‘Hellraiser’ on Hulu: Cenobite’s Makeup Making Of
Special makeup effects supervisor Josh Russell tells IndieWire about the four to five hour process that turned Jamie Clayton into Pinhead.
Recreating the nightmarish visions of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser was always a mammoth task. “It’s the pinnacle of both the most rewarding dream job and the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to do,” recalled Josh Russell, the special makeup effects supervisor on Hulu’s remake of the 1987 horror classic Time the world’s largest shoot for a movie with creature effects.
A major factor in the success or failure of the new film was the creation of the hellish cenobites, whose leader Pinhead is a horror icon on par with Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers or Leatherface. Russell’s initial attempt to ensure that success took place in an accelerated time frame: Russell and his wife Sienna had ready-made designs from senior concept designer Keith Thompson (like Russell, a longtime collaborator of “Hellraiser” director David Bruckner) and only had three days to complete to prepare for a meeting with the studio.
“We ran a 36-hour marathon modeling a concept maquette of Pinhead based on the designs they showed us,” said Russell. “We were at the Zoom meeting, I roll them through this long pitch deck, and then I flipped the camera around and said, ‘And we did that,’ and showed them the Pinhead model.” It helped seal the deal seal, proved that they could work quickly and showed the quality of their work.
Once part of Hellraiser, the Russells and their team continued to customize everything from creature design to how the hands-on effects were executed. The Pinhead maquette was originally “greier and bloodier. All the exposed muscle tissue and stuff was very dirty, butcher shop like, the cuts around the skin looked gnarled.” Buckner pushed back, wanting it to look “extremely tailored and artful.”
Pinhead, played by Jamie Clayton, was the centerpiece from which creative sprang for all other infernal manifestations. A key design decision was the complete absence of “earthly clothing”.
“Pinhead is all skin and flesh being pulled with bits of Leviathan technology down her throat and the beads on the pins. That informed how to get the others to work together,” Russell said, adding that all cenobites contained elements of the pearl-headed pins. Part of the discussion was the departure from the traditional leather look of the characters, which was inspired by punk and BDSM. “I thought if we put any element of that into these characters, it would die for comparison,” Russell said, saying it had to “live or die by itself and its own thing and A its fresh concept.”
Part of this meant creating several new cenobites, although not all end up in the finished film. Russell and Bruckner worked to highlight five that would feature prominently, namely Pinhead, Chatterer, Weeper, Asphyx, and Gasp.
“Chatterer is a legacy character and Gasp is a new version of the female Cenobite from the original film,” Russell said, adding that Weeper and Asphyx “are entirely new concepts.” He hired a team of sculptors, including “Hellraiser” fan Mike Rotella, who was hired first because “Chatterer was his thing.” Dave Grasso and Jaremy Aiello were brought in to make the body based on what Rotella did to the head.
“First, Mike sculpted a blunt monster version of the design David gave us. We all loved it, but David freaked out,” Russell recalled. The director apparently thought it was “too much monster,” so they reselected it, landing halfway between the two versions.
At this point, Jason Liles had been cast as the chatterer and was available for them to begin body casting. This would not be the case with Gasp.
“We’ve told the studio we need a body double so we can build it and are hoping the rubber will stretch to get actress Selina Lo in.” Gasp included a “super complicated, tight suit” with a metal framework that pulled her skin, and a costume sewn over it. There were also four different facial devices with a head piece and a veil piece over it. All of this had to be secure and not wobble and was attached to the neck piece with threads pulled on the outer cord. Russell described it as “the most elaborate Halloween costume you can imagine”.
It took Russell and the team between four and five hours to get Pinhead and Gasp’s camera ready while Chatterer and Asphex were in suits from head to toe, and it took about 20 minutes. Weeper took an additional 30 minutes due to the need to glue on a jaw attachment and handsets. The suits weighed between 15 and 25 pounds and were made of silicone rubber rather than foam latex because silicone “feels more like real translucent skin”.
Russell confirmed that very little VFX work was done on the Cenobites in post-production other than sculpting in two dimensions and squeezing shapes “to be smaller than they could physically be on a person”. However, there was a minor design change to Pinhead.
“David decided the neck piece looked better put right on the body,” a part of the application Clayton had a love-hate relationship with, though it literally helped her find the character’s voice. “It was the first time for me to see how much it affected the way she speaks. She didn’t want to wear it unless she had to wear it. We had to run in between setups and take it off her to give her a break.”
“She also loved it because it complemented her sense of being in the shoes of this character. We had to loan them the neck piece so she could do her ADR work a few months after the post office,” he concluded. “She didn’t want to give it up.”
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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/10/hellraiser-hulu-cenobites-makeup-1234772409/ ‘Hellraiser’ on Hulu: Cenobite’s Makeup Making Of