It should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of Clive Barker. He is unequivocally one of the most original and imaginative writers in the horror genre (subgenre: splatterpunk). His stories are typically full of dark eroticism, shocking violence, and, above all, gore. In his forty+ years as a writer, he has created some of the most memorable and terrifying characters and worlds in horror literature, bar none. Pinhead alone… (although Barker has never consented to call his icon of horror by this name…)
So, in light of his contributions to horror, the Longbox of Darkness will share with you my five favorite Clive Barker works. These are the ones that have impressed me the most with their creativity, style, and ability to evoke sheer terror. Of course, this is just my personal opinion, and you may have different preferences. But I hope you will enjoy reading through these picks, and maybe discover some new gems to add to your collection along the way.
1. The Hellbound Heart
The Hellbound Heart is a novella that was first published in 1986 in the anthology Night Visions 3. It is the basis for the cult classic movie Hellraiser, which was also written and directed by Barker. The story follows Frank Cotton, a hedonist who obtains a mysterious puzzle box called the Lament Configuration. He solves the box, hoping to experience the ultimate pleasure, but instead unleashes the Cenobites, a group of sadomasochistic demons who offer him an eternity of pain. Frank escapes from their realm by using the blood of his brother Rory, who moves into Frank’s old house with his wife Julia. Julia, who had an affair with Frank before his disappearance, agrees to help him by luring men into the house and killing them for their blood. However, Rory’s daughter Kirsty finds out about their scheme and tries to stop them.
The Hellbound Heart is one of my favorite Barker works because it introduces his most iconic creations: the Cenobites. They are not evil in the traditional sense but rather follow a twisted logic of their own. They are fascinated by the extremes of sensation and emotion, and they see no difference between pleasure and pain. They are also visually striking, with their mutilated bodies and elaborate costumes. The leader of the Cenobites is Pinhead, who has nails driven into his skull and speaks in a calm and eloquent manner. He is one of the most memorable villains in horror fiction.
The Hellbound Heart is also a great example of Barker’s penchant for blending horror and eroticism. The story explores themes such as desire, obsession, betrayal, and guilt. It shows how Frank’s lust for pleasure leads him to a fate worse than death, and how Julia’s love for Frank turns her into a cold-blooded killer. It also shows how Kirsty’s innocence and courage contrast with the corruption and cruelty of Frank and Julia.
The Hellbound Heart is a short but powerful novella that will leave you breathless and irrevocably disturbed. It’s a masterpiece of horror fiction that deserves to be read by every fan of the genre.
Cabal is a novel that was first published in 1988. It is also the basis for the movie Nightbreed, which was also written and directed by Barker. The story follows Boone, a young man who suffers from nightmares and hallucinations. He is convinced by his psychiatrist Decker that he is a serial killer who has committed several murders. Decker is actually the real killer, who uses Boone as a scapegoat for his crimes. Boone escapes from Decker and finds refuge in Midian, an underground city inhabited by monsters called the Nightbreed. There he learns that he is one of them, a shape-shifter who can transform into a beast-like creature. He also meets Lori, his girlfriend who follows him to Midian and tries to help him. However, Decker tracks down Boone and leads an armed assault on Midian, intending to wipe out the Nightbreed once and for all.
Cabal is a favorite because it shows his talent for creating rich and complex worlds. Midian is a fascinating place, full of diverse and colorful creatures that have their own history, culture, and religion. The Nightbreed are not evil monsters, but rather misunderstood outcasts who have been persecuted by humans for centuries. They have their own code of honor and morality, and they value life and freedom above all else.
Cabal is also a great example of Barker’s ability to challenge conventional notions of good and evil. The story subverts the typical roles of hero and villain, making us sympathize with the Nightbreed and despise Decker. Boone is not a killer, but a victim of Decker’s manipulation. Decker is not a protector of society, but a psychopath who enjoys killing for fun. The Nightbreed are not demons, but angels who have fallen from grace.
Cabal is a novel that will make you think and feel deeply about what it means to be a human or a monster. It is a brilliant work of dark fantasy that will enchant and horrify you in equal measure.
3. The Scarlet Gospels
The Scarlet Gospels is a novel that was first published in 2015. It is the sequel to The Hellbound Heart and the final chapter in the saga of Pinhead and the Cenobites. The story follows Harry D’Amour, a private detective and occult expert who has encountered Pinhead several times in the past. He is hired by a wealthy client to investigate a mysterious murder that involves a puzzle box. He soon discovers that Pinhead is behind the murder, and that he has a sinister plan to destroy the order of Hell and become its new ruler. Pinhead kidnaps Harry and his friends and takes them to Hell, where he intends to use them as witnesses for his final confrontation with Lucifer. Harry must find a way to stop Pinhead’s madness and escape from Hell, while also facing his own demons and secrets.
The Scarlet Gospels displays Barkers’ skill for writing epic and grandiose stories. The novel is a thrilling and spectacular journey through the infernal realms, full of action, horror, and wonder. Barker creates a vivid and detailed vision of Hell, with its different levels, landscapes, and inhabitants. He also expands on the mythology and history of the Cenobites, revealing their origins, motivations, and personalities.
The Scarlet Gospels is also a great example of Barker’s ability to write complex and compelling characters. The novel explores the psychology and motivations of Pinhead, showing him as a complex and tragic figure who has a twisted sense of purpose and destiny. He is not just a mindless killer, but a philosopher and a poet who seeks to challenge the status quo of Hell and create his own legacy. He is also a formidable adversary for Harry, who has to face his own fears and doubts as he tries to stop him.
The Scarlet Gospels is a novel that will keep you riveted and make you gasp in awe and horror. It is a magnificent work of horror fiction that deserves to be read by every Barker fan, and, indeed, every horror fan in general.
4. The Books of Blood
The Books of Blood are a series of six volumes that contain short stories written by Barker between 1984 and 1985. They are considered to be some of his best and most influential works, as they showcase his range and diversity as a writer. The stories cover various themes and genres, such as horror, fