After years of one lackluster entry after another, Hellraiser has returned with a new chapter that reinvents the franchise while also returning it to its former glory, resurrecting what could have been a series lost in obscurity and infamy. There are two creatives who are both extremely instrumental in this Hellraiser rebirth: director David Bruckner and the new Pinhead herself, Jamie Clayton.
David Bruckner is known as a fresh and promising voice in the horror genre, building a rep from 2020’s The Night House and the fan-favorite anthology series V/H/S. Notably, Bruckner is part of the same V/H/S class as Ti West and Adam Wingard, who have also continued to establish themselves as modern horror specialists with films like Pearl and The Guest. Jamie Clayton, on the other hand, is best known for her work on Netflix’s Sense8, one of the streaming service’s earliest originals that lasted for two seasons before being canceled far too soon, leading to a successful public campaign that brought the series back for a two-and-a-half hour finale.
In honor of Hellraiser (2022) reaching its streaming premiere on Hulu, we had the chance to sit down with both David Bruckner and Jamie Clayton to discuss their horror favorites and inspirations and the hardest challenges of bringing Clive Barker’s classic title to today’s moviegoers. More specifically, we get to the bottom of how this reboot differs from anything in the Hellraiser franchise’s now 35-year history.
Exclusive Interview with David Bruckner & Jamie Clayton for Hellraiser (2022)
Did you two have any favorite horror movies growing up, and if so, what were they?
Jamie Clayton: I was too chickenshit when I was a kid to watch horror films, but as I got into my 20s, I actually got really into horror. I was mainly into Japanese horror, really. I was also a makeup artist before I started acting, so I dabbled a little in special effects. I just know a very limited amount about that, though. Yeah, I was too scared when I was a kid for horror. I mean, I knew Freddy, Jason, and the Hellraiser films, and I knew the imagery from all of those, but I was just way too scared. You couldn’t pay me to go to Camp Crystal Lake.
David Bruckner: I was also a late bloomer to horror. I was easily traumatized as a kid by those movies, but Poltergeist was one that really did a number on me when I was younger. Eventually, as I got a little older, movies like David Cronenberg’s The Fly and Ridley Scott’s Alien were really big ones for me. Hellraiser was one that started to hit a little bit later for me. I discovered the series first with Hellraiser III, that was just what found me in the 90s. Then, as I dug into the franchise more, I started to learn more about it, and I just fell in love. As I went into adulthood, Hellraiser became sacred cinema that dared to do things no one else would.
For David, how did you go about replicating the grand scale of the Hellraiser franchise, primarily the original two films, while also putting your own touch on the brand?
David Bruckner: Well, I had the benefit of a really good Hellraiser script. When I came on board, Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski had written the script, along with David S. Goyer, who contributed to the story. It was just a really amazing jumping-off point, it was updating the mythology in ways that I found unexpected, and it captured the spirit of Hellraiser, particularly the original and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. I just got to play in that universe, and it’s a challenge to replicate Hellraiser, it’s probably impossible. We just allowed ourselves to follow our passions and let them take us to new places, wherever that felt right. I think we have hopefully ended up with something that feels very Hellraiser but is also its own thing at the same time.
So, Jaime, there’s obviously a lot of source material for you to refer back to as Pinhead. But besides the original series, what inspirations did you look at when developing your version of the iconic villain?
Jamie Clayton: It honestly just came from a lot of conversations that David and I had once I got the part. It started with David sharing the concept art by the incredible Keith Thompson and I was completely floored. From that moment on, every conversation that David and I had would be about his hopes and dreams for what this version of the Priest would be in this film, from the voice to the shoulders to the posture. We both really wanted a sensuality in her, a lower volume in her voice, a sort of curiosity and hunger.
I wanted to bring all these different kinds of tones and moments to the different scenes, whenever she’s dealing with Riley, she should have this inquisitiveness not knowing necessarily what Riley was going to do next. Then, finding out what that decision was, finding moments to either be upset with her, intrigued by her, or even turned on by her. There was just a knowing moment that I thought was really special.
David just gives such incredible direction and was so generous with his ideas. We had all those conversations over Zoom. By the time we were actually on set, everyone was so mindful of how incredibly uncomfortable the prosthetics were. All of the conversations we had beforehand helped us get to where we needed to be in a timely fashion, and once we were there, we could play around with different tones. We found what worked and just ran with it.
What was the process of becoming Pinhead like then from the makeup to getting your outfit on, and so on?
Jamie Clayton: I was so lucky. I have never done prosthetics before, so it was a little intimidating at first because of just how much it was, but I was in very good hands. The whole team was just so incredible. It was an incredible challenge for me as an actor because I had to find this thing in me that I didn’t know existed. It was a patient experience but I had a wanting for it, so that by the time I was in it, I just couldn’t fight it. I had to become one with it, and the process was extremely difficult. It’s the most taxing thing I have ever done in my life, both physically and emotionally. But, there was a joy in it and I am incredibly honored to have been chosen to do it. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Hellraiser, as a whole, certainly has its fair share of history with some less-than-stellar entries. Coming in to reboot the series, David, how did you work to avoid or not make the same mistakes of the franchise’s past?
David Bruckner: Listen, Hellraiser movies are hard to make. My heart goes out to every filmmaker that has worked on this series. We did our best, but it is extremely challenging. It could have been a guy in a mask with a knife, but it’s not. They’re interdimensional BDSM demons that shoot chains at you, with an ever-changing, evolving puzzle box also in the mix. The imagery and ideas are complex, the Cenobites are iconic, terrifying, and beautiful.
One thing that we did that may set this film apart from previous ones is the involvement of Clive Barker himself, the creator of this series. He’s a producer on this film, and was very generous with his time and called me quite a bit in the prep process to sort of pressure test ideas. He always greeted us in the middle of understanding that this would be a new story, but that we would also stay true to his original tale. At the same time, in the spirit of collaboration, he brought all of his wisdom to the table and helped us get there.
Lastly, how did you David approach the gore within this film as far as showing enough to create fear and add to the horror of the Cenobites while not overdoing it to the point of gratuity?
David Bruckner: Well, the point of gratuity is something that many would argue Hellraiser willfully crosses. We gave it everything we got. There’s a beauty to violence, particularly rendered on the topic of pain and pleasure and the extremity of human pleasure, which I think is very Hellraiser. So, at times, you push it as far as you can go. We always tried to keep it as a reflection of something internal happening within the character. Our characters are being confronted with the pursuits of the Cenobites, which should be frightening in their severity, so at times, we did try to cross that line.