In the horror genre in the 70’s and 80’s we have a rise in the ‘Slasher’ genre. A male antagonist murders a small group of less than a dozen people, to be defeated by a virginal woman wielding a phallic object. For example, Ginny in Friday the 13th Part II “kills” Jason with a machete, in Friday the 13th part III it’s Chris with an axe, in Friday the 13th: the Final Chapter Trish deals the first strike, while Tommy, her brother, finally kills Jason. Or in Halloween where Laurie “kills” him with a knife. This is because masculinity is seen as the destructive and active force. It is the receptive female which must shed her own femininity to do battle with the wicked masculinity, and in doing so be scarred for life, forever shattered in her soul.
This pattern is inverted, however, in Hellraiser. The Cenobites, beings from another dimension, are the ultimate hedonists in a sense. They are masters of pleasure, which is why Frank looks for them. In the book The Hellbound Heart, which was written by the same person who wrote Hellraiser, Clive Barker, Pinhead is actually a woman, but in making the adaption to the screen Barker changed aspects to appeal to the 80’s horror crowd. For example, the scene when Frank opens the box and is hooked to the chains, in the book, it describes all his senses as being overloaded, it’s an extremely pleasurable experience for him, so pleasurable actually that he masturbates during the experience before being taken with them to their dimension.
At the end, skipping some very important plot points, Kirsty, the virginal heroine of this film, defeats the Cenobites not with a phallic tool, but with a much more yonic tool, the puzzle box. It is in realizing her own feminine power that she is able to destroy the enemy. In doing so, Clive Barker appeals to the genre of the 80’s while subverting it with a violent sacred femininity. A destructive force as much as masculinity can be. In the book, Kirsty does not go mad with despair and horror, instead she remains full of hope of the future, a hope that she may one day find Larry (who is not her Father in the book, but is in the movie). Because she has not had to shed her sexuality, instead, her sexuality has been affirmed as an active and powerful force.