Most horror villains are either misunderstood and misguided like Jason Vorhees and Leatherface, or pure evil like Freddy Krueger or Chucky. But Clive Barker’s Hell Priest (more commonly known as “Pinhead”) stands apart in that he is truly a force of nature.
Angel to some, demons to others, Pinhead is the epitome of true neutral and merely comes when you summon him, much like death itself. Hellraiser remains one of the most visually creative horror films of the 1980s. So with a new reboot coming from Hulu, we thought it was tie to look back on the franchise as a whole and rank every Hellraiser movie!
11. Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Made on a microbudget, shot in 11 days, and only produced so Dimension didn’t lose the rights to Hellraiser, this movie and it very much shows. Everything about it feels cheap, the actors definitely don’t feel like their hearts or attention are in it. And the script is just lazily thrown together as half the action occurs via a character watching footage on a digital camera.
It also marks the first time that Pinhead was played by someone other than Doug Bradley. He was offered the chance to reprise, but between a bad script (which he called “unfinished”) and the incredibly low pay offered, he declined and thankfully slow. The only reason to watch this movie is because you’re ranking the Hellraiser movies and have to include this one.
10. Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)
This is another strange, very low budget sequel that feels like it was just made for the sake of being made. The concept of the cenobites judging people is initially interesting, however it doesn’t at all feel like something the cenobites would do. They are merely artists of pleasure and pain.
But here, the cenobites are essentially turned into bureaucrats and it begs the question why this story was even told to begin with. In the post Doug Bradley era, the franchise suffered, and that’s saying something given some of the sequels that he was in.
9. Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Starring B-movie scream queen Kari Wuhrer, the biggest sin that Deader commits is being the most forgettable Hellraiser movie in the entire franchise. Revelations and Judgment are far worse, but at least they’re so spectacularly bad that it’s easy to make fun of them.
To be fair, the whole idea of a cult surrounding Pinhead is fascinating on paper. But in execution, this is just a bland movie that reeks of its direct-to-video status. And much like the sequels that came before it, it’s very very clear that this script wasn’t meant to involve the cenobites at all, and they were shoehorned in to turn this into a Hellraiser movie.
8. Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Much like Deader (and Hellseeker, and Inferno) this was another script that began as something totally different, but was twisted more than Uncle Frank’s body to make it into a Hellraiser sequel. Hellworld is very much a product of its mid 2000s release, and not in a good way. It’s trying too hard to be hip, cool, and edgy, which hurts it.
However, it does have two saving graces; the first being Lance Henrikson being cool and creepy as always. And the second being the premise of a video game and the cenobites transpiring into another medium is an interesting one to explore. It’s not the worst of the series, but it’s far from the best.
7. Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Kirsty Cotton is by far the best final girl in horror film history (you can’t change my mind), and this direct-to-video sequel was heavily marketed as her return to the series. While we do get another great performance from Ashley Laurence (whose on screen chemistry with Doug Bradley is amazing), this sequel very much underutilizes and wastes her.
Her character gets a decent twist at the end, but we spend most of the movie with her missing and focusing on her husband. Why make such a big deal that your original series lead is returning just to only give her a few minutes of screen time?
6. Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Once again, this was a movie that started as something completely different and it very much shows. That said, the gritty crime thriller that this movie was originally meant to be is really interesting and makes for a compelling watch.
James Remar really shines as a shady police psychiatrist that clearly knows more than he lets on. If we’re forced to have direct-to-video sequels that were shoehorned into Hellraiser movies, at least this one is very interesting and competently directed by Scott Derrickson, who would go on to do The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, Doctor Strange, and The Black Phone.
5. Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996)
It’s become something of a punchline that when a horror franchise goes to space, they’ve officially run out of ideas. Both Jason Vorhees and Leprechaun can attest to this. But the whole idea behind this sequel is much more than that. It’s both an origin story to the lament configuration, as well as a glimpse into the distant future, thus showing the eternal aspect of the cenobites.
Sure the timeline jumps around and the narrative is a bit all over the place, but at its core, Bloodline gives the cenobites a mythos and vastness that we hadn’t really seen up to that point. They’re forces of nature that have always existed and will always exist.
4. Hellraiser (2022)
Serving as a complete reboot, the newest installment of Hellraiser works as a pretty solid horror drama that uses the pain and pleasure offered by the cenobites as metaphors for addiction rather than sex, and it kind of works. Our protagonist struggles with both addiction and keeping her life together, and the power presented by the lament configuration feels at first like an easy fix, much like drugs often do.
And while, this is the third time someone other than Doug Bradley has played Pinhead, Jamie Clayton is the first performer to actually try to make the character her own rather than just do a cheap imitation of Bradley. She comes off as much quieter and subtler, but it works in a very creepy manner.
3. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Granted, this movie is incredibly ridiculous and feels very early 90s with all the tech featured, but it’s probably the most fun Hellraiser movie of them all. We get some of the most visually creative cenobites, particularly the cameraman whose head becomes fused with his camera. And we get two amazing Pinhead scenes, one in a church, and one where he massacres an entire nightclub.
And while a lot of fans don’t like Pinhead having a backstory, it ultimately makes him a more interesting and tragic character knowing that. WWI soldier Captain Elliot Spencer gives Doug Bradley a chance to act without all that makeup, and show a duality to Pinhead that goes hand in hand with the whole “angels to some, demons to other” concept.
This one had a lot riding on it given the fact that it was the first Hellraiser film to break away from the Cotton family, and really the first sequel that sort of had to stand on its own. The plot and characters are interesting enough, and in a time (the early 90s) when major slasher franchises were running out of steam, Hellraiser was remaining creative and fun!
2. Hellraiser (1987)
Perhaps it’s sacrilege to put the original Hellraiser in second place, but if we’re being honest, both of these movies work as two halves of one amazing story. This original film is not only an amazing directorial debut for Clive Barker, but it’s a dark and twisted love story that opens us up to a disturbing world that changed horror forever.
It’s amazing that in a movie that introduces Pinhead and the cenobites, Frank and Julia are far more sinister characters by comparison. It’s the ultimate Snow White story from hell. And honestly, the only reason why it ends up in second is because we only get a small glimpse of the cenobites and the larger world they occupy. This movie is very much the setup to Hellbound’s payoff.
1. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
As we just mentioned, Hellbound is the fulfillment of all the dark and twisted things that Hellraiser promised. We get a continuation of the greatest final girl ever Kirsty wheeling and dealing with the cenobites, using her wits to get out alive every time.
Hell itself is such a bizarre and surreal landscape that calls back to impressionist paintings, and Dr. Channard winds up rivaling Frank as a villain, complete with a massive God complex. More than this, we get a glimpse of Leviathan itself!
This sequel serves as the perfect second half to everything that the first movie sets up, and honestly works best as a double feature in a single viewing. Hellraiser walks so that Hellbound can run, and the franchise has never been as creepy or disturbing since!
Which ones were your favorites? Let us know in the comments!