A crowded derelict bar with sandstone walls, packed with splintered tables with a heavy smog of cigarette smoke hanging in the air. At one of the warped, splintered tables a crusty, unbathed and unkempt man sits huddled across from a young, sweating, and anxious man. With cracked and dirt ridden fingernails the first man pushes an eloquently decorated black and gold box across the table, and with a croaked and chalky throat he enquires,
"What's your pleasure, sir?"
Transition to a darkened cellar lit only candles placed methodically on the concrete floor. In its center, the young man from the bar sits, crossed legged holding the mysterious box in both hands. The young man caresses the box, changing its configuration from different sides. Completing the puzzle the man waits anxiously but in vain; nothing happens. In his frustration, the young man throws the box across the concrete floor. The box rolls end over end over end before stopping unnaturally on one of its edges before settling, against momentum, back towards the young man.
A baby's muffled cries, the whispered moans of ecstasy, and the distant screams of pain echo around the room, startling the young man. The slow ticking of moving gears rises above all other sounds as a blackened totem adorned with flesh, bones, and viscera slowly rises behind the panicking young man, turning slowly on its center. The mortar between the bricks of the cellar walls glow white hot. Dust from the floorboards of the house above rains down. Church bells toll mournfully as one of the brick walls cracks and pulls apart. From the widening beyond bright light beacons through as a heavy mist pours into the cellar blanketing the concrete floor.
From the illuminated beyond three figures walk slowly, purposefully into the cellar. Adorned in leather gowns and with chalk white skin the three hairless and mutilated figures surround the young man. Of the three ones face is devoid of features bar its chattering teeth which are framed by its pulled back lips, while another is obese with deep black goggle lenses embedded into his eye sockets and his open gasping mouth drooling freely as he licks his lips in anticipation. The third figure, female in form, breathes raspily, the skin of her neck peeled open revealing an opening and closing gullet within. In fear, the young man begs,
"Who are you, people?"
From the beyond a fourth figure walks into the cellar. Also adorned in a leather gown with chalk white, hairless, and mutilated skin the fourth figure walks towards the young man, their arms held authoritatively before them, palms facing upward. From behind, the fourth figures head appears to be adorned with rusty nails, embedded into their head at intersections of a grid pattern carved into their skin. Stopping before the frightened young man the fourth figure, revealed to be portrayed by American actress Ashley Laurence looks down and declares teasingly,
While the Stygian Inquisition was a welcome and creative addition to the recent Hellraiser: Judgment, I feel that the newly introduced characters did not suit the atmosphere of the Hellraiser mythology and as such should be further explored in a separate, spin-off franchise, whereby they can be praised on their own merits. As for Hellraiser itself, I believe the above opening scenes could be the foundation of a movie that could bring the Hellraiser movie franchise back from the abyss of obscurity. These opening scenes would chronologically be set after the bulk of the movie in which Ashley Laurence would reprise the role of Kirsty Cotton, accompanied by the final appearance of Doug Bradley as the Hell Priest (AKA Pinhead).
The movie's narrative would revolve around Kirsty's growing obsession with the Lament Configuration, which following her reunion with the box in Hellraiser: Hellseeker has seen her delve deep into the recorded past of the mysterious puzzle box, the Cenobites, the Labyrinth, and the Leviathan, shutting herself off from the outside world, while frequently inflicting pain and injury upon herself. Throughout events, the Hell Priest would frequently appear before Kirsty in her dreams and waking moments, seemingly haunting her and adding to the downward spiral of Kirsty's obsession into the history of everything associated with the Cenobites. In the closing moments of the movie, after solving the puzzle of the box Kirsty would be welcomed into the ranks of the Cenobites, AKA the Order of the Gash after which the Hell Priest would transfer the nails from his head into Kirtsy's own. With Kirtsy as the new Hell Priest, she would absolve the now mortal Elliot Spencer (Pinheads human form) of his sins, as his body disappears in a glowing wisp of light. Finally, in a mid-credits scene, a disheveled and weary Julia Cotton (a cameo appearance by Clare Higgins) would be seen chained in a dank cell, begging for respite as the Cenobites return to torture her, her expression changing to fear as she realizes that Kirsty is now the Hell Priest.
This could be the first in a trilogy of movies in which Ashley Laurence takes over the mantle as the Hell Priest from Doug Bradley, revealing that Elliot was not the only Hell Priest. This would allow the appearances of Stephan Smith Collins (Hellraiser: Revelations) and Paul T. Taylor (Hellraiser: Judgment) to be explained as prior and/or subsequent individuals within that role, with the latter possibly being a former member of the Inquisition given the role in a plan to help the Inquisition rise in prominence of hells ranks, of which the Labyrinth is but merely one level (see Dante's Inferno, from the Divine Comedy).
The idea of Kirsty Cotton becoming the Hell Priest, which was first explored in the Hellraiser comic books by Boom Studios, could be used as a soft reboot of the flagging movie franchise, but also to expand and deepen the Hellraiser mythology, delving deeper into the richly depraved world created by Clive Barker, while also drawing from unused elements from the original novella The Hellbound Heart, its sequel Hellraiser: The Toll, and the widely acclaimed Scarlet Gospels.
Would you like to see Ashley Laurence return as Kirsty Cotton? Would you like to see Kirsty become the new Pinhead? Can Hellraiser be saved from oblivion? Is the Hellraiser movie franchise even worth saving?