Pinhead explained: who is Hellraiser’s lead Cenobite?

Want to know about the Hellraiser movie's lead Coenobite? Here's everything you need to know about the Priest of Hell Pinhead from his human life to his death

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

Who is Pinhead? Despite his prominence on the film’s poster, Pinhead wasn’t the intended villain of the Hellraiser movies. No, when Clive Barker first conceived the Cenobite, he saw him as different from other horror movie monsters; he believed the character was more urbane and had a code of honour.

Unfortunately, the character’s popularity meant he was eventually turned into a typical slasher villain like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Still, Barker did manage to slip in a certain degree of nuance, or at least he did with the films he was involved in.

So with the Hellraiser 2022 release date so close, we thought it’d be fun to explore Pinhead’s full history, including his human origin, history, powers, and weaknesses. Oh yeah, we also mention that time he went to space.

Pinhead’s early life explained

Pinhead wasn’t always a pain worshipping Cenobite; he was originally a captain in the British Expeditionary Force known as Elliott Spencer. During WW1, Spencer fought in the Battle of Passchendaele and was left traumatised by the horrors he saw there.

Rather than dealing with his trauma Spencer tried to run from it, turning to hedonism as an escape. He travelled the world, exploring every vice and indulgence he could. Like Frank Cotton decades later, he quickly grew bored of earthly experiences and chose to seek out the Lament Configuration.

Solving the cursed puzzle box, he summoned the Cenobites and was taken to Hell, where he was remade. Through years of brutal torture, Spencer was transformed into the Cenobite known as Pinhead, and he quickly rose through the ranks of Hell to become one of the Leviathan’s most dangerous servants.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

Life as a Cenobite

Pinhead spent the next few decades working as a loyal servant of the Leviathan and dragging poor souls who sought out the Lament Configuration to Hell. Eventually, the box was discovered by a warped hedonist called Frank Cotton, who was seeking ultimate pleasure.

The Cenobites took Frank to their dimension, where he plotted his escape. Eventually, an accident involving Frank’s brother Larry’s blood gave the now physically ravaged ghoul a chance to escape, although he was greatly weakened. Neither Pinhead nor his Cenobites realised Frank had escaped, and he slowly regained his strength with the help of Larry’s wife, Julia.

Suspecting something was wrong, Larry’s daughter Kirsty confronted Julia and discovered Frank’s skinless new body. Julia and Frank tried to stop Kirsty from escaping the house, but she managed to get away, taking the Lament Configuration with her.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

After solving the box and summoning the Cenobites, Pinhead learned of Frank’s escape. Making a deal with Kirsty to bring Frank to them, the Cenobites let the girl go. Kirsty does trick Frank into revealing himself to Pinhead, and they take the twisted hellraiser back to Hell – although Julia and Larry die along the way.

Unfortunately for Kirsty, Pinhead and his gang of demonic flunkies go back on their promise to let her go. Fleeing the house, Kirsty is forced to ‘unsolve’ the Lament Configuration to dismiss her interdimensional pursuers.

In the second film, Pinhead returns to menace Kirsty, who’s been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The mad Doctor Channard uses his knowledge of the occult to bring Julia back to life, and the pair manipulate a young patient named Tiffany into solving the Lament Configuration.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

Using the box’s power, Channard and Julia enter the Labyrinth dimension of the Cenobites. There Julia betrays Channard, who’s turned into a Cenobite. Kirsty, who followed them into Hell, accidentally reminds Pinhead and his demonic pals about their human origins, severely weakening them and Channard uses the opportunity to murder them.

While the human side of Pinhead is dead, the demonic side survives, eventually manifesting itself through an object known as the Pillar of Souls. Lacking any of Spencer’s humanity, this new Pinhead begins a campaign of violence, converting unsuspecting humans into Cenobites.

Eventually, a young reporter named Joey stumbles across Pinhead’s plot and, with some help from the spirit of Spencer, manages to merge the two back into the pinheaded hedonist we know and… love’s probably the wrong word. Anyway manages to use the Lament Configuration to banish the restored priest of Hell back to his own dimension.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

If you’ve managed to follow the thread so far, well done because this is where all coherency goes out the window. Technically the fourth film, Hellraiser: Bloodline, shows us how Pinhead dies, so we’ll skip that one for now.

Pinhead spends the next few years doing his old schtick tormenting souls in Hell; he meets back up with Kirsty and makes a deal to torture her abusive husband; oh, and he becomes an MMORPG character for some reason.

There’s at least one film that ends with him being turned back into a human as well, but that’s probably not canon because the fourth monster movie shows us the far-flung future, and Spencer has a head full of nails again.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

Well, I guess it’s time to go back to Hellraiser: Bloodline, better known as Pinhead in spaaaaaaace. Yep, really. This time the demonic deviants were summoned by Dr Paul Merchant, a relative of the man who created the Lament Configuration in the year 2127.

Merchant’s bloodline is revealed to have a deep connection to the Cenobites, and it’s prophesied his family will eventually open a permanent portal to Hell. Delighted that the prophecy will finally be fulfilled, Pinhead and his mates murder everyone on the station, but oh no, it was a trap, and the space station they’re on is revealed to be the Elysium Configuration which destroys Pinhead once and for all…. Unless you read the comics.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

Who plays Pinhead?

Pinhead was originally played by the actor Doug Bradley until 2005’s Hellraiser: Hellworld. In Hellraiser: Revelations, Stephan Smith Collins played the maestro of pain, although Fred Tatasciore voiced the character.

However, Collins and Tatasciore’s tenure was short-lived, and in 2018 Paul T. Taylor took on the mantle. Finally, in the Hellraiser 2022 remake, Pinhead will be played by Jamie Clayton.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained

What are Pinhead’s powers?

Pinhead is a Cenobite and, as such, is an extremely powerful supernatural being. He is almost completely indestructible and, as such, is immune to most conventional weapons, including guns.

While he’s incredibly strong, his primary weapons are his chains. Pinhead can summon these barbed chains at will and telepathically control them to quite literally tear apart his enemies.

As a Priest of Hell, he’s also capable of transforming regular humans into Cenobites, which he does in Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth to some unfortunate mortals. In Clive Barker’s later work, The Scarlet Gospels, Pinhead steals the magic from all the world’s magicians and becomes a near-omnipotent and has to be stopped by the Devil himself.

Hellraiser: Pinhead explained - The Lament Configuartion

What are Pinhead’s weaknesses?

Pinhead’s greatest weakness is his reliance on the Lament Configuration to keep him bound to our dimension. He can only be summoned when the puzzle has been solved and will disappear if someone ‘unsolves’ it.

In Hellraiser II, we also learn that reminding a Cenobite of their human life weakens them. Pinhead was defeated and ‘killed’ by Doctor Channard after Kirty showed him a picture of his time as Captain Elliott Spencer. However, he was later restored in Hellraiser III by the most powerful force in the universe, being a recognisable IP.

If you love a good scare, check out our list of the best ghost movies, or if you need a break, we have an article all about the best comedy series.