The world of toys is full of turning points and moments when something happens that is only later made fully clear. When Barbie or GI Joe were launched no one had any idea they would reach the heights they had. When Kenner released the first Star Wars toys, who would have thought they would transform the industry. In all these cases, with hindsight we can look back and go 'and that's where it all started' for Mattel or Hasbro or Kenner (who's ironically now part of Hasbro). Hellraiser is the line that is going to get NECA really noticed in the action figure arena, starting now.
The Hellraiser series of movies started in 1987 based on The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker and has lived through five sequels (currently) with more in production. The first four were theatrically released and sequels after that have been straight to video releases. The first installment was written and directed by Clive Barker, and he was onboard as a producer for the first two sequels. The vision for Hellraiser is clearly one of horror but with many sexual overtones that cross into sadomasochism. The erotic undertone of Hellraiser is part of much of Barker's work and manifests itself in his literary work as well as his films.
Giving the story for each of the six movies is a bit beyond the scope of this feature, but a brief summary may be in order. In Hellraiser a guy gets a puzzle box, solves it and Cenobites (evil beings from Hell led by Pinhead) come out and violence ensues but the evil forces seem to be defeated. In Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 someone else messes with the puzzle box to unleash Cenobites, violence ensues but the evil forces seem to be defeated. In Hellraiser 3: Hell On Earth still another person ends up with the puzzle box, releasing Pinhead (who creates some new Cenobites). Naturally, violence ensues but Pinhead seems to be defeated. Hellraiser: Bloodline was the fourth chapter, taking place in space in the future. As you may have guessed, plot points include a puzzle box, Cenobites, Pinhead and violence. For Hellraiser: Inferno add in a dirty cop, and in Hellraiser: Hellseeker is more like a reunion with Pinhead and the gang going after the same girl who beat them in the first two movies. Puzzle boxes, violence and Cenobites... yadda, yadda, yadda.
Hellraiser has been a much anticipated toy line and Pinhead has been noticeably absent from McFarlane's Movie Maniacs line. He isn't going to be part of that line officially, but the figures from NECA are as close as you can get without changing the name on the packaging and putting them in clamshells. The reason is that the people behind these toys were recruited by McFarlane Toys for their talents and have now moved on to another company. Randy Falk, the creative director at NECA, Art Director Ed Repka and sculptor Kyle Windrix are all alumni of Todd's Toys and they know exactly what the fans want in these toys. They want superior sculpting and paint, the figures in scale with prior Movie Maniacs and plenty of Cenobites to torture your dreams. And they have delivered on all counts.
The Hellraiser series of movies have centered on a man and a box and so does the first series of action figures. The first series has one figure from each of the first six movies and you actually get two puzzle boxes, one for the figures and one for yourself. The life-size puzzle box (called the Lament Configuration) is made by assembling the bases for the six figures in the first series (you'll have to get all six). Even though they are bases, the figures don't need them to stand with the exception of the Wire Twin, who can stand without the base but needs a little help with her balance because she falls over easily. You can use the miniature box as a guide to proper assembly, and if that fails the slot system that holds it together is designed to only be assembled in one way, in stark contrast to the actual puzzle box that is harder to solve than an Enigma machine. The life-size version isn't functional, and that's probably for the best unless you'd prefer to see horrors beyond imagination, like Roseanne naked or more E.T. figures. The two boxes are colored slightly differently, with the smaller one having two sides being a negative of the larger one. For the record, the larger box has the correct coloring with gold highlights and a dark background while some of the parts of the smaller box are dark where they should be gold. Regardless of coloring issues, it's nice to see the bases being designed to enhance the display of the figures rather than simply something to keep them standing.
The design of the figures places the priority on sculpting first and then articulation. The articulation that is included is mostly designed into the sculpture so that it isn't obvious and this results in many swivel joints or other hidden articulation on the figures. Also the paint detailing is perfect and all the chains are actual metal so these guys can't fly anywhere. This is the same design aesthetic used for the Movie Maniacs line, and the same scale (based around seven inches) is used so they can be displayed together as the worst class reunion ever besides your own. One difference in the figures from Movie Maniacs is the listing of credits from NECA, where the entire team is credited from the art to the sculpting to the design of the figure. The production team is credited with the 'Made in China' credit because that was the only thing they could all agree on.
Lead sculptor Kyle Windrix laid on his hands for most of the Hellraiser figures, though not all of them. He was aided by two other sculptors - Sam Greenwell and Shawn Nagle. Sam sculpted the Wire Twin and his other work can be seen in a set of Captain America and the Red Skull statues and Spider-Man busts from Diamond Select, and the upcoming Ultimate Venom figure in the Marvel Select line. Shawn created the Chatter Beast, and his other work can also be seen in the Marvel Select line with the Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate WW2 Captain America, Origin Wolverine and Thor and Loki statues from Diamond Select. All of the sculptors were able to capture an amazing amount of detail in the leather outfits of the figures, something that probably still haunts their sleep! All the accessories were done by Oliver Brig and Brian Roll was the graphic designer.
The 'series one' on the line clearly shows that more figures are planned, and while series two hasn't been announced yet there are a few more figures to be added to Hell's army. There is an exclusive pack of Wire Twins available through Marz Distribution and an 18" Pinhead with motion activated sound at Spencer's Gifts. At the 2003 San Diego Comic-Con, there will be a pewter Pinhead figure.
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
Every evil organization needs to have a leader to run the show, and like Iraq with the former Saddam Hussein, the Cenobites of Hell have Pinhead. It's not quite as cool as Lord Voldemorte from Harry Potter, but he's a simpler kind of guy. The name doesn't exactly conjure up visions of horror, but once you see that his head is full of real pins and that he is a man with bloody and violent tastes, the name seems secondary since you'll be screaming unintelligible sounds in pain.
Before the pins were installed, the man who became Pinhead was British Captain Elliot Spencer. The First World War was an appetizer for his appetites, and like potato chips he just couldn't stop. The all-you-can-eat buffet came in the form of a puzzle box called the Lament Configuration. Once he found the secrets of the box he quickly took over Hell and became the Grand Poobah of that domain. Like many leaders, now he just wants to give something back, in this case pain and suffering (clearly he's a politician). The bad news is that he keeps running up against an American girl, and being British means there's no way he can win. History just isn't on his side...
Pinhead is the most requested figure from Hellraiser, and that's because he's in all the movies and he's the bad guy. Doug Bradley has had the distinction of playing Pinhead in all the Hellraiser movies, and he's made many appearances in Clive Barker films since the two are close friends. Being English probably helped pave the way for two other notable English sadists - Simon Cowell of American Idol and Anne Robinson from The Weakest Link.
Pinhead is the head Cenobite, and so he comes with his own miniature puzzle box (with the coloring reversed on it). He also has some knives attached to his waist by string and a bloody scalpel to stab people who complain that his box is reverse colored, and he has a base that is one of the six faces of the life-size Lament Configuration. He doesn't have any legs though, and he's a solid piece of plastic from the waist down (he does twist at the waist) with a rubbery robe covering it. Up top he has neck and shoulder twists, and mid-bicep and wrist twists. There are very subtle blue shades painted on the base black of the figure that help it stand out and accentuate the S&M look and the leather outfit he wears has highly sculpted details.
Much of the action for Hellraiser 3 takes place in a club called The Boiler Room. The club is owned by bad boy rich kid JP Monroe (sounds like a porn name) who buys an interesting sculpture for his private room at the club. The sculpture is a still-life, one with a still alive Pinhead as part of it (this was left over from Hellraiser 2), just waiting for a chance to come out and play. The movie would have been pretty boring if the sculpture was simply a 'Billy Big Mouth Bass' with Pinhead in it, so naturally he gets free to do nasty things.
The third installment in the Hellraiser films (Hell on Earth) had two cool features - newly created Cenobites and Terry Farrell. The lack of nudity on Terry's part was sorely missed, but the newly minted modern Cenobites were treats not to be missed. While Camera Head appeals to the voyeur in all of us, the guy who got to be a part of the music industry was the Boiler Room DJ Blake Regan. After a heart to heart with Pinhead he was quickly changed into CD (though if the movie were 15 years older he would have probably been 8-Track). And if the movie were made today, he'd be DVD, Special Edition no doubt. Brent Bolthouse played CD and DJ Blake Regan in Hellraiser 3, and needless to say this role didn't exactly springboard him to stardom.
CD is the Cenobite that has the most accessories by far, with a variety of torture implements. He has a bloody bonesaw, two other bloody saws, pliers and what looks to be the Cenobite male symbol (a circle with a right angle attached to it). His truly horrifying weapons are a pair of CD's, that be thrown or worse - played! One is NSync and the other William Shatner singing. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! He also has several metal chains hanging off him, and has a neck twist along with shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hip twists. His waist can also twist and the knees bend and ankles have ball-joints. He has highly detailed leather and even a ring in his nose.
It has been said that French men are the rudest alive, but French women are just plain kinky. Well, we said it, then we wrote it, so it has officially been said though this French chick ain't Joan of Arc. Gabrielle was one of those Goth girls, with a lust for sin and the black arts (i.e. anything that is fun), the trouble was that her father was a priest (those preacher's kids are always the wildest ones) and she lived in the 17th Century - not exactly the age of enlightenment.
Back in the day there was a simple remedy for evil women, much different that the modern custom of marrying them. They would burn them in public (and sell marshmallows at the event) and that would end their evil ways. However, there are certain loopholes to avoid execution, one being the Lament Configuration. The puzzle box was given to her the before her execution, and after a twist and tweak she went from main course at the BBQ to the Cenobite known as Stitch. Just don't confuse her for the Stitch in Lilo and Stitch, because she just doesn't like Elvis. Sarah Hayward played Stitch in Hellraiser: Hellseeker (#6) opposite Dean Winters (who played Ryan O'Reily in another version of Hell on HBO's Oz).
With a name like Stitch you'd expect some yarn and knitting needles, but this Stitch likes to work on her own head. She carries a bloody scalpel to pick at things (with two attached to the figure via a string) and a face vise that has an elastic band and the vise part even unscrews so you can attach it to someone facehugger style. Then you just screw it in and ruin their face, what a deal! Articulation-wise, she favors Pinhead with the solid lower body with a rubbery skirt. She has twisting elbows and shoulders, neck and forearm twists. She also has the detailed leatherwear and subtle blue washes on it, because she's sad.
Where President Bush has Dick (Cheney that is), Pinhead has the Chatterer. Or in SAT terms, Bush is to Cheney as Pinhead is to Chatterer. Either way, Chatterer is Pinhead's lieutenant and his right hand man with chattering teeth. He's also called the Angel of Suffering because while he sought redemption from the box, he found only pain - Just like Rocky got from Mr. T in Rocky 3.
What is known about Chatterer is that while he's always running his mouth, he has very little to say. This trait would easily garner him a top job in either politics or running a Fortune 500 company but in Hell is only makes him number two.
There are actually two different Chatterers, though he does appear in the first two movies. Nicholas Vince plays him in both of the movies, but in two his appearance has altered to include ears and hooks on the mouth (both were absent in Hellraiser). The figure favors the Van Gogh approach combined with 'Chopper' the tooth guy from Schoolhouse Rock.
The Chatterer is one of those guys who carries around some chains, just like the Ghost of Christmas Past. However, he's not a ghost and his blades have hooks on the end, suitable for catching large fish and torturing people. He has two real metal chains, one with a single hook on the end and the other a double-hooked chain. He likes to use it as a jump rope after flaying his victims. To facilitate jumping rope you need articulation, and a twisting neck is just the start. He also has twisting shoulders, mid-biceps, wrists, hips, bending knees and ankles. He also has a nice strip of his head missing on the back, air conditioning for his brain.
The Chatter Beast is possibly the oldest of the Cenobites, and was actually once human. Once is the operative word, because years of corruption and evil have transformed it into a creature more monster than man. It has the mark of the Cenobites on it, with a mix of torture and the grotesque. The Chatter Beast doesn't wear clothing and crawls on all fours, just like most men would prefer to see Brittany Spears. It should also be able to sum up the Cenobite philosophy of pain and pleasure by first licking itself and then biting.
The Chatter Beast made an appearance in Hellraiser 4 - Bloodline played by Jody St. Michael (sounds like a porn name). This story took place in the future where a descendent of the inventor of the original puzzle box is working to make a reverse box to close Hell forever. Not having any other immediate job opportunities, the Cenobites obviously oppose this. Plus it would preclude you from telling someone to go to hell and them being able to carry out. A messy situation.
The beast isn't really into using hands so it prefers to bite and chew any prey with a massive jaw. Two parts of a recent prey are included with the beast - a head and an arm. The arm is severed and slightly chewed up (mastication scale 1.5) while the head is just torn to shreds with large parts missing (mastication scale 8). The chewed up head actually resembles art director Ed Repka (besides being decapitated and having large pieces of flesh missing), though this may be a figment of our imaginations. The Chatter Beast has a hinged jaw for chewing and the neck can twist and move up and down via a joint where it attaches to the body. The front paws (for lack of a better term) both have 'elbow' twists and the right one has a hinged paw. The back two legs have thigh twists and he does have a small tail poking out.
Twins seem to hold a special place in our collective consciousness. For some reason it's cool to have two of something, especially when it comes to women. Two hot centerfold models means a double-decker sandwich with pleasure in between. In Hellraiser 5 - Inferno, these twins get an extreme makeover from the Cenobites. The curves are still there, but the hair is mostly gone and they've shaved some of the fat off their abs, quite literally. No thigh-master for these girls!
Since there are two twins, there are two actresses to play them. What's more is that the Cenobites are played by other actresses still and we have no idea if this Wire Twin is number one or two. The human twins were played by Darlene and Maureen Sue Levin (they were one and two respectively) and the wire twins were played by Trisha Kara and Lynn Speier (two and one respectively, or one and two obversely, or dos and uno Hispanically). Confused? Just act like you know what's going on and you'll continue to do fine in your life.
For the first series of figures there is only one of the Wire Twins available. There is a Marz exclusive two-pack with a torso that will finish out the pair.
The twin's job is mostly to look pretty, in a horrible way down to the glyphs carved in her body. She has some curves, but a really large belly-button that shows her internal organs. She has a scalpel (probably helps to keep her weight down) and a real metal chain with a hook in it to keep your weight down. She has one extra interchangeable hand to switch out for her right hand, so she can either hold the scalpel Psycho-style or pose like a girl on The Price is Right while presenting her latest gruesome idea. And she has a very large tongue, quite popular with male and female Cenobites. The Wire Twin is the least articulated figure in the line, and the body and legs are all one piece, which can lead to some stability problems without her stand. She can stand without it, but she'll be the first to go down if the shelf starts a rockin' (so don't come knockin'). Her neck has a twist but it can't be used because of the wires from her head to her chest. Other than that she has wrist and shoulder twists and that's as much moving as she can handle.
More pictures of Pinhead
More pictures of CD
More pictures of Stitch
More pictures of the Wire Twin
More pictures of the Chatterer
More pictures of the Chatter Beast
|Where to buy Hellraiser Figures: The Hellraiser action figures retail for about $9.99 to $11.99 USD each and are available in comic book stores and specialty stores such as Suncoast, Hot Topic, Game Stop, and Spencer Gifts, as well as various online toy retailers. (Some online retailers sell them in sets, for about $60 to $72 per set.)
Several such online stores are RTM sponsors AisleSniper.com, Big Bad Toy Store, The Outer Reaches, and Action Figure Xpress. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)