Hellraiser Reboot’s Female Pinhead Is Truer To Barker’s Original Vision

The Hellraiser reboot movie includes a female version of Pinhead, but this change to Hellraiser movie tradition actually closer to the character’s original depiction. Many longtime Hellraiser devotees were vocal about their wish for Hellraiser to head to theaters instead of Hulu, since it’s the first entry in the série-heavy franchise since Hellraiser: Bloodline that feels like it had an appropriate budget behind it. Directing is David Bruckner, helmer of 2021’s widely acclaimed horror The Night House, while Jamie Clayton (Sense8), plays Pinhead/the Hell Priest. Clayton’s female Pinhead has been a draw for many. Sadly though casting a woman as Pinhead has also led to the usual round of complaints from many about a traditionally male role being gender-flipped.

What the detractors don’t seem to realize is that the change makes the 2022 reboot more faithful to Hellraiser’s history. While Pinhead has always been played by a man in the prior Hellraiser movies, Pinhead being a « he » isn’t necessarily true to creator Clive Barker’s original 1986 book The Hellbound Heart, upon which the franchise is based. For one, Barker portrayed all the Cenobites as androgynous demons in his prose, with none having an apparent binary gender identity. In today’s terms, they would probably be best described as gender-fluid. To that end, they weren’t referred to with male or female pronouns. Additionally, Pinhead themself is described as having a feminine-sounding voice, further demonstrating how the original depiction is not necessarily true to the source material. Here’s a full explanation of why the female Pinhead in the 2022 Hellraiser reboot makes it more accurate to the franchise’s roots.

Who Plays Pinhead In The Hellraiser Reboot?

One of the biggest talking points around the 2022 Hellraiser reboot was the latest ieration of iconic horror presence Pinhead would be female. Trans actress Jamie Clayton, the actor behind the Hell Priest/Pinhead, is a woman and uses feminine pronouns, as is the Hellraiser 2022 Pinhead. Although this is a significant change for the cinematic franchise, one could easily argue that casting a woman as Pinhead is more true to Clive Barker’s original vision of the character than Doug Bradley’s version in prior Hellraiser movies. This is no criticism of Bradley or his performance as Pinhead, as he made the role one of the most terrifying in horror history. Still, trying to argue that making Pinhead female is an affront to the character, or an example of gender-swapping for the sake of it as some small-but-vocal pockets online have, is misguided at best.

There’s also precedent for a female Pinhead in Barker-sanctioned Hellraiser comics, with movie final girl Kirsty Cotton at one point becoming the new female version of the Hell Priest. Even aside from that though, Barker is proudly a gay man with a long history of incorporating LGBTQ+ characters and storylines into his work, which makes sense when one considers his love for crafting sexually-charged horror stories. With this in mind, having a female Pinhead take center stage in Hulu’s Hellraiser reboot seems like something he would be totally on board with. In fact, given that Barker himself is an executive producer on the movie, it seems like the casting decision already has his tacit approval.

Why The Reboot’s Pinhead Worked

In the end, Jamie Clayton’s portrayal of Pinhead, aka the Priest, worked exceptionally well for the film. Over the past several years the Hellraiser franchise has fallen flat with an increasingly diminutive budget and poor stories to match. Though the Hellraiser reboot didn’t go to theaters, it was given a chance to succeed on Hulu, and succeed it did. Jamie Clayton plays her version of the villain much closer to that of Barker’s novel than Doug Bradley did in when he played « Lead Cenobite » in 1987’s Hellraiser, despite the latter making the character a horror icon. While the Hell Priest is certainly meant to be outwardly scary, Clayton brings a subtle finesse to the character, making the 2022 Pinhead much creepier than her predecessor. After all, one of the biggest complaints about Hellraiser 2022 from critics is that they wished Clayton had been given more screentime. While Bradley is well known enough as Pinhead to go down in horror history, Jamie Clayton brought a new life to the character that was desperately needed to make the Hellraiser reboot successful. The absolutely grotesque elements of Pinhead’s prosthetic costume design, with the PVC/Leather of former Pinhead’s replaced with flayed human skin, certainly helped too.

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