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The Untold Truth Of Hellraiser's Chatterer

For a villain who does not utter a single word throughout his appearances in the "Hellraiser" series, Chatterer has certainly left an impressive mark upon fans. As one of the demonic creatures known as Cenobites who serve the iconic Pinhead, his shocking features are pure nightmare fuel, and make him difficult to forget. With taut wires painfully holding back his lips to show the insides of his gaping mouth, Chatterer sparks great terror within those deeply afraid of dentistry and orthodontics. Plus, as Paul Kane points out in his book, "The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy," the exposed teeth generate the instinctual fear every person feels towards a predator seeking a victim for its next meal.

Fans who take in the entire series are sure to be either pleased or disturbed to discover that even death could not put an end to the popular character, as creatures with the signature terrifying teeth continued to appear in the films long after the original Chatterer had perished. It turns out, visions of the horrific Cenobite have become so iconic that the filmmakers could not resist showing as much as possible. The lore is expansive in this universe from the mind of author and filmmaker Clive Barker, and the dark details of the Chatterer show that his master is far from the only demon in the series to cause absolute terror with his presence.

Chatterer first appeared in The Hellbound Heart

The horrifying Cenobite known as Chatterer has been a part of the "Hellraiser" franchise since the very beginning. Even though he was not referred to by that name, the demon was featured in the novella that introduced the Cenobites, "The Hellbound Heart." Author Clive Barker's description is very close to how the character would appear in Barker's own film adaptation: "Its features were so heavily scarified — the wounds nurtured until they ballooned — that its eyes were invisible, and its words corrupted by the disfigurement of its mouth."

One major difference between the original fiction and the film adaptation is that Chatterer could actually speak at first, though most likely he was hard to understand. Later, on the screen and the comics page, the creature only communicates through the rather disturbing trademark of clicking his exposed teeth together instead of spewing out garbled sentences.

Hellraiser was the first film role for Nicholas Vince

In the first "Hellraiser" film and the sequel, "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2," Chatterer was played by the actor Nicholas Vince, making his first on screen appearance. According to Paul Kane, Vince was a drama student enrolled at Mountview Theatre School in London when he met Clive Barker. One of Vince's classmates was Simon Bamford, who was a member of Barker's theater group, the Dog Company. Bamford would later accept a role as one of the Cenobites as well, and it was through him that Vince met Barker at a party, which led to a discussion about working together shortly after.

In an interview with Devolution Magazine, Vince briefly described his working relationship with Barker over the following years leading up to the production of the iconic horror flick. "I ended up modeling for the covers of 'Books of Blood' and I think I'm on four out of six, either my head or bits of my body," he recalled. "So, Clive had known me for nearly three years by the time 'Hellraiser' came about. He knew I could do physical stuff so he said, 'Would you like to be in a movie? There is some makeup involved.'" As it turned out, that was something of an understatement.

Who was the Chatterer before he opened the puzzle box?

Almost nothing is known about Chatterer until the second installment in the series, "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2," which features a brief glimpse of what the creature looked like as a human before his horrific transformation into the Cenobite. After the film's antagonist, an evil doctor, mutates into the powerful Channard Cenobite, he faces off against Pinhead and his demon followers, including Chatterer. Even though Channard is outnumbered, he slays each foe, which reveals their past forms. That's when we see Chatterer as a young boy.

When talking with Devolution Magazine, actor Nicholas Vince admitted he was upset at first about the way that scene was captured on film, but as he fleshed out his own backstory for the character, he became more intrigued with the concept of a child Cenobite. He said, "I realize I was really pissed off that the moment Chatterer changes you didn't get to see me, you got to see a boy," the actor said. "Over the years I found the idea of a boy growing up in hell fascinating. All the other Cenobites are revealed to be adults, but a boy? That whole idea was really interesting."

Nicholas Vince wrote the official origin story of Chatterer

Vince was so intrigued by his own character's backstory that he wrote two short stories about Chatterer's human life. In the first, 1989's "Look, See," he is an adult. In the second tale the actor wrote years later, "Prayers of Desire" (which is now considered official canon to the "Hellraiser" series, per Bloody Disgusting), Chatterer's childhood is explained. 

"Look, See" suggests that Chatterer was formerly a stand-up comedian in New York during the 1930s. But over the next decade following the story's publication, the writer continued to pen "Hellraiser" stories for Epic Comics, which led him to revisit the backstory for his character in a new tale called "Prayers of Desire" that appeared in the 2nd volume of "Hellraiser: Anthology" in 2017 (via Devolution Magazine).

