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Cenobites

The Cenobites

Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.
~ Pinhead describing the cenobites to Kirsty Cotton

A Cenobite is an adherent of the extradimensional religion known as The Order of the Gash within the Hellraiser universe. The Cenobites are disfigured, sexless, sadomasochistic entites tasked with capturing whoever solved the riddle of the Lament Configuration and submiting them to extreme physical torture, an act meant to reveal all the hidden pleasures of intense pain. These beings have been identified as a type of demon, created from the souls of mortals who have given into forbidden hedonistic, and often disturbing, forms of pleasure.

Within the original novella and the first Hellraiser film, the Cenobites were not truly evil creatures, but rather neutral, as their purposse was to offer nihilistic humans relief from mundane sexual acts. However, much like their leader, Pinhead, they would develop a more aggressive nature as the series progressed and became more "standard" horror characters that killed and maimed without purpose.

Influences and origins of the Cenobites

"Part of the chill of Dracula surely lies in the fact that he is very clearly and articulately aware of what he is doing, you feel that this is a penetrating intelligence and I don’t find dumb things terribly scary, I find intelligence scary, particularly twisted intelligence; it’s one of the reasons why Hannibal Lecter is scary, isn’t it? It’s because you always feel that he’s going to be three jumps ahead of you."
~ Clive Barker

Clive Barker developed the cenobites as a departure from traditional slasher horror villains, whom he considered at the time to be uninteresting and ridiculous. His assumption was that villains such as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers were dull and boring, stating that serial killers who are either silent brutes, or break into puns were silly and diminished their eerie appearance. As such, Barker intended to create a slasher villain who would be eloquent and intelligent, his main source of inspiration being the 1958 Horror of Dracula film, starring Christopher Lee as the titular character. Eloquence is a trait of the cenobites that is especially noticable in Barker's novella, The Hellbound Heart, wherein the cenobites give out warnings to the puzzle box recipients as well as punish those who have summoned them without providing them a proper offering.

Cenobites were specifically designed to mirror modern day cultural movements, with Barker having drawn influences from British punk fashion, Catholic dogma and clothing, but most of all, from BDSM clothing and equipment. Barker himself had been visiting S&M clubs in Amsterdam and New York.

Characterization

Definition of "cenobite" and the origins of the charcters

Cenobites are described in Clive Barker's novella Hellbound Heart, as well as the eight movies based on this universe, as being a type of extradimensional humanoids researching the bounderies of the human nervous system. As such, they do not freely roam Earth (at least not in the original film and novella) and must be summoned by means of the magical puzzle box known as the Lemerchand Configuration, better known as the Lament Configuration. Depending on human perception, cenobites have also identified themselves as a type of demon.

The word cenobite is Latin for "common life" and has been used since the Medieval Age to describe a form of monastic lifestyle within various monotheistic religions. Cenobites, by this definition, are clerics who have chosen to interact with the outside world while living within a monastery. Hellraiser cenobites are a religious order who operate in a similar fashion, while they reside within a paraller world they interact with humanity in order to share their convictions. To further demonstrate the religious connotations in The Hellbound Heart, Barker describes the cenobites as the "elogians of The Order of the Gash", the word elogian translates from Greek as "generous gift" and is found within the Bible. Also of note, is the fact that the portal through which cenobites enter the human world has been identified as "a schism", another word with religious undertones. As for the cenobites' religion, Order of the Gash, it is given a rather ambiguous innuendo, as the word "gash" can mean either vagina, or a deep scar.

While the exact origins of the cenobites remain a mystery, Clive Barker has revealed in interviews that within the Hellraiser universe the Cenobites' Religious Order has been existing for ages, hundreds, if not tousands of years.

Cenobite "birth"

As for the means as to which cenobites are created, that is explored within the second and third Hellraiser movies. All throughout human history specific owners of the Lament Configuration had been transformed into transedental acolytes by the entity called Leviathan, the God of Flesh, Hunger and Desire. The exact means through which a human is selected and transformed are explored in the movies Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. Both movies reveal that humans who suffer from severe mental trauma, or a form of mental psychosis, are prone to indulge themselves in unconventional forms of pleasure and end up leading a hedonistic, often sadistic, lifestyle. For example, in Hellbound, the character Phillip Channard is reveald to had been a mutilator since his childhood. In Hell on Earth, the character of Col. Elliot Spencer (Pinhead) was once a World War I veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt. Inevitably, people such as them ended up discovering the Lament Configuration, solved the puzzle and where then dragged into the Labyrith. It is there that Leviathan has these people thossed inside chambers in which they receive violent, permanent body modifications consising of gashes, scars and lacerations. Various piercings are driven onto the cenobite's bodies, especially their heads. Their red blood in replaced with blue blood, while the skin is bleached. In the novella the skin is covered up with white ash.

Cenobite attire consists of custom-made black leather body suits, specificaly designed as an amalgam of catholic cowls and BDSM leather/latex suits. The clothing is used to cover up genital organs, rendering the cenobite's gender uncertain. Disturbingly enough, these suits are directly attached onto the cenobite's body by means of hooks, chains, wires and pins.

Once the entire transformation is complete, these human husks are charged with torturing future recipients, who have solved the puzzle of the Lament Configuration.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the cenobite transformation is the apparent memory loss each member exhibits. During the events of Hellbound, neither Pinhead, nor is entourage were aware of their human origins until Kirsty Cotton revealed to them a picture of Col. Elliot Spencer, Pinhead's former human identity. Doctor Channard, having been transformed into a cenobite, begins regretting his previous reluctance, meaning that he was still aware of his former human self. Subsequently, cenobites revert back to their initial human form after being killed by one of their own.

Usual Traits Of A Cenobite

Although there is no official explaination detailing what is and is not a Cenobite several defining features of this species have been presented throughout the Hellraiser franchise. First of all, these entities bear the appeance of horribly scarified human beings. All cenobites possess strong wounds and mutilations over their entire body: an outward manifestation of the sadomasochistic nature of these creatures. Interestingly, each member of The Order of the Gash is identified by their unique head scarification and piercings.

Cenobites dress in skin-tight leather bodysuits that reveal a fair amount of flesh while still keeping them gender ambiguous. Many of these demons also carry weapons or instruments of torture with them, some may even have such devices permanently moulded into their bodies via unnatural mutation, for example Doctor Channard, who's tentacles can grow knives and scalpels.

Cenobites are often nick-named by their outward appearance: some of the more famous are - Pinhead (named after the self-inflicted pin mutilation over his head), Butterball (a horribly obese Cenobite) and Chatterer (named after his horrific facial deformity that leaves him with exposed teeth and gums).

Every cenobite's deformity and mutilation, as well as choice of weapon (or lack of) is individual. However, their leather clothing seems to be a standard uniform for all members of The Order of the Gash, whether it be by choice or part of mandatory remains unknown.

Usual Personality Of A Cenobite

Within the first film a Cenobite was portrayed as a neutral being that was neither good nor evil - as they had quoted themselves they were "demons to some, angels to others" and they were immensely intelligent creatures who while repulsive, also displayed an unsettling grace.

However when opposed the Cenobites were not above using terror to pursue their prey and they were always portrayed as sadomasochistic - meaning that they enjoyed both inflicting pain and receiving pain: although not truly malevolent the Cenobites of the first film were nevertheless merciless forces of nature.

The Cenobites changed their personalities drastically in the sequels and become more and more like the stereotypical Western portrayal of demons, being obsessed with world-domination and apocalyptic-styled torturing of humanity as a whole (in direct opposition to a Cenobite's nature in the novel and first film, where they only wished to torture the one who summoned them).

Modus Operandi

Once summoned it is a Cenobite's duty to take the person who has solved the Lament Configuration puzzle to the Labyrith/Hell in order to receive their "reward" of an eternity of torture that would reveal to them all the different levels of pain and ecstasy that the Cenobites know of. Trying to flee from a Cenobite only makes things worse as they are programmed to hunt down any mortal foolish enough to do so and have been known to become more vicious if people oppose them (as was the case with Pinhead's famous line: "trick us and we shall tear your soul apart!").

Cenobites are different from a lot of demons in fiction by the fact they have human origins - almost all Cenobites started existence as a human being but became transformed into Cenobites upon losing their sanity and soul to depravity, this goes some way to explaining why Cenobites appear in humanoid form and why they have a special interest in torturing others.

Powers and abilities

A Cenobite has a vast array of supernatural powers due to his or her connection to Hell as well their own unnatural mutation - as mentioned above many Cenobites also carry their own unique weapon or instrument of torture as well.

Cenobites are shown as being capable of appearing instantly in almost any location and are able to track down whoever summoned them, even over great distances - they can proceed to drag this individual back to Hell but seem to lack the ability to freely roam back and forth from Hell without the Lament Configuration.

More powerful Cenobites, such as Pinhead, have been shown to have near-limitless powers at their disposal to the point they could even transform humans into Cenobites upon death, as was seen in Hellraiser III when Pinhead created a small army of new Cenobites from his victims.

All Cenobites would appear to have great knowledge on both pain and pleasure, making them masters of both physical and psychological torture - this coupled with their supernatural abilities serve to make Cenobites arguably amongst the most frightening of all demons in fiction.

List of cenobites

Throughout the Hellraiser franchise several cenobites have been introduced, each with a unique look and motivation depending on their respective sources.

The Hellbound Heart / Hellraiser(1987)

The first and original cenobites make their debut in Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart and subsequently in its movie adaptation. There are very few changes made between the book's description and the movie's interpretation. While the novella describes the cenobites as being sexless (their mutilations having made their gender uncertain and their voices being undistinguisheble) the movie is far more explicite as to each member's gender, mostly do to the actors playing each character. Also of note, is the fact that only two out of the original four cenobites, namely Pinhead and The Female, are capable of speech within the first and second movies. The most notable difference between the novella and the movie series is the clothing, which varies superficially between the two incarnations of these characters. Within Hellraiser and its' comic books the Cenobites are clad in black leather bodysuites, that reveal key disfigurements to each individual members via openings. Whereas in the novella, the leather clothing is merely used to conceal each individual members' genitals, with the exception of The Female, who is bare naked.

As follows there are four cenobites within the book and movie, plus the enigmatic monsters known as The Engineer and The Puzzle Box Keeper.

  1. Pinhead, originally a nameless figure within The Hellbound Heart, he is the de facto leader of cenobites, although in the novella this title is used by The Engineer. Pinhead is easily recognized by his chalk-white skin and elaborate head mutilitions consisting of a completelly shaved head with a grid sliced over his entire face (tatooted in the book). Decorative iron pins are driven inside his skull at the intersections of the grid's vertical and horizontal lines. Within the movie series he is portrayed as being highly intelligent, articulate and resourceful. His weapons of choice are several pairs of telekinetically wielded hooked chains, with which he tears his victims apart with. He also carries surgical-esque knives. There are a few key difference between his portayel within the book and movie. While in the novella, Pinhead is described as being an "it" largely do to his mutilations having stripped him of his sexual identity, within Hellraiser he is obviously a man. Moreso, in the novella Pinhead's voice is described as being feminine, in contrast to the more deep and articulate male voice within provided by actor Doug Bradley.
  2. The Female Cenobite/Deep Throat, as her name suggests is the only "female" among the original four cenobites. The name Deep Throat has only been used by the first movie's crew. The novella simply describes The Female as having undergone elaborate mutilations to her pubis and is the more sexual of the four cenobites, while in the movie she retains a rather androginous appareance. While in the book she cheerfully expresses her desire to bring people to the cenobites' world, in the movie she retains a more neutral and plain demeanour. As with Pinhead, she has chalk-white skin and a shaved head with large cheek bones. Her throat has been cut vertically open, giving her a rather raspy voice. This laceration is constantly kept openend thanks to a pair of semi-circular cheek piercings. Her head is also covered with various loosely attached metal wires. Deep Throat uses hookes as her mane source of attack.
  3. Chatterer is the de facto "muscle" of the group, bare-handedly restraining the Cenobite's victims once they have reached their destination. He is the third cenobite to appear within the Hellbound Heart. Chatterer is recognized by his constatnly grinning teeth, the result of his entire lip's skin having been peeled back, as well as for his extremely swollen eyes. Because of these changes he is incapable of speech, comunicating through his eponomous jaw clicks. Within the Hellbound Heart, Chatterer is perfectly capable of human speech and he only grins whonce he retracts his lips, exposing his teeath akin to a baboon.
  4. Butterball is the fourth member of the cenobites, but the first within the novella. He is obesse as the name suggests and has two other distinguishing features, his sown shut eye sockets hidden underneath a pair of round sunglasses and his teeth that have been filled into razor blades. In the novella, his eye piercings are connected to a set of dangling chains. He is also missing both of his outer ears. Within the Hellraiser movies, as is the case with Chatterer, Butterball is also incapable of speech, other then a few screams and grunts.
  5. The Engineer is the fifth and lead cenobite, who's physical appearance differs significantly between the novella and the first movie. The Hellbound Heart version of the Engineer is presented as being a seemingly ordinary humanoid creature, but with intense white light emanating from its' body as it travels between dimensions, while the movie version of The Engineer is a giant, phallic shaped monstrocity which patrols the halls of the cenobite realm. The Engineer does not engage the victims alongside the other cenobites, instead it attacks travels who make it inside the cenobites home dimension. The novella's version of this being is also the one who selects the next guardian of the Lament Configuration, handing the box over to the survivors of the cenobite attacks.
  6. The Puzzle Box Guardian, as with The Engineer, differs substantially between the novella and the Hellraiser movie series. In Hellraiser, while not explicitly stated as being a cenobite, the guardian is infact the only creature allowed to freely interact with humans on Earth. The guardian is a shape-shiffter, of sorts, first appearing under the monicker of an elderly shopekeeper who sells the Lament Configuration for high prices. Later on, the guardian takes on the form of a hairy vagrant stalking the victims of the puzzle box. His third and final form is that of a skeletal flying dragon, which saves the box from harm and brings it back to be sold once again. In the Hellbound Heart, however, the guardian is merely a survivor of the cenobite attacks, having been entrusted with securing the Lemerchand's Configuration by The Engineer.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Aside from the first four cenobites and he Puzzle Guardian a new cenobite makes his appearance in Hellbound, Doctor Philip Channard. Channard was initially a skilled human neurosurgeon and psyciatrist who ran his self-titled institute for the mentally disturbed, while he himself appeares to be either crazy or psychotic. As a human being Channard was obsessed with resurching on the human mind and discovering the cenobite's origins. He is eventually transformed into a cenobite after visiting their world along side Julia Cotton, one of Leviathans unlikely survents. As a cenobite Channard's mutilations include pale ghostly skin and barbwire covering his shaved head. He also has tentacles protuding from his fingers which can conjure up various items and knives from their tips. Unlike the other cenobites Channard is bonded to Laviathan via a phallic tentacle attached to his head.

