Wednesday, July 20, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 30: Favorite horror character, period!

Once again I find myself at the end of a 30 Day Horror Challenge and it ends with a question that is nearly unanswerable. Favorite horror character? There’s no way in hell I could pick that. One of the great things about the horror genre is that it lends itself to so many memorable characters. Plus, from Leatherface to Captain Spaulding to Julie in Return of the Living Dead 3 to Reggie Bannister to Dr. Pretorious and all the rest, I’ve already written about most of my favorites. So, since there is no way I could pick a true favorite, I’m writing about my favorite that I haven’t gotten to discuss yet. He’s the patron saint of pain, Pinhead.
In my mind, there are really two main kinds of horror, dark fantasy horror and visceral horror. Dark fantasy is the realm of monsters, ghosts, and the supernatural. Werewolves, vampires, possessions, haunted houses, ghosts, and all manner of evil beasties belong in this category. Visceral horror is body horror. Blood and guts, zombies, slashers, butchers of all sorts, mutilations and mutations are what this type is all about. One of the things I love about Hellraiser, the cenobites, and Pinhead in particular, is that he straddles the line between the two better than any other character. He is a demon and has a deep supernatural mythology behind him, yet his focus on flesh and the possibilities inherent in its mutilation kept him grounded in ph
ysical blood and guts horror.
He is very different from most other horror characters, especially in the time he first appeared. Hellraiser 1 and 2, Pinhead’s finest moments, came in the mid 80’s. What was all the rage in horror at that time? Right, the slashers. It was the age of the wisecracking Freddy type and the silent but deadly Jason or Michael Myers style. There were really no cerebral characters. There were no horror “villains” that carried themselves with class and poise. Pinhead came along and filled that void as the aristocrat of hell.
There were really two t
hings that set him apart from the rest of the pack. First was the overall feel of the character. This was a character that didn’t jump around like Freddy or plod along like Jason. He almost glides. He’s graceful. You never see a sudden move. Every motion is planned out, measured, and meaningful. Pinhead seems to have discipline. He is devoid of emotion, yet has a little hint about his eyes and actions which conveys an inner sadistic glee and turmoil mix that is compelling and intriguing. Clive Barker’s characters often have that quiet, dignified evil that makes them so much creepier than the manic or lumbering killers that are so common. Candyman, Dr. Channard in Hellraiser 2, Dr. Dekker in Nightbreed, and Pinhead all share the same eloquent, elegant type of menace that really makes these characters chilling. Pinhead takes it one step further, seeming almost regal. He has a truly commanding presence. This is fitting, since Barker has cited his influence for Pinhead’s demeanor as Christopher Lee’s sophisticated portrayal of Count Dracula.
The other is the way he speaks. He is articulate, intelligent, and well spoken. Clive Barker described Pinhead as having “a streak of priestly deportment and high flown rhetoric in him that suggests this is a monster who knows his Milton as well as he knows his de Sade, and can probably recite the Mass in Latin (albeit backwards).” While all of the other major horror characters of the day either had cheesy lines or no lines, Pinhead had great lines. Freddy, the other most quotable horror movie character of the 80’s, was spouting lines like “welcome to prime time bitch” and “how sweet, fresh meat.” Pretty good, but definitely lowbrow. The other wisecracking slashers of the era were on the same page. Now let’s look at some of Pinhead’s classic lines… -"Your suffering will be legendary, even in hell." -"Oh, no tears please, it's a waste of good suffering." -"We have an eternity to know your flesh” -"Down the dark decades of your pain, this will seem like a memory of Heaven." -"Just come here and die child, while you still have the option of doing it quickly. " Damn he’s cool. No movie character ever, horror or otherwise, has ever had that level of cool in their dialogue. That’s, like, James Dean cool, but at the same time it’s so chillingly beautiful and poetic that it transcends scary into frighteningly impressive.
While he’s dignified and silver tongued; when it’s time to get nasty Pinhead can slice and dice with the best of him. The hooks and chains were brilliant. Since the fluidity of his motion isn’t sudden enough for stabbing or slicing, huge hooks on the end of chains coming lightning fast out of seemingly nowhere are his perfect weapons. Remember the “Jesus wept” scene? Has Voorhees or Myers or anyone else ever annihilated a body so thoroughly? The tools on his belt suggest that when he finally does get his hands dirty, he’s in no hurry. He’s interested in taking his time and making the agony last. That’s especially effective for those of us who interested in BDSM, taking the “pain as pleasure” concept and taking it to its absolute infernal extreme, effectively using what we’re into as an instrument to scare us. Well played Clive, you old pervert you, well played. He’s mentally sadistic too. He enjoys taunting his victims with the inevitability of what is going to happen. If you pray for help, the last ditch effort of so many, he’s quick to stoke the fire of hopelessness by asking “Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?” He will also constantly remind you that you did this to yourself. You opened the box, and he came.
Pinhead is truly a one of a kind character. He’s intelligent, which I find much scarier than your average kill crazed slasher. He’s not insane at all. He knows exactly what he’s doing, he’s good at what he’s doing, and he enjoys what he’s doing. He’s like Dr. Mengele, but with the powers of hell backing his play. He’s got some of the best lines in horror history. He kills without a second thought, and loves every minute of it, but he isn’t evil. He’s beyond that level. Evil is so passé to him. He is a monster in the deepest sense of the word, but overlaid with all of the darkest aspects of human nature. There is not another horror character like him, and I dare say there never will be. In other words, "Gentlemen, I AM pain.” What else needs to be said?


Cash Wampum said...

The Black Pope. I'm a huge fan of Bloodline only because he has so much screen time and truly wonderful lines in that third sequel. That and Kim Myers from Nightmare 2 is in it ;)

The scene where the twins interrupt him and Angelique is quintessential Pinhead greatness.

Bloodline showed a malice in him that was absent from the other movies. His ambition to increase the potency of the portal to and from Hell stoked some splendid lines from him......"And though the boy will not die here, for a thousand years his dearest wish will be that he had!!!"

SonOfCelluloid said...

Agreed, Bloodline was great. I was really just focusing on 1 and 2 here, which I kinda see as one story. I was kinda rushed so I didn't go into the evolution of the character throughout the series. He is very different from flick to flick. I think that's a topic I'll have to revisit sometime.

TinaRoxx said...

They just better do what Clive has suggested for the reboot, and keep Doug Bradley in the roll, since it will make him come across as an older evil like he intended.

hawkdmh said...

this post reminded me of how much i like the hellraiser series mainly the first two, and there are others which are numbered but there are also ones just thrown in there i am definitely gonna have too look up all them now.

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