To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.
Today I’m celebrating the MVP of Evil Queens aka Julia Cotton from Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. This is not the ‘seemingly nice enough woman turned reluctant murderer turned gleeful murderer all for some ungrateful man named Frank’ Julia from the original Hellraiser. This is the version of Julia who was originally meant to be the main villain of the Hellraiser franchise…but after you introduce a unique creature with a bunch of pins in its head you’ve named Pinhead it’s hard to get people to focus on anything else.
I know many others have discovered what an amazing vamp of a villain Julia becomes in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, but it still doesn’t feel like enough people have sung her praises in this satisfying sequel. But to appreciate how satisfying it feels to watch Julia be an empowered villain in the sequel, I think it’s important to give some context for her character in the first film.
As I mentioned, Julia in the first film is utterly despicable in her obsession with regenerating Frank. When I first showed my wife Hellraiser I told her to prepare to see the worst stepmother ever. There is something tragic, repulsive, and hypnotic about watching Julia fall under his thrall and becoming complete villainous in the process. And it is pretty clear that while yes the Cenobites are hell priest sex demons, the true villains of the story are Frank and Julia, and their addiction to always wanting more.
At the end of Hellraiser, Frank inadvertently stabs Julia and just says “it’s nothing personal baby” before leaving her to die while he pursue his niece aka our final girl Kirsty.
Contrast the Julia of Hellraiser with the Julia of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and you will see some things have changed to say the least. Here’s what she does to Frank when she finds him in hell in the second film.
In the second film, Julia is resurrected by Dr. Channard, who is obsessed with the Cenobites. She shows off her new badass persona in a prolonged and slippery fight to consume the lifeblood of the man Channard sacrificed to summon her.
Rather than realize what a horrible mistake he has made, Channard lets a Eyes Without a Face/ Goodnight Mommy looking Julia (who is basically still fleshless!) seduce him.
Julia convinces Channard to feed her people so she can star in How Julia Got Her Flesh Back, and in all these scenes Julia is measured and a bit subdued. You see a bit of Julia manipulating Channard, but at the same time it is completely understandable to want some corporal flesh for your recently resurrected corporal body.
But it is when Kirsty and Channard’s apprentice Kyle investigate that Julia starts to reveal that just like a Cylon, she has a plan.
Julia makes quick work out of Channard’s apprentice Kyle, and delivers one of the most deliciously bitchy mini-monologues to Kirsty ever committed to film when Kirsty sees Julia is somehow alive again. It is probably helpful to know Julia helped Frank murder her husband/Kirsty’s beloved dad so he could WEAR his FLESH when he nearly killed Kirsty.
Julia, Kirsty, and Channard all end up in hell. Julia introduces Channard to Leviathan – the god she now worships that brought her back and creates the Cenobites. She also rips Frank’s heart out.
This film did involve some rewrites once it was clear actress Clare Higgins wasn’t looking to be a horror film franchise villain and that audiences loved Pinhead, so after another delightfully bitchy line referencing Kirsty’s inability to protect loved ones from dying…
…the movie kind of just flushes Julia down a wind tunnel in hell 😦
Despite Julia’s upsettingly unceremonious end, she is such a delightful villain I had to include her in this list. Julia is empowered and charismatic as one of the central villains in these first two films, and it is especially nice to see her just own her power in the sequel.
Hats (flesh?!) off to you Julia Cotton for going from the wicked stepmother to the evil queen, and being one of the female franchise villains that could have been.
For more Julia & Hellraiser: