The Lament Configuration is a fictional lock puzzle or puzzle box appearing in horror stories by Clive Barker, or in works based on his original stories. The best known of these boxes is Lemarchand's Box, which features prominently throughout the Hellraiser movie series. This was designed and made by Simon Sayce, one of the original creative team. A Lemarchand's box is a mystical/mechanical device that acts as a door — or a key to a door — to another dimension or plane of existence. The solution of the puzzle creates a bridge through which beings may travel in either direction across this "Schism". The inhabitants of these other realms may seem demonic to humans. An ongoing debate in the film series is whether the realm accessed by the Lament Configuration is intended to be the Christian version of Hell, or some other dimension of endless pain and suffering.
He first appeared as a character in the Epic Hellraiser comics series and was portrayed as an older man, though still a creator of toys and singing birds. This version, created with the support of Clive Barker, was a mass murderer who used human fat and bone in the construction of his boxes. He was aided by a material given to him by the Cenobite known as Baron.
The film Hellraiser: Bloodline, written several years later, portrays the character as much less morally reprehensible. In this version, Le' Marchand is a young ingenious toymaker known for his intricate mechanical designs. The character Dr. Paul Merchant (portrayed by Canadian actor Bruce Ramsay), is supposed to be Philip's descendant in the far future. It says in the film that the Lament Configuration was commissioned from Lemarchand by the aristocrat Duc de L'Isle in 1784.
In the 18th century, Phillip Lemarchand, a French toymaker, makes the Lament Configuration for a wealthy aristocrat named Duc de L'Isle, who is obsessed with dark magic. He and his servant, Jacques, kill a woman and remove her insides from her skin, and L'Isle uses dark magic with the Lament Configuration to summon a demon princess named Angelique in the woman's skin. She is theirs to command unless they stand in Hell's way. However, Angelique and Jacques betray and kill de L'Isle. Lemarchand, in the process of inventing a design (the Elysium Configuration) to destroy the demons, is discovered attempting to steal back the box. Jacques maliciously informs the toymaker that he and his bloodline are cursed until the end of time because of the box he created, before ordering Angelique to kill him. However, his wife survives, as does Philip's bloodline.
The Lament Configuration
The LeMarchand box that has become known in the film series as the Lament Configuration was introduced in The Hellbound Heart novella as "the Lemarchand Configuration". Set as the film's adaptation of Pandora's box, it appeared as an antique black lacquered puzzle box of unparalleled workmanship. A clever individual with a passion for solving the puzzle might spend the better part of a day loosening the first piece. As described by Barker on the first page of the novella:
The interior surfaces were brilliantly polished. Frank's reflection — distorted, fragmented — skated across the lacquer.... Lemarchand, who had been in his time a maker of singing birds, had constructed the box so that opening it tripped a musical mechanism, which began to tinkle a short rondo of sublime banality.
The tune continues to evolve as each additional piece is moved:
And there was music too; a simple tune emerged from the box, played on a mechanism that she could not yet see. Enchanted, she delved further. Though one piece had been removed, the rest did not come readily. Each segment presented a fresh challenge to fingers and mind, the victories rewarded with a further filigree added to the tune.
The puzzle draws the player onward until suddenly the puzzle is solved and the gateway is opened. As the puzzle is nearly completed, the sound of a large bell can be heard tolling mournfully. The sound comes from the realm of the Cenobites, and announces their impending arrival. Once the gate is opened, the box begins reassembling itself.
An important difference between the book and film versions — aside from the name — is that the film version of the box is merely twisted into new alignments or shapes, whereas the version in the novella is completely disassembled and reassembled. The film version is also trimmed in brass or gold, and appears to have arcane symbols etched on its surface. The novella version is completely smooth and has no obvious designs save for an almost imperceptible etching along the seams between the pieces, but seems to display the faces of its victims in the reflection of light over its surfaces.
Other LeMarchand boxes appear throughout the Hellraiser film series. Dr. Philip Channard is depicted as a collector in Hellbound: Hellraiser II; he has three on display in his study. The demon princess Angelique is narrated to have created several in Hellraiser: Bloodline. The Host in Hellraiser: Hellworld also possesses several. Most of the boxes seen in the films are not named or used onscreen, so their powers — if any — are unknown. They may simply be fakes or nonfunctional replicas.
At the end of The Hellbound Heart, the character Kirsty Cotton wonders if there are other puzzles that might offer access to paradise instead of hell.
Frank Cotton buys an antique puzzle box from a dealer. Back at his house he solves the puzzle box and hooked chains immediately fly out of it, tearing into his flesh. Demons called "Cenobites" then appear from another world to inspect Frank's remains. Their leader, "Pinhead" (Doug Bradley), picks up the box and twists it back into its original state, and the room immediately returns to normal - but with Frank and the box nowhere to be found.
When Frank is later partially resurrected after an incident where blood is spilled on the exact spot of his abduction, he has the box in his possession, though it is unclear whether it was hidden in the room or Frank somehow brought it back with him. He shows it to his mistress and sister-in-law Julia Cotton, explaining its powers and dangers. Later on, when coming face to face with Frank, Kirsty seizes the box. Realizing it holds value for Frank, she throws it out the window and escapes from the house, picking up the box off the ground as she flees. A disoriented Kirsty collapses in the street and awakens in the hospital. She tells herself it all was a terrible dream, until the doctors hand her the puzzle box. Kirsty begins to play with the puzzle box and is seduced into solving it. The walls of her hospital room open a dimensional door and Kirsty encounters the Cenobites.
When trying to escape the Cenobites, Kirsty finds the puzzle box clutched in the hands of Julia's corpse. One by one she banishes the Cenobites back to their realm by reversing the solution to the puzzle box.
Afterwards, Kirsty tries to burn the box in a fire outdoors, but a strange man appears (who appeared a few other times in the film) and picks it out of the flames. As the man is consumed by the flames he transforms into a winged, skeletal creature that flies away into the night. In the final scene, the box is shown in the hands of the merchant who originally sold it to Frank, asking another prospective customer, "What's your pleasure, sir?"
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
- "How can it send us back, child? We are already here. And now, so are you!"
- — Hell Priest 'Pinhead', Order of the Gash
In Hellbound Dr. Channard, obsessed with the Lament Configuration and the portal to Hell, has Kirsty Cotton placed under his care after hearing her case. He uses the information from her account of the original film's events to deduce how to open the box, and has Tiffany, a savant and puzzle solver, open the puzzle box so Channard can experience Hell. The Cenobites are released, but Pinhead stops the others from taking Tiffany, declaring that it was not her desire that made her open the box, but Channard's.
When Kirsty finds and enters the portal to Hell, she immediately encounters the Cenobites. Her first reaction is to try and use the box against them. The box, however, changes into its lozenge (diamond) shape, becoming inoperable. Abandoning the box, Kirsty and Tiffany escape the hellscape to find Dr. Channard's patients, manipulated into opening dozens of more boxes. In a flash of insight, Tiffany runs back to the original box and operates it, forcing Leviathan into mimicking the shape of the puzzle box and sealing off the hellscape permanently. However, the box is later transported back to earth by the vengeful dark half of Pinhead, becoming trapped with him in a sculpted pillar that rises from the bloody mattress that Julia had originally died on.
In the film's prologue, Captain Elliott Spencer buys the box and solves it, releasing its hooked chains which tear into his flesh. He's transported to Hell where he's transformed into Pinhead by knives that slash the skin on his head and claws and a hammer that drive long nails into his skull.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
The box is trapped with Pinhead in the pillar until purchased by J.P. Monroe, who mistakenly assumes it to be a grotesque piece of art. One of Monroe's associates manages to pry the box out of the pillar, intending to fence it for cash, but mistakenly opens it and is pierced by chains. Monroe's ex-girlfriend Terri finds the box and brings it to news reporter Joey Summerskill , who immediately begins to investigate. Meanwhile Pinhead reveals himself to Monroe and uses him to resurrect his flesh form. He sets out to destroy the puzzle box so he need never return to Hell again. Joey, however, having been contacted by the other, formerly human half of Pinhead's spirit, manages to convert the box into the diamond shape, previously shown in Hellbound, and stab Pinhead, causing him to be pulled back into hell along with his human side. Joey then buries the box deep into a pit of cement on a building site. The movie ends with a shot of the completed building which is covered in patterns that match the Lament Configuration.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline
The film begins at Space Station Minos in the year 2127. Paul Merchant, the man who built the station, has a robot solve the Lament Configuration (the robot is subsequently destroyed).