Butterball, Female and Chatterer are each killed by Channard during the movies climax. Pinhead is the only cenobite to survive the massacre at the hands of Dr. Cannard, fusing himself with one of the torture pillars within The Labyrinth.

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

After surviving his apparant death at the end of Hellbound, Pinhead is trapt inside The Pillair of Sould, a large rectangular statue formed from various traped souls. Unlike in the previous two movies, Pinhead had somehow detached himself from his human alter ego, Elliott Spencer, and begins killing indiscriminately. After being released from his bondage he reveals his new powers of bending reality and creating cenobites from certain individuals he either captures or slayes. His new entourage consists of:

  1. Pistonhead, originally a New York nightclub owner named J.P. Monroe, he is recognizable do to the massive piston shoved inside his shaved head. He utilizes iron rods as weapons.
  2. Dreamer, originally a young woman named Terri and formar lover of J.P. Monroe, she willingly allows Pinhead to transform her in hopes of discovering new excitements. As a cenobite Dreamer's head is shaved clean, has a lit cigar sticking out off her neck and can singe people with the tip of her fingers.
  3. Camerahead, initially a televisioan cameraman named Daniel "Doc" Fisher, he has a camera placed inside his right eye socket, which can be used to either fire at people or knock them dead with the lens' zoom feature. Unlike other cenobites Camerahead is the only one with partial hair on his head, notably a goatee.
  4. The CD Cenobite was the DJ of J.P. Monroe's nightclub before being killed by Pinhead. He has four CDs piercing he surface of his shaved head and a small black leather mask partially obscuring his face. He uses CDs as saw-blades style weapons.
  5. Barbie was originally a cocktail mixer and bar tender of J.P. Monroe's nightclub before being killed by Pinhead. He is rather humorously named after the barbwire surrounding his shaved head. His weapon of choice is a cocktail mixer which he uses to spew fire at his victims.

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline

Pinhead returns once again as the main antagonist within the fourth instalment of the movie series, this time accompanied by a completely new entourage.

