When it comes to the infernal faces of horror icons, there are few as memorable as that of Pinhead, the leader of the extra-dimensional Cenobites, “Angels to some, demons to others” as the famous quote goes. He has long since evolved into the mascot of the franchise… that was not how things were meant to be in the beginning. For while the Cenobites are frightening creatures to behold and their motives near incomprehensible to mortals, the true villains of the original Clive Barker HELLRAISER mythology were the humans, namely Kirsty Cotton’s wicked stepmother, Julia Cotton. But she was originally destined for something far more diabolical, and if anything, HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2 were meant to follow her arc from mere murderess to Queen of Hell.
In the beginning, Julia was the beautiful wife of Larry Cotton, and she also had a tense relationship with her stepdaughter, Kirsty. No one the wiser as to her trysts with Larry’s cruel brother, Frank, when the Cottons moved into Frank’s old estate on 55 Ludovico Place, it brought back memories to her about the pleasure he gave her. She soon discovers that Frank, seeking the ultimate pleasure, used the Lament Configuration and the Cenobites promptly ripped his body asunder. Brought back as a shell of his former self by Larry’s blood, Frank implores Julia to draw victims to the house so that he may drain them of their blood and flesh in order to rebuild his own. At first, she is hesitant, but egged on by Frank’s corrupting influence, she goes from messily bludgeoning a man to death with a hammer to gleefully offering up her husband’s skin to Frank and allowing him to have his way with Kirsty.
The romance from Hell is brought to a bitter end when Frank stabs Julia so that he may drain her in his own selfish need, telling her “Nothing personal, babe” and casting her aside not long before he is torn asunder by the Cenobites once more. She’s last seen chained to a mattress and bleeding, holding the puzzle box before it’s torn from her dying grip by an escaping Kirsty just as the gate to hell closes. But this was by no means the end for Julia Cotton.
Kirsty soon finds herself under the “care” of the fanatical psychologist and occultist, Dr. Phillip Channard. A man obsessed with the secrets of the beyond and of the Lament Configuration. Ordering Julia’s mattress be taken to his lavish estate and using a self-mutilating patient of his to get the blood and flesh he needs, Julia is reborn anew, sans skin and in the same infernal state that Frank Cotton was.
She retains enough sexual power to seduce Channard, even while she is nothing but bloody flesh, thus sharing one of the sickest kisses possible. No longer controlled and completely devoid of any morality, she has Channard line up victims for Julia until she drains Kirsty’s ally, Kyle, echoing the depravity of Frank by uttering a twist on his catchphrase with a haunting “Come to mother,” all before confronting Kirsty herself in her renewed state, declaring she’s no longer the wicked stepmother in this fairy tale, but the evil queen.
From here, the unholy union of Channard and Julia manipulate the savant Tiffany into solving the box from a safe distance so the gateway to Hell may be cast open. Julia helps draw Channard and the others into the bowels of the labyrinth, revealing that since her seeming demise, she has climbed high in the otherworldly food chain. She was now a servant of the divine lord of the Cenobites, the eldritch Leviathan, and a she is a harvester of souls. She pushes Dr. Channard into becoming a Cenobite, and then finds Frank only to rip his beating heart out, echoing “Nothing personal, babe” back at him.
Eventually, Kirsty and Tiffany manage to get the upper hand on Julia, flaying her as she is sucked into the abyss of the labyrinth. The reign of the new Queen of Hell seemed to come to an end. But originally, Julia was meant to be the one to carry on the HELLRAISER franchise. At the end of part 2, a couple of movers are clearing out Dr. Channard’s den when one comes upon the bloodstained mattress and is dragged in by flayed arms! The second mover arrives to find a pillar of flesh, faces, and stone, and he is asked by one of the faces, “What’s your pleasure, sir?” Instead, Julia was meant to rise from the gore, reborn anew. This revival was partially kept by the scene of the flayed arms.
Unfortunately, the Julia- heavy franchise direction was halted for a number of reasons, the main one of which being that actress Clare Higgins insisted she would not return for any more sequels. By this time, Pinhead had become the fan favorite and starting with HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH, became the icon of the series from then on out.
So, sadly, the story of Julia Cotton’s ascension from adulterous housewife to Leviathan’s acolyte was halted. It would be very interesting to imagine HELLRAISER after HELLBOUND as Julie had become the driving force of the story as originally intended. Per the original end of the movie, maybe she would have tried to bring Leviathan’s influence directly to Earth, maybe continuing her vendetta against Kirsty Cotton in either trying to kill or corrupt her hated stepdaughter. Perhaps she would have evolved into a Cenobite herself and lead Leviathan’s zealots into a new crusade. We can only guess as to what Julia Cotton’s growth would have been, but she will forever stand as one of horror’s most fiendish villains.