just try and sit through those movies and you’ll see why.

Pinhead is actually Captain Elliot Spencer, one of the many British soldiers shattered by the first World War. He tries to lead a normal life after the war, marrying and having a child, but the horrors he witnessed in battle have transformed him. Not content to simply live he begins to indulge in excess of all kind, mainly sexual. At one point he decides to molest his daughter, but unable to bring himself to hurt her he instead heads to India where he finds the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box rumored to open a door to all manner of pleasure.

What Elliot got was more than he bargained for, yet it appears he enjoyed it none the less. Dragged to Hell where he is ripped apart and tormented, Elliot is reborn as a servant to Leviathan, the god of the pit. With pins driven into his skull and black robes sewn to his flesh, Spencer becomes the being fans have lovingly dubbed “Pinhead” (Barker promises that his upcoming novel The Scarlet Gospels will reveal Spencer’s true Cenobite name). His memory erased, Pinhead quickly rises through the Cenobite ranks to become Hell’s dark prince.

Now it is Pinhead who does the torturing to those foolish enough to open the puzzle box, which he does for the better part of 70 years. In 1987 Pinhead is sucked into the psychosexual family drama of the Cottons, where he encounters a young woman named Kirsty Cotton who becomes his greatest advisory and, ultimately, the one who reminds Pinhead of his human origin. Taking up arms to defend Kirsty from another Cenobite, Pinhead is reverted back to human form and killed. This event cleaves Pinhead in two – his Cenobite form trapped in a pillar while his human form roams limbo.

Eventually the two forms of Elliot Spencer are merged back together and he returns to his duties in Hell, unable to forget that he was once a human. Elliot decides to perform a ritual that will allow him to return to earth in his human form so that he can seek redemption, knowing full well that should he fail to do so that when he dies he will not return to Hell as a tormentor but as one of the tormented. Joining with a group of Cenobite hunters he goes around the world destroying the various gateways to Hell. Not until it’s too late and all the portals are closed are his true intentions revealed. With Hell unable to return to earth to stop him, Elliot now has the ability to create his own kingdom on earth where he can further explore his dark desires.

Elliot Spencer and his alter ego, as written by Clive Barker, is one of the sickest monsters ever to to appear in any medium. Across literature, film, and comics he has outdone any other character in the horror genre when it comes to perversion and cruelty. He is the darkest reflection of our own inner selves, who we are in the moments where we are at our most primal. While we may feel shame for those moments of weakness, Pinhead revels in that darkness and makes it his strength.
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