When speaking about the new background for his beloved character, Vince told Dread Central, "It felt great to revisit Chatterer's origins, as this is the second time I've written about him –- though the first is a completely alternate universe idea. That was published in the UK in Fear magazine when 'Hellbound' was released. This story, 'Prayers of Desire,' is set firmly in the universe created in the movies."

The Chatterer was once known as Jim

Like Pinhead and the other Cenobites, Chatterer was once a human before his metamorphosis into the demonic creature we meet. In his disturbing backstory, "Prayers for Desire" in "Hellraiser Anthology Volume 2" by Nicholas Vince, it's revealed that Jim was raised in an abusive household as the victim of his father's attacks. Before reaching his teenage years, he seeks revenge and frames his mother for the murder of his father. As a result, the boy is forced into the custody of an orphanage that considers him worthless and a drain on society.

Jim bonds with another orphan, Seth. Upon turning 16 years old, the couple starts doing sex work in order to survive. Jim deeply struggles with the trauma he endured as a child, and continually prays to the deity of love for the care he never received while growing up. When one client asks what he yearns for the most, Jim admits this great desire, along with the hope that he would be loved even if he was grotesque. The client then gives Jim a puzzle box and tells him if he distributes boxes to others and serves the God of Pain and Desire, his dreams will come true.

Jim then abandons Seth and escapes his pimp, who takes revenge on his lover by violently blinding Seth. Jim encounters Seth again years later, when Seth is ordered to solve the Lament Configuration by a representative of Hell. He fails, and Seth is left with the puzzle box unopened after he reveals his utter hatred for Jim. As a result, Leviathan, the God of Pain and Desire, mutilates Jim and turns him into the Cenobite known as Chatterer.

Chatterer was the right-hand man of Pinhead

Pinhead has several followers in his demonic crew throughout the "Hellraiser" series, but Chatterer is often depicted as the leader's top lieutenant among the Cenobites. According to Marvelous Videos, Chatterer appeared in more Hellraiser films than any of the other Cenobites, aside from Pinhead, so the character has a prominent spot within the nightmarish universe. Even the supreme deity of Hell, Leviathan, seems to favor his appearance, as another demon is forged in his likeness following his demise.

Some time after Chatterer is killed by the Channard Cenobite in "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2," Pinhead resurrects him, along with the original Female Cenobite. In Chapter 1 of "Clive Barker's Hellraiser Omnibus," Chatterer is depicted dutifully at his master's side once again and serving as his page. Yet Pinhead shows how little he cares for even his most loyal servants, as both Cenobites are sacrificed not long after, ending their short new lives.

Chatterer tormented famous actress Janice Baur

Once Chatterer had become a member of Pinhead's entourage, one of his early victims was the celebrity Janice Baur. In the short story "Losing Herself in the Part" from "Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #8, the actress rejects a role offered by director Steven Sigourney because she cannot relate to the level of pain her character has gone through. In response, Sigourney hands her the Lament Configuration and asks her to carry out an acting exercise with it by getting the puzzle box into the Shape of Pain. Intrigued by this new method, she takes the box home and works on it right away.

Baur's fascination turns dark quickly as she cuts her hands for days to solve the puzzle, and also begins to have vivid nightmares of Hell. Her descent into madness made her feel ready to accept the part, but that's when the Lament Configuration opens and sends the actress into Hell. There, she is tortured by Chatterer and the other Cenobites while Sigourney films it all. Baur then continues to act in films, but her life is dominated by the creatures of Hell from then on.

An injury to Nicholas Vince led to eyeholes for the mask

Accurate to Barker's original description of the character in "The Hellbound Heart," Chatterer appears in the first "Hellraiser" film without eyes, but that proved to be a rather difficult challenge for actor Nicholas Vince. Author Paul Kane explained that the actor disliked working blind so much that he asked to have holes in the mask for his eyes, and the filmmakers agreed to make the change for "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2." It was a necessary decision to make, since one particular scene required Chatterer to chase the film's heroines down a hall (a sequence that sequence sadly never made the final cut, per Spooky Isles). To justify the modification to his face, the filmmakers wanted to include a scene showing Chatterer being gifted with sight from the god of the underworld for his devout service. However, that moment was ultimately never included in the film either.