  1. Angelique is a century old female cenobite, summoned to Earth by means of black magic far before the Lament Configuration had been created. She first appears as a beautiful woman under the apparant control of the 18th century warlock Jaques. After killing her master and travelling to New York she makes an alliance with Pinhead, the then new leader of the cenobites, in order to take over the world. In the year 2127 she has adopted a more iconic cenobite look, a shaved head with iron hooks exposing her cranium. She has the power to induce illusions on her victims in order to lure them into a deadly trap.
  2. The Siamese Twins are a duo created by Pinhead during the early 1990s. Originally the identical twin brothers who would later become the Siamese Twins were security officers working at the newly constructed building of arhitect John Merchant, descendent of Philip Lemarchand. After discovering a hidden hallway on the northwest wing of the building the two come across a meeting between Angelique and Pinhead and are then subjected to cenobite transformation. One of the more eccentric cenobites, The Siamese Twins are a single symbiotic entity, their heads are connected sideways to one another after having their faces fused together into a spiral shape. The torsos and abdomens of the two are also stiched together sideways. But the most bizzare aspect of the two is their unique method of torture and killing. The twins can detach at will only to reattach themselves by fusing with their victim in the middle.
  3. Chatter Beast is a therianthropic dog shaped cenobite based on the original Chatterer's likeness. Appearing as a massive and overly muscular hound with completely hareless skin and oddly human-like hind legs and back, Chatter Beast acts as the team's "strongman", subduing the victim and then devouring them. As with Chatterer the Chatter Beast's has swollen eyes and proeminent jaws which click repeatedly. The beast's only article of clothing consist of black leather belts around it's neck and a harness/corset.

Hellraiser: Inferno

Aside from Pinheaf making his reappearance as the main antagonist Inferno introduces three new cenobites, as well as a new Engineer.

  1. The Wire Twins are a pair of identical twin cenobite women who torture their victim's together. Unlike previous female entries on this list the Wre Twins are deliberately more alien in nature, their head cavities being longer, tatooed with strange symbols, with their noses and ear pavilions having been chopped off. The eye sockets of both twins appear to have been sewn shut. They each have several wires sticking out of their chins and a single thin ponytail hanging from the top of their otherwise shaved heads. Both twins dress in matching black leather dominatrix bodysuit which expose their slashed open stomachs. As for their prefered method of torture, the Wire Twins can insert their hands inside the victim's skin.
  2. Torso has been identified as being either a clone or an extremely modified version the original Chatterer. This particular cenobite is missing his entire lower body, forcing him to crawl with his hands in order to move. His skin is chalk-white and his face is nearly identical to that of Chatterer's and does not wear any sort of outfit.
  3. Faceless Engineer is exclusive to Inferno as its' origins and history are tied directly those of the movie's protagonist, Joseph Thorne. This Engineer appears under the form of a slender and glabrous humanoid with no face, aside from a large grinning mouth with an elongated tongue. This Engineer tortures its' victims to death with the use of a cat-o-nine lives type whip with hooks placed at each end. After killing the victim the Faceless Engineer leaves a child's finger behind, branded with a scorched Chinese character.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker

Popular Media portrayals

Do to the cult following that Hellraiser has garnered the Cenobites have become an icon of modern horror fiction, Pinhead and the Lemarchand Configuration have become the subjects of various cameos, lampoons and mentionings in other works.

  • The first episode of the seventh season of The Grim Adventures of Billy and mandy features an army of demons that were called upon by the villain Pinface, a Pinhead parody with bowling pins sticking out of his head. Pinface and his entourage could be summoned using a magical Rubik's Revenge.
  • Ugly Americans, a dark comedy animated series, has an episode in which succubi harvest the souls of human beings in order to fill the contents of a Satanic puzzle-box, a demonic practice which is religios in nature. Callie Maggotbone, one of the main characters, and a succubus, is given a puzzle box which can reshape itself in a manner akin to the Lament Configuration.
  • In an episode Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, namely "The Hodag of Horror", a magical puzzle box with a similar design to that of the Lament Configuration accidentaly summons an unseen aparition, emanating a blue radiance and offering the box's owner great pleasures. The creature's voice resembles that of Pinhead's.
  • The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 dark comedy horror movie which plays homage to several iconic villains from horror cinema, the cenobites being alluded to twice:
  1. The Buckner Family are an amalgam of various iconic horror movie monsters and villains, specifically those found in the slasher genre. According to the movie, while they were still alive, the Buckner Family were practitioners of a pain worshipping religion. This disturbing faith's practices included the Buckners torturing themselves in order to achieve enlightenment.
  2. Hell Lords are one of the many monsters which could be summoned by the main characters in the cabin's basement. These creatures are directly based off of cenobites, having been severily mutilated, wearing black leather body suits and torturing their victims. Fornicus, the de facto leader of the hell lords, is reminiscent of Pinhead. Hell Lords are summoned via a puzzle globe based on the Lament Configuration.

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