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SYFY WIRE Hellraiser

'Hellraiser': Original terror Doug Bradley weighs in on reboot’s new Pinhead

"Everything about Hellraiser has always been transgressive," says Clive Barker’s fearsome first Cenobite.

By Benjamin Bullard
English actor Doug Bradley as Pinhead from Hellraiser (1987).

Just in time for the horror franchise’s 35th anniversary, Hellraiser is carving out a spot at Hulu as the calendar ominously counts down to Halloween's spooky season. There’s a brand-new Pinhead at the head of the demonic Cenobite realm in the streamer's upcoming movie reboot, with Designated Survivor actor Jamie Clayton taking up the iconic horror mantle descending from original Hellraiser star Doug Bradley.

In the first 1987 movie and seven more, Bradley has come to define one of the most chilling characters the ‘80s box office ever spawned. Now he’s weighed in with his own take on the idea of a female Pinhead in the role he first made famous, confessing he’s interested to see how director David Bruckner explores franchise founder Clive Barker’s “transgressive” original concept of the Cenobites as beings that defy mere mortals’ easy definitions.

“Everything about Hellraiser has always been transgressive. Everything, always, from start to finish,” Bradley recently told fans at Silver Scream Con, via Bloody Disgusting, joking that he had his own fun with what’s ultimately an amorphous role, back in the day: “I do like to point out that I did wear a skirt as Pinhead,” he teased.

Bradley went on to say he’s just as curious as any longtime fan to see how Clayton embodies his hellishly hallowed priest of the damned. But, he added, he’s encouraged by Clayton’s well-honed acting chops, which head to Hulu opposite young star Odessa A’zion, who plays Riley — the reboot’s human cypher for the mysterious puzzle box that unleashes supernaturally sadistic terror.

“I don’t know Jamie. Of course, they’ve taken even a little bit of a wrinkle in that, because Jamie is transgender,” said Bradley. “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.”

Playing the priestly leader of the Cenobites, said Bradley, doesn’t really hinge on how the actor under the makeup identifies. All that matters, he said, is that the story leave viewers pinned like iron nails to the edge of their seats in terror.

“The thing that will make the movie work or not is none of that. It’s the story. If the story is strong, the movie will work,” Bradley shared. “That’s why Hellraiser has succeeded; not because the Cenobites are gloriously f***ed up and so is Julia [the twisted widow, played by Clare Higgins, in the 1987 original movie], which they all are…All of that is true, but the story is what makes Hellraiser work, so we’ll see what happens.”

Now’s the time to get your final affairs in order: Hulu is summoning the newly-reimagined Hellraiser for its destined date with the small screen beginning Oct. 7.

Looking for more horror? Films like The Black Phone, Firestarter, They/Them, Sinisher, Stir of Echoes and more are streaming now on Peacock.