Doug Bradley’s Pinhead served as an intimidating antagonist for the original Hellraiser franchise, but the lead Cenobite sometimes took other forms too. Of course, creator Clive Barker didn’t begin the Hellraiser saga under the assumption that Pinhead would become its poster boy. The deep-voiced, leather-clad villain was only in the first Hellraiser movie for a few scenes, while the actual story centered on Frank, Julia, Larry, and Kirsty Cotton and their salacious familial and marital intrigue. Yet, Doug Bradley’s Pinhead instantly captivated audiences and became the villain everyone most remembered. The latest movie sees a new Hellraiser Pinhead, played in the 2022 reboot by Jamie Clayton.
The Pinhead Hellraiser character got an additional focus in Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, including an unlikely heroic turn later toward the finale, but still, he was more of a supporting player than a lead. That changed with 1992’s Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, which put Pinhead front and center and tried to turn him into an almost Freddy Krueger-esque quipster. The jokes died down for Bloodline, which shifted Pinhead further back into the shadows, a trend that continued with the remainder of Bradley’s appearances, albeit with him still the center of marketing. Doug Bradley’s Pinhead was mostly content with pursuing prey as himself. However, there were a few times the Hell Priest opted to take a different form, often to mess with a target’s head or lure them into a false sense of security. Most of the time, an encounter with Pinhead — regardless of his appearance — ended badly. Here’s every version of Pinhead Hellraiser had to offer, including the female Pinhead from the 2022 version.
Captain Elliott Spencer (Hellraiser 2 & 3)
While Pinhead was a mysterious servant of Hell in the first Hellraiser, Hellraiser 2 delved into his backstory, revealing he had once been human. The Pinhead Hellraiser character was born Elliott Spencer (also Doug Bradley), a British Army captain who served in World War I. The horrors he saw and participated in during scarred Spencer deeply, leading to his losing faith in God and humanity.
After, Spencer spent his days searching for the furthest reaches of hedonistic pleasure and finding the height of pleasure and pain after opening the Lament Configuration puzzle box. Spencer’s transformation into Pinhead by Hell’s lord Leviathan is depicted during Hellraiser 2‘s opening scene. Hellraiser‘s Kirsty Cotton reminds Spencer of his forgotten past in the sequel, leading the Cenobites to turn on Leviathan, but they get easily dispatched. Spencer also plays a large role in Hell On Earth, as he and Pinhead’s dark impulses get separated. Leviathan also makes a reappearance alongside the new Hellraiser Pinhead.
Unbound Pinhead (Hellraiser III)
While the Pinhead Hellraiser character is a formidable monster throughout Hellraiser or Hellbound, he becomes something altogether worse in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. He may outwardly look the same, but he’s not really the same entity. Any of Pinhead’s better qualities, such as his willingness to bargain, sense of fair play or order, and connection back to his human side have been severed. This is due to Pinhead’s Elliott Spencer half and his fully evil Pinhead half being separated following Pinhead’s “death” in Hellraiser 2.
Upon resurrection, this “Unbound” Pinhead Hellraiser character is fully uninhibited by Leviathans’ constraints and is a pure manifestation of suffering. He slaughters innocents by the dozen, creates other Cenobites for fun, commits copious amounts of blasphemy in a church, and is just generally awful on every level. Thankfully, Hellraiser III heroine Joey Summerskill has help to combat Pinhead from Spencer’s ghost, and the two halves of Pinhead are later rejoined, restoring balance.
Joey Summerskill’s Father (Hellraiser III)
Hellraiser III‘s heroine Joey is plagued by nightmares reenacting what she presumes to be how her father died while fighting in the Vietnam War. Since it was established above, Unbound Pinhead is the worst, so the villain resorts to perhaps his meanest transformation ever, turning into Joey’s dad and convincing her he’s the real spirit come to say goodbye. Joey is tricked into handing over the Lament Configuration to the Pinhead Hellraiser character, who is naturally quite pleased with his ability to prevail over his foe.
Thankfully, the two characters were in a limbo state between life and the afterlife at that moment, so the ghost of Spencer can forcibly reunite with his other half. Joey is then able to stab Pinhead with the Lament Configuration – currently in a dagger shape – sending him back to Hell where he belongs. This reinforces that prior to World War I, Elliott was a good man, and oddly makes clear that at almost any point in the franchise, Pinhead has a small amount of goodness locked inside him somewhere.
Dr. Paul Gregory (Hellraiser: Inferno)
In Hellraiser: Inferno — a sequel directed by Doctor Strange‘s Scott Derrickson, but hated by creator Clive Barker — Pinhead is revealed to have been lurking in the background of most of the film in disguise. He takes the form of Dr. Paul Gregory, a priest and counselor who has sessions with main character Joseph Thorne, a morally corrupt cop. The ending twist is that Joseph’s entire ordeal had been him suffering in Hell, with the Pinhead Hellraiser character pulling the strings from within as Dr. Gregory. Gregory was played by James Remar, future Dexter star and prolific character actor, who had oddly enough starred in a TV movie titled Inferno just two years prior.
The Merchant (Hellraiser: Hellseeker)
Hellraiser: Hellseeker, released two years after Inferno, is actually almost the same movie in structure. It also focuses on a morally corrupt protagonist, this time a man named Trevor Gooden. Trevor survives a car accident early in the story but his wife doesn’t. In an intriguing twist, it’s revealed said wife was actually Kirsty Cotton. Again, it turns out Trevor has been suffering in Hell the whole time, as part of a soul trade Kirsty made with the Pinhead Hellraiser character. He deserved it though, as Trevor was plotting to kill Kirsty along with his mistress. Doug Bradley plays a mysterious merchant who gives Trevor the Lament Configuration early on in his journey, and while he’s not credited for the part, one can safely assume this merchant is meant to be a disguised Pinhead. The role is credited to the made-up “Charles Stead” for whatever reason, perhaps to make Hellraiser fans wonder if that was really Bradley in that dark lighting behind the scruffy hair and beard.
The Hell Priest (Hellraiser 2022)
In a surprising choice by Disney, the Hellraiser franchise was resurrected by them in 2022, with Jamie Clayton playing the first female Pinhead — though, in this iteration, she goes by the “Hell Priest.” Director David Bruckner took the new Hellraiser Pinhead in a much more religious direction. His film is dripping with religious symbology, with everything from the Asphyx featuring praying hands and the Masque having religious text burned into strips of skin. The Pinhead Hellraiser 2022 character mainly acts as a liaison between Leviathan and the people who solve the Lament configuration, claiming that sacrifices are needed every time someone solves it. People are given rewards, trades, and “gifts” by the new Pinhead. The protagonist Riley at the end of Hellraiser decides to accept her brother Matt’s death after the Cenobites offer her a gift, and they tell her the gift she actually accepted is “lament.”