Hellraiser Plot Synopsis
The rebooted Hellraiser is certainly quite a different experience than the original franchise. While the ethos remains the same, we see marked changes in the plot and details of the lore. It is one of the year’s most interesting horror films and a different kind of supernatural entertainment for us.
For those uninitiated with the cinematic universe of the franchise, watching it can be quite confusing, but fret not we’re here to explain all!
What is the Leviathan in Hellraiser?
We heard Leviathan’s name twice in the film. However, there were no clarifications as to what it meant. The concept, or the name Leviathan, isn’t a new invention in the movie. It has existed in folklore for centuries, albeit ominously.
Within the Hellraiser universe, it refers to the “deity residing inside the extra-dimensional world known as The Labyrinth that is the overlord ruling the Cenobites, including their masters’ Pinhead and The Engineer.” Since it is the ruling deity, in the terms of the configurations of the puzzle box, it signified power.
That is actually what Voight wanted throughout but probably didn’t make the rich choice in the beginning. The Priest also pointed that out in the climax of the film when she admits they “read him wrong”. It is under this entity that the Cenobites are compelled to practice the dark exercise of masosadochasim.
How does the puzzle box work exactly?
In simple terms, the puzzle is a box that has six sides and six configurations, i.e., designs. The possessor can move them around to arrive at different versions of it. A small blade-like knife is concealed within the box, which can be said to be the “tongue” of the Cenobites. Each configuration represents a different vice. Leviathan, the one that Voight desired the most, is for power.
Whoever possesses the final configuration is granted passage to another realm to have an audience with God. You can then choose your ultimate desire from that God, the substance of which might not be what you expect, as Voight tragically discovers.
Whenever chooses one of the configurations, the blade usually strikes the hand of the possessor. This draws blood from the flesh and when the box consumes the blood, the other-dimensional world opens up from where the Cenobites then emerge to get their claim. It is almost like the person belongs to them once they have tampered with the box and the knife has tasted blood. The mark is on their backs but the Pinhead, or the Preist, has the option to give the possessor to offer up another person as a sacrifice in their place.
This is actually something that indicates a higher intellectual sense for the beings. It embodies the idea of egalitarianism in their eyes, which seems like a flawed argument. Inevitably, it is the “marked” who must choose the person they’re sending to their death, in case they’re allowed to do so.
Where do the victims of the Cenobites go?
This is again a bit off course and the film does not provide an explanation. But it is an important question whose answer every viewer of Hellraiser must know. When Riley asks The Priest about their identity, she replies with this cryptic, yet foundational answer. “Explorers in the further regions of experience and sensation’s realm. Demons to some, angels to others.” Voight, for instance, as confirmed by Serena, called them “angels”.
There is a place in the Hellraiser mythology called The Labyrinth. That is where most of the victims go. Cenobites mutilate them and torture them as we saw happening to Matt, Nora, and the others.
There can also be exceptions to what happens to the “marked” humans. Some of them, like Voight, are taken to be made into fellow Cenobites. The origins of the creature were humans themselves. That is why the creatures are called “humanoids”. They are taken to Hell to be remade in a Transformation Chamber operated by the Engineer.
The alteration is excruciatingly painful as the victim’s body is excessively mutilated and their blood is siphoned out of their body, to be replaced with blue fluid. The procedure breaks the subject’s mind completely to the point the transformed victim becomes completely devoid of their memories. Essentially, a lobotomy of sorts.
Why does the Priest call the contraptions the “gift of sensation” when it causes pain to Voight?
The movie indeed has mixed intentions about the knowledge that the Cenobites possess about sensations like pain and pleasure. Although the books say that they don’t, and the reason why Priest calls the contraption “a gift” validates that, there were some contradictions to that in the movie. On one occasion, the Pinhead confronted Riley and asked her to “bring them another man’s pain”.
The way the Cenobites use it seems like a deceitful way where in they know exactly what it means but want to use that knowledge to lure them into torture. Not that they’re accountable to anyone, but it is almost like mocking the humans they enslave. So, the answer to this question is probably a mix of the above two observations, even though they’re a little bit contradictory.
Why does Riley choose the Lament configuration?
This was perhaps the right choice by Riley in hindsight. The reason for her choice, other than the general summation of the events of the film, was her meeting with Matt’s apparition in Voight’s steel cage. When she wanders off on her own and goes down towards the well, she sees Matt. She is instantly overwhelmed and goes to hug him.
Initially, everything seems normal. But then the visuals change and she realizes that Matt has been flagged and tortured so much that his skin has been peeled off. She sees in the mirror his flailed back and is horrified to have lost her brother.
When she sees Voight with the contraption, she realizes that it is all a trick. Voight himself confirms it. She says that the Cenboties play with the humans by luring them in with the promise of great pleasures but giving them pain instead. This is the reason why she chose to go with the Lament configuration and ask for nothing in return from the Cenobites. After she does, they all leave and the box is kept still in the hall. Matt, as Riley knew, was gone and unretrievable.
Now, she had to live with the regret of having sent her loved ones to hell due to her own actions. The burden is heavy but she will have to carry it to her grave.
What happens to Roland Voight after he is taken?
The ending for Hellraiser certainly left the viewer with more questions than answers. Although it was morally on the right side and satiated our desire to see justice being served, if a sequel does happen, it will have grave consequences. So, after Riley and Trevor discover that they can offer the life of a Cenobite as the last offering, they lure him in.
He is slow at first but something clicks and he becomes like Usain Bolt, chasing the two around the house. They’re eventually able to lure him into the steel cage at the center of the house. With luck, they trap him between one of the doors.
Riley is thrown to the other side of the door and loses hold of the box with the blade. She asks Colin to do it instead but he cannot find it despite looking in the right place. Voight, desperate for redemption, stabs Colin with the blade.
Riley crawls through the opening beneath the Cenobite and opens all the doors as Voight is preoccupied with Pinhead. Leviathan too descends in an epic visual moment. Colin, who was actually benefiting from the closed doors, now must face the Cenobite in front of him.
She starts to torture him but Riley soon arrives with Trevor. She says she will offer another in his place and stabs Trevor, as revenge for his betrayal. The Cenobite then takes away Trevor instead and Riley and Colin head for the center room.
Pinhead takes back Voight’s contraption, as he requested. His body starts healing and he thinks he has won. But this time, he demanded Leviathan, power, from Pinhead and she obliges. It is certainly not what he thinks it would be as a giant arm-like structure impales him through the window in the ceiling and takes him up to Leviathan.
The Cenobites and Pinhead then ask what Riley wants for her part but she does not say, Matt. Nothing happens then as the Lament configuration only means she will have to live with regret for the rest of her life. The Cenobites leave and so do Riley and Colin, looking to begin afresh.
It is only later that we find Voight laid down on a stricture. Gradually, his body is methodically mutilated and pierced with pins and other painful objects. The color of his eyes changes and he is now one of them. Voight’s wish led him to become a Cenobite, something that the other creatures of his kind also would have done at some point.
That is what real power and dominion over the mortals means to them and Voight now has the same “gift”.
Read More: Hellraiser (2022) Movie Review