The Death of Pinhead?

His days are numbered… literally!



Fans of Clive Barker and the Hellraiser franchise have been on pins and needles (pun intended) awaiting the May 19th release of Barker’s latest novel: The Scarlet Gospels. The story promises to focus on one of the author’s most enduring antagonists: The Cenobite referred to as “Pinhead”. Barker tantalized fans by revealing that the Hell’s “Priest” will battle another fan favorite, Lord of Illusion’s paranormal detective Harry D’Amour, and that we’ll finally learn Pinhead’s real name. Oh yeah, he’s also going to send Pinhead into oblivion—forever.



“Pinhead” (as he is referred to in the films, but never in literature) wasn’t meant to be the magnanimous icon he has become. He first appeared in Barker’s 1986 novella, The Hellbound Heart, where he was but a minion of a Lead Cenobite who was female. While terrifying, he wasn’t the ominous quasi-industrial figure fans have come to adore; rather, he’s described as androgynous with a girlish voice, and each nail in his skull is capped with a sparkling jewel.

But when people imagine Pinhead, even fans of the novella prefer to picture the lead Cenobite of the Hellraiser film franchise, the iconic presence portrayed to chilling perfection by Doug Bradley. Still, even in the original script for 1987’s Hellraiser, Pinhead was only meant to be a minor character. Doug Bradley famously describes how, at the time, he would have preferred to play one of the movers rather than endure the hours necessary for applying prosthetics and make-up, for what was seen as a very minor role.

Apparently, the script called for each cenobite to have a number of lines of dialog, thus appearing like a gang of sorts. But, ultimately, the masks used for the Chatterer Cenobite (played by Nicholas Vince) and the Butterball Cenobite (played by Simon Bamford) made speaking impossible. For this reason, Pinhead ended up with the majority of the Cenobites’ dialog in the first Hellraiser movie, thus cementing the perception that he’s the leader.

The writers and directors who took over the Hellraiser franchise after Barker all ran with the established concept of Pinhead as Master—and why wouldn’t they? No one planned it, but Pinhead became a smashing sensation, a dignified articulate villain who stood apart from mute brutes like Jason and Michael Myers, as well as wise-cracking comedians like Freddy. Hell, Pinhead was even regarded as a sex-symbol in Asia (I suspect an acupunctural connection).

Yet once removed from the saga he launched, Barker became increasingly dissatisfied (understandably so) with the portrayal of his much-loved inter-dimensional demon—and he plotted his revenge.


Pinhead with a couple strong, silent types

The Scarlet Gospels

Barker’s upcoming novel has been in the works for much longer than most people realized. The author first announced (via Twitter) that the 243,000 word tome The Scarlet Gospels had been completed back on June 18, 2010; at the time, he said, it merely lacked a publisher. Barker took to social media once again on September 9, 2013 to reiterate that, although no release date was set, “The Scarlet Gospels is finished.” Finally came an announcement on Barker’s official website last year: “Clive is delighted to announce that St. Martin’s Press has acquired world English rights to publish The Scarlet Gospels, his upcoming novel featuring Pinhead and Harry D’Amour.” Publication date: May 19, 2015

The Death of Pinhead

While early reviews of The Scarlet Gospels have been phenomenal, rabid anticipation of its release is tempered by the foreknowledge that this is Pinhead’s swan song; in no uncertain terms, Barker has already revealed that our most beloved Cenobite will die. Not only will he perish, he’ll be dispatched in a manner that promises to shatter any hope of a resurrection. Pinhead will cease to exist.

A quote attributed to Barker on Movie Pilot in an article published on February 17 of this year states:

“One of the things I’m trying to do in the story with D’Amour and Pinhead is, I actually want to kind of make Pinhead feel fucked. I want people to make fools of him as he breathes his last and with no hope of resurrection. No sequels. I swear the way he’s going – I have plotted this – the way he’s going is so total, is so complete that the most optimistic film producer in Hollywood could never dream of resurrecting him! So I’m going to ‘off’ him, and I want the audience to say, ‘Good’.”

Clive Barker: Author, Filmmaker, Artist, and Destroyer of Demons

Clive Barker: Author, Filmmaker, Artist, and Destroyer of Demons

You really can’t get less ambiguous than that! And while Barker’s obvious giddiness leaps from these written words, I’m not so sure fans are going to watch Pinhead die and then respond in the affirmative. I imagine I’ll be too busy cursing Leviathan and pretending I’m not crying like Kristy Cotton.

So like the very nature of sadomasochism, excitement is bittersweet: The bliss of immersing ourselves in a quarter-million words, delving into the essence of Pinhead, is dampened by a certain foregone conclusion. It’s like preparing for a celebration and a funeral simultaneously. Sure, Pinhead may endure in a few more Hellraiser films (what’s the word on the reboot?), but he’ll never again grace pages of the immense literary universe penned by Clive Barker—and that’s a sad reality.

Personally, I plan to pay homage to Pinhead with a bold and simple ritual: A single nail, tattooed on my neck—a fitting tribute borne in blood, pain and pleasure intertwined. And I’ll say, “Rest in Agony, triumphant soldier. Regrets I won’t be seeing you in Hell.”


Are you excited about the upcoming release of The Scarlet Gospels? Do you plan on paying tribute to Pinhead after his death? Sound off in the comments section!

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4 Comments on this post.

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  • Nice article on the Death of Pinhead… |
    26 April 2015 at 11:30 am - Reply

    […] at the horror site The Blood Shed they’ve written a nice little article about The Scarlet Gospels and how it’s going to […]

  • Ged Denton
    27 April 2015 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    @ Clive Barker: I love you and I want to have your babies.

  • Simon Kilbey
    28 April 2015 at 6:05 am - Reply

    I was excited – til the book was cut from 240,000 words to 100,000 words!

  • morris campbell
    16 June 2016 at 2:01 am - Reply

    the book was cool