Production Designer Kathrin Eder has been involved with numerous projects on a grand and smaller scale, from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), The Oranges (2011), and The Night House (2020). Her latest is probably her most ambitious in the Hulu remake of Hellraiser, a take on the 1987 Clive Barker classic where a young woman Riley (Odessa A'zion), struggling with addiction, comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites. Taking over the Priest/Pinhead role, played by Doug Bradley in the original, is Jamie Clayton. Eder spoke to Bleeding Cool about redesigning the world of the Cenobites, redesigning the puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration, and evolving the Cenobite look.
Inspirations for 2022's Hellraiser
Bleeding Cool: What intrigued you about Hellraiser?
Eder: The legacy of Hellraiser is something I found intriguing and exciting. From a production designer's perspective, what I enjoyed about this particular challenge for our movie was that we were able in the design to break away from the reality of human existence into the Cenobite world and the world in between. This one gives us a lot of nuances from horror to some fantastical and something that's a little hyper-real for the human experience. Dabbling in that in production design is a unique opportunity and also something challenging and very exciting.
With such resources from the original Clive Barker novel "The Hellbound Heart" along with the films, was there a particular inspiration that helped drive this incarnation?
There were points of inspiration from the original novel and the original  movie we leaned heavily on. We had Martin Emborg, a computer game designer, who [director] David [Bruckner] focused on designing the puzzle box. That's something that raises a clear prop we wanted to honor as much as possible from its [Simon Sayce's] original design. There were descriptions and visualizations regarding two-dimensional doorways when the cenobites came into this world. We liked the room of Romanesque archways and the texture of the stone in the corridors of the labyrinth. We took a lot of textual references from the original to bring into our world. In terms of relationship and feeling, Clive Barker, with his Hellraiser world, evokes a feeling you get to know intimately when you deal with the subject. We try to remain faithful to that world even though this story and this script were brought 35 years into the future to the present day and deal with certain things like addiction and dysfunctional family on a grander scale than the original Hellraiser dealt with on a smaller scale.
Shedding BDSM Iconography from Franchise
How do you compare the Cenobite designs from the original to the current?
As the production designer, I was not particularly involved with the design of the cenobites. That was between David Bruckner and [lead concept designer] Keith Thompson, a brilliant artist and creature designer. David and Keith have worked together on quite a few projects. David arranged to have Zoom calls where we all met and discussed the design teams to ensure we were all in sync with each other. David and Keith, their idea of the debates or a new interpretation of the cenobites were to break away from the BDSM aspect that has become very familiar over the last 35 years into something where you see their skin that makes up such the decor of the Cenobites. There was this beautiful moment at the premiere where Clive Barker showed up and passed down the torch and said that change was a very wise thing to do because the idea for BDSM was fresh in the '80s, but it's been overused in the last 35 years. He was equally excited to put the Cenobites into a new light with the updated design.
Can you break down the design of Voight's mansion and the cenobite transformation sequence?
There's a mythological structure to the story that it takes us out of the ordinary world where we find our protagonist, Riley [Odessa A'zion], and her roommate into a special world, which for a large part of the movie is Voight's (Goran Visnjic) mansion where it presents a bridge to the world of the Cenobites. While the characters were trying to figure out the puzzle, we had to design different locations at the mansion and stitch them together before altering them heavily on the stage we built. What we built was the showroom, adjustments room, and the hidden dark corridors that popped up everywhere.
The last thing was the cenobite transformation sequence. David enjoys that he tries to honor the horror community, make the most out of practical effects, and enhance them when necessary. We did a lot of the stuff we built for the mechanical and practical effects in that final scene inside the Leviathan. We built a very long white set piece that looks like lights are raining down when the camera pans over. We had to test many different fabrics to find the right one. We ended up at that golden table, almost like a surgery table. It was a collaboration of many people. We had a techno crane to film it. I'm quite happy with how it turned out.
Were there any deep discussions on whether the film would rely on practical or CG?
It was a work in progress. David's very fond of using practical and real blood, not fake blood. It was an adventure. In the previous phase, we had certain ideas about where the real world would need VFX, and things fell into place. You run into things that you need to solve on the spot. With each problem solved emerged another one. Within our budgetary limitations, we did a little bit of everything. We had mechanical sets like the bathroom you see in the beginning when Riley's brother disappears. Those walls are moving backward and spinning, turning into the VFX when the two-dimensional doorway opens to the Cenobite world. In the third act, when you look at the labyrinth, we hired a miniature company to build the practical steps, which the VFX coordinator inherited. Everything from special effects, VFX, miniatures, productions, and everything was woven into this one.
Hellraiser, which also stars Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, and Aoife Hinds, is available to stream on Hulu.