A flashback is shown to around 400 years ago. Philip Le' Marchant, a French toymaker, makes the Lament Configuration for a wealthy aristrocrat named Duc de L'Isle, who is obsessed with dark magic. Le'Marchant, in the process of inventing a design (the Elysium Configuration) to destroy the demons, attempts to steal back the box but is discovered. The toymaker is informed that he and his bloodline are cursed until the end of time because of the box he created.
Around 200 years later, John Merchant has built the building witnessed at the end of Hellraiser III.
Angelique finds the Lament Configuration in a cement pillar in the basement and makes a man solve it, and he is killed by Pinhead. Pinhead wants to make John use the Elysium Configuration to keep the gateway to Hell open so he can come and go as he pleases. He gets John to use the Elysium Configuration, but it does not work, so Pinhead kills John. John's wife, Bobbi, sends Pinhead, Angelique, and a monstrous dog called Chatter Beast back to Hell using the box.
After locking him up, Rimmer releases Paul Merchant from his cell. He has a plan to destroy the Cenobites (having built Minos for that specific reason). Paul distracts Pinhead with a hologram while he gets on the shuttle with Rimmer, and activates the Elysium Configuration. A series of powerful lasers and mirrors create a field of perpetual light, while the station transforms and folds around the light to create a massive box. The light is trapped within the box, which then self destructs, destroying the Cenobites and severing the connection between Hell and Earth forever.
Hellraiser V: Inferno
Detective Joseph Thorne discovers the Lament Configuration while working on a series of sadistic ritualistic murders with connections to an enigmatic figure known only as The Engineer. After sleeping with a sex worker he goes to the bathroom, taking the box with him. He sits and tries to solve the box. He has what appears to be a bad dream. What he does not realise is that he is trapped in Hell, constantly awakening next to the box on the bathroom floor.
The Lament Configuration is featured only a small number of times as this movie and those after it were more psychological thrillers than horror movies and contained very little of what had been seen in previous movies.
Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker
Again the Lament configuration is only shown a few times. It is seen in a scene where Trevor gives the box to Kirsty as a gift and has her open it. Also in one scene we see a flashback of Trevor buying the box from the guardian. It appears as a ball at first but when rolled across the desk it becomes a box.
Hellraiser VII: Deader
At the address given to her by her editor, Amy Klein finds the corpse of a girl named Marla and a puzzle box. In her hotel room, despite being told not to do so by Marla, she opens the puzzle box. Hooks appear which try to pull her into the box. Pinhead the Cenobite appears, warning her she is in danger.
Also the puzzle box was shown to be safe and intact despite the explosion which brought down the whole building at the end of the movie.
Hellraiser VIII: Hellworld
Film opens at the funeral of Adam, one of the friends who was obsessed with the game and was murdered by the Cenobites after, unknowingly, releasing them by solving the puzzle box, which was in his father's possession.
Later, the Adam's father sits in a bedroom, going through souvenirs of his son. He finds and opens an actual Le'Marchant's box, which summons the Cenobites. Pinhead praises Adam's ingenuity and mocks the Host's disbelief. The Host frantically tries to wake up from his supposed nightmare, but the Chatterer Cenobite slices him into chunks.
Hellraiser X: Judgment
6 Puzzle Boxes are prominently displayed atop the fireplace during interviews featuring the Auditor of the Stygian Inquisition.