Even with his eyesight restored, however, Vince was unable to avoid disaster in the epic battle with the Channard Cenobite. "There was a piece of wood from [the spinning pillar] and from that, a 12-inch rusty hook on a chain," the actor told Devolution Magazine. "When I opened my mouth to scream, the tip went right between the false teeth into the roof of my mouth. It was like two to three millimeters in, but it left me with a real desire to push fishermen into rivers because I feel sorry for the fish! I know what it's like to be hooked and it's not pleasant."

Chatterer helped Pinhead defeat a renegade Cenobite

As one of Pinhead's top soldiers, Chatterer fought beside his master against more than one rival Cenobite. In "Hellraiser Nightbreed: Jihad" #1 and #2, the Cenobites initially confront the Nightbreed in an epic crossover showdown between two of Clive Barker's most popular universes. However, before long it became clear that Alastor, the Cenobite waging war on the Nightbreed, intends to carry out a complete purge of his foe, which defies the will of Leviathan, the lord of Hell.

In response, the God of Pain and Pleasure orders Chatterer and Pinhead to destroy the heretic and his followers. When the demonic warriors encounter Alastor and his "Gash" (the term for a Cenobite entourage), he's quickly abandoned by all his followers except for his lover Chalkis, who is bound to him with a golden chain. Once the couple is defeated, Leviathan reverts them back into their human bodies and the two are hunted down by one of the Nightbreed that they had tried to exterminate.

There are several versions of Chatterer in the Hellraiser films

Even though Chatterer was slain during the battle with the Channard Cenobite in "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2," the likeness of one of the most popular Cenobites was used for a few later incarnations in the following films. The last version of Chatterer was a brand new Cenobite created by the forces of Hell with his appearance, but for unknown reasons. The return of Chatterer was simply left unexplained by the filmmakers. This third Chatterer makes brief cameos in "Hellraiser: Hellseeker," "Hellraiser: Deader," and "Hellraiser: Hellworld."

"Hellraiser 4: Bloodlines" has another creature disturbingly reminiscent of the toothy demon, which is often called the Chatter Beast. Little is known about the doglike monstrosity, but a humorous interaction between Nicholas Vince and a fan at a horror convention may have provided a potential backstory. "We get families coming to these horror conventions and there was a 9-year-old boy whose question was, 'Is the Chatterer dog, Chatterers' dog in hell?'" the actor recalled to Devolution Magazine. "I thought that was a really nice idea, every boy should have a dog."

One final demon shown in "Hellraiser: Inferno" was created by the Chatterer himself, called the Torso, and is the most disturbing of them all. When not terrorizing victims at the behest of Pinhead, the frightening yet somewhat pathetic creature roams throughout Hell crawling on its limbs in pursuit of its deceased creator.

Pinhead betrayed Chatterer to Kirsty Cotton

While the first Chatterer was killed off in the second installment of the film series, "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2," the Cenobite was then resurrected 20 years later by Pinhead in the "Hellraiser" comic series, even if it was for only for a short amount of time. Pinhead himself was revived once the Pillar of Souls was fed blood in "Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth," so their master used the same method to bring back Chatterer and the Female Cenobite with blood shed on the very spot where they had met their demise.

Later, in the fifth chapter of "Clive Barker's Hellraiser Omnibus," Pinhead and the Cenobites confront Kirsty Cotton again, and have her in their grasp. Yet instead of taking the heroine out, Pinhead traps his own followers in his chains despite their pleas (or, in the case of the nearly-mute Chatterer, the desperate chattering of his teeth). Pinhead then hands Kirsty a knife that she uses to slay the Cenobite once more.

Chatterer brutally murdered Pinhead

Pinhead may have been directly responsible for the second death of his servant, Chatterer, in "Clive Barker's Hellraiser Omnibus," but another tale shows how the Cenobite finally achieved gruesome revenge for the betrayal. Over a decade before Gary Tunnicliffe directed the tenth installment in the film series, "Hellraiser: Judgment," he released a short fan film in 2004 called "No More Souls," which Paul Kane believes should be considered official canon for the series.

The story takes place in the distant future, after humanity has destroyed itself and Hell no longer has any souls to reap. In desperation over the depletion of such a valuable resource, Pinhead then opens the Lament Configuration to sacrifice himself instead of existing in a reality where life has ceased to exist. The Cenobites then emerge to slay their master. Afterwards, Chatterer nails Pinhead's ripped off face to a Torture Pillar, the face completely devoid of life( unlike the demon lord's remains at the end of "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2"), signifying his true end.