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The Lament Configuration, as shown in Hellraiser
|Plot element from the Hellraiser franchise|
|First appearance||The Hellbound Heart|
|Element of stories featuring||The Cenobites|
|Function||To summon the Cenobites|
Lemarchand's box 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 the Lament Configuration, which features prominently throughout the Hellraiser movie series. This was designed and made by Simon Sayce, one of the original creative team members. 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 to 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 Abrahamic version of Hell, or a dimension of endless pain and suffering that is original to the Hellraiser films.
He first appeared as a character in the Epic Comics 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, Lemarchand is a young ingenious toymaker known for his intricate mechanical designs. The character Paul Merchant says in the film that the Lament Configuration was commissioned from Lemarchand by the Duc de L'Isle in 1784.
In the 18th century, Philip 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 apprentice, 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, attempts to steal back the box, but is discovered. Jacques callously 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 pregnant wife survives.
The Lament Configuration
The Lemarchand box that has become known in the film series as the Lament Configuration was introduced in The Hellbound Heart as "the Lemarchand Configuration". 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. Channard is depicted as a collector in Hellbound: Hellraiser II; he has several on display in his study. The demon princess Angelique is said to have had several created from the original design 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.
At the end of Bloodline, it turns out that the station is a giant puzzle box, designed to produce and contain the "Infinite Light" phenomenon and act as a means of destroying the Cenobites.
At the end of The Hellbound Heart, Kirsty wonders if there are other puzzles that might offer access to Paradise instead of Hell.
The 2012 film The Cabin in the Woods initially homages Hellraiser by showing a similar spherical puzzle box in an early scene, as one of the many items that might decide which monster plagues the main characters. Later, the puzzle box is shown in the hands of a Pinhead-like monster called Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain.
An homage to the box is featured in "It Came From Inside the Box", a first-season episode of the French-Canadian animated series Martin Mystery.
Another homage appears in "The Hodag of Horror", a second season episode of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated where the close-minded and rather stupid Sheriff owns a puzzle box he appropriated from Evidence storage. He expresses his frustration that doesn't work and is boring, before accidentally triggering a sequence of movements almost identical to the movie puzzle box opening sequence. When it stops, the front doorbell rings and the sheriff answers it. An unseen presence outside, streaming with light announces "Oh, such sights...." before the annoyed Sheriff slams the door, muttering "Weirdos".