Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Hellraiser Director David Bruckner And Star Jamie Clayton On Rebooting A Classic Horror Franchise - Exclusive Interview

While perhaps not as storied a horror franchise as the likes of "Halloween" or "Friday the 13th," the "Hellraiser" series is still one of the most recognizable brands in the genre. The original 1987 film, directed and adapted by horror author Clive Barker from his novella "The Hellbound Heart," introduced the world to the Cenobites, one-time humans who exist purely to inflict sexual and physical torture in a realm accessible only through an ancient, mystical puzzle box.

The lead Cenobite, or "Hell Priest," nicknamed Pinhead, was played eight times by British actor Doug Bradley. He became the symbol of the franchise, which spawned an astounding nine more films, although everything after "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth," was largely dismissed by critics and fans and went directly to home video. Barker himself was not involved in the ongoing series, although in 2006 he revealed that he would write a remake of the original movie for The Weinstein Company (via Empire).

After years of development, with Weinstein going defunct (via The Hollywood Reporter) and a direct remake scuttled, the rights eventually ended up with Spyglass Media Group, which commissioned an all-new story not connected to any of the previous films. Directed by David Bruckner, the filmmaker behind acclaimed recent horror outings "The Ritual" and "The Night House," the new "Hellraiser" focuses on a troubled young woman named Riley (Odessa A'zion), who accidentally comes to possess the box and once again unlocks the doorway to the nightmarish domain of the Cenobites, led as always by Pinhead (Jamie Clayton).

"I think that we did something different enough that it won't be compared," says Clayton in our exclusive interview with her and Bruckner, "and that people will enjoy the sensuality of it."

Why Hellraiser?

David, what were your feelings about getting involved with this? This is both an iconic franchise and one that, it's safe to say, has had its share of inferior sequels. Was there any trepidation about trying to do something new or different?

David Bruckner: I held the original movies in such an incredible high regard, and I also thought it was an incredible sandbox to play in. "Hellraiser" is about a lot of things. It's dense, it's complicated, it's visceral, [and] it's confrontational, and as a big fan of the franchise, it's also a place that I saw the things that I love about horror. There's a surreal quality to it that you can only do in horror. The opportunity to make a "Hellraiser" movie and to contribute to this franchise was a dream come true.

How many of the movies have you seen?

Bruckner: I've seen all the movies.

How Jamie Clayton became Pinhead

Jamie, we'd like to know how many of the films you've seen and also what your approach was to playing this iconic horror character that everybody knows so well.

Jamie Clayton: I've only seen the first one. I watched it the night before I taped my audition to get an idea of the tone of the world and the characters and the color palette and the music, and to see what Clive had done originally and get an idea of what his intention was with it.

Then I read the script, and I was so completely floored because it was so good; it was so sexy and so fun. I think David and the producers and the writers had the idea to cast a woman in the role of the Priest because it takes the burden off the audience of comparing the performances, because it's going to be new no matter how you look at it.

David and I had a lot of conversations about what he wanted and my ideas of what she would be thinking or feeling. Then when I got onto set, we got to play around with it a bit. We did a couple of screen tests, which really helped, but getting into the full prosthetics and the full costume helped me get to this sexy, dark, interesting, wild place in my imagination that I didn't know existed, which was so fun.

[It was] the biggest challenge I've had in my career, emotionally, physically, [and] mentally, and I loved it. I think that we did something different enough that it won't be compared and that people will enjoy the sensuality of it.

How long did it take you to get all the makeup and prosthetics and everything on?

Clayton: Depending on the day, depending on how many Cenobites would be working that day, or if there was a big, practical effect that was happening, or however busy the team would be, anywhere between four and a half to six hours with Sierra [Spence] and the team of Russell FX, who were incredible. Then, if there were a lot of people on me, 30 minutes to take it off. But if it was just a couple of people, it could take an hour to take it all off.

Drawing inspiration from the original Clive Barker story

David, was there any thought of re-adapting the original novella, "The Hellbound Heart," or was this always a fresh story?

Bruckner: It was always a new story. The first movie is a pretty great adaptation of the book. I don't know that we need another one. The first story is perfect. I don't think you can recreate that. I'd never try to remake it. What felt appropriate was a new story in the world of "Hellraiser."

But we did take a lot of inspiration from the book, particularly where design was concerned. A lot of my collaborations with Clive in prep were about examining ideas from the book, and him and [me] finding shared obsessions, as he would say. You have to look at the story in the context of the greater conversation of "Hellraiser," but it's also a story. It's a movie and it's the tale of a character.

Our lead, Riley, she has her own dilemma. She has her own conversation with temptation. The Cenobites are both of their own world [and] also a reflection of her interior. So a lot of my conversations with Clive were thematic, and that often tied us back to "The Hellbound Heart."

"Hellraiser" premieres on October 7 on Hulu.

This interview has been edited for clarity.