Cenobites and Modern Primitives

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His flesh was virtually white, his hairless head ritualistically scarred with deep grooves that ran both horizontally and vertically, at every intersection of which a nail had been hammered through the bloodless flesh and into his bone. Perhaps, at one time, the nails had gleamed, but the years had tarnished them. No matter, for the nails possessed a certain elegance, enhanced by the way the demon held his head, as though regarding the world with an air of weary condescension. What ever torments he had planned for these last victims— and his knowledge of pain and its mechanisms would have made the Inquisitors look like school- yard bullies—it would be worsened by orders of magnitude if any one of them dared utter that irreverent nickname Pinhead, the origins of which were long lost in claim and counterclaim. -Clive Barker, The Scarlet Gospels

“It’s like that scene in…”
When you’re discussing body suspension with folks who aren’t familiar with the community they’ll sometimes bring up a movie to help contextualize something that they have no personal experience with. Depending on their age it could it be Elliot Silverstein’s 1970 Western “A Man Called Horse” where future Albus Dumbldore Richard Harris hangs from eagle talons his chest, or Tarsem Singh’s “The Cell” with Vincent D’Onofrio hanging from his back 1 both of which for better of for worse showed suspension as a conscious act/ritual.

Not so much with Clive Barker’s 1987 horror classic ‘Hellraiser’- made on a shoestring budget of $1 million it went on to earn over $14,000,000 at the box office and introduced the world to the pain loving Cenobites. The iconic scenes of hooks shooting out of the puzzle box (Lemarchxnd’s Box) digging into the antagonist’s flesh (and later, suspending him) was, it would seem, an influence on some members the early body suspension community.

This clip from Anchor Bay’s 2000 Hellraiser I & Hellraiser II tin box special edition features Tod Almighty, Teri and Kim discussing how the film and the world of Clive Barker’s Cenobites affected their performances.

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Notes:

  1. “It was uncomfortable. A body double shared half the pain with me for all the wide shots. I had to do all the closer stuff. You’re harnessed up, and prosthetic skin is glued to your skin. You’re hoisted up by cables hooked to a harness beneath this fake skin. I mean, it’s not digging ditches or anything, but it’s not the first thing you want to do in the morning. Actually, in the photos of people who do that, their skin stretched a lot farther than we stretched it. They wouldn’t allow us to stretch the skin any farther.” Vincent D’Onofrio: Killing Us Softly. Salon.com 08/18/2000

Shawn Porter has spent the majority of his life in the modification world. As a body modification archivist and documentarian, he has one of the most extensive collections of documents relating to the early American body modification community in existence. He edited the SPC website from 1995 to 2005, co-founded ModCon, was the host of ModCons 3.5 and 4, and created and hosted The Scarwars Project from 2004-2007. In 2011 Shawn launched Occult Vibrations, a blog devoted to traditional American tattoos with a focus on the occult and esoteric. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his Italian Greyhound, Bailey, and his wife Julia.

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