This story contains spoilers for Hellraiser (2022), which is available to stream now. If you want our spoiler-free thoughts, be sure to check out our Hellraiser Review!
After decades of underfunded Hellraiser sequels as an excuse to retain property rights, David Bruckner’s Hulu reboot brings glory back to Cenobite lore. It’s a departure from the leather BDSM costumes and sex-dungeon massacre aesthetic but still evokes the franchise’s emphasis on blurred lines between pleasure and pain, fear and excitement. Odessa A’zion plays Riley McKendry, an addict and the unlucky inheritor of an unholy puzzle box known to fans as the Lemarchand Box or Lament Configuration.
Riley’s investigation of the evolving puzzle box — with 6 unique phases that offer an “Audience with God” upon completion — leads her to the Berkshire estate of vanished billionaire art dealer Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic). The purified pearly architecture is now covered with an iron shell that resembles patterns on Riley’s box, and the inside has been rigged with countless drop-down gates at the flick of a switch. The Priest aka Pinhead has given Riley a choice to sacrifice herself or others to feed the box’s bloodlust, and she’s hoping answers that save lives exist in Voight’s mansion. What she finds is a labyrinth of horrors akin to Dark Castle Entertainment’s 2000s remake Thir13en Ghosts.
Hellraiser Ending Explained
Surprise! Roland Voight is still very much alive and paid Riley’s boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) handsomely to lure new tributes into the box’s clutches. Roland is also fitted with a golden mechanism that protrudes like an ax through his spine and out his rib cage, pulling his nerves around churning gears. He chose the Liminal configuration upon his completion of the puzzle, translating to Sensation — but the Cenobites’ gift isn’t of human pleasure; it’s of mortal pain. Roland’s been living for years with the machinery tugging his nerves in opposite directions so that he always feels just enough agony yet never grows numb.
Roland becomes the film’s antagonist in complete form — Pinhead is simply fulfilling requests by offering exceptional experiences, not of Earth’s limitations. Roland’s choice to mark Colin (Adam Faison) as a sacrifice and not the trapped Asphyx Cenobite reveals his villainous intentions. He doesn’t care about anyone or anything except freeing himself from the Cenobites’ device, driven by selfishness that endangered innocents for his own hopeful salvation. The Cenobites are summoned by the actions of Roland—they aren’t renegade predators—and he must either accept or deny responsibility for what transpires.
Roland does not and insults the Cenobites in the process. “F** your gift, f** you,” he barks at Pinhead. Clayton’s shark-like eyes and echo-y voice convey displeasure upon hearing Roland’s whimpers as his gears rotate another insufferable cycle. Hellraiser (1987) filmmaker and The Hellbound Heart author Clive Barker himself — horror royalty — applauds Clayton’s dominating presence as Pinhead in these moments: “Jamie looks like the Queen of Hell. She is not Doug [Bradley’s] stand in. What she is is a whole new beast. I see something wonderful. Demons to some, angels to others.”
Roland is granted his “mercy” wish, but at an ultimate cost — Pinhead bestows upon him the Leviathan gift of Power. Just as the last disassembled bolt bounces off marble flooring and Roland’s gaping wound heals, a massive chain crashes through his glass ceiling and pierces into his chest—we’ll get to what this means in a second though.
Riley is reminded by the Cenobite holding Colin hostage that as long as she possesses the box, she chooses who’s sacrificed. She can let Colin go, erasing the last reminder of deceased brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) from existence — possibly lifting a guilty weight — or she can mark Trevor, the encapsulation of all her struggles with addiction. Riley chooses Trevor. It’s not long before the wires bind him, stretch him against a stone platform, his forearm skin is degloved Gerald’s Game style, and he’s yanked into a well of agonizing howls where the Cenobites roam.
The 31 Best Modern Horror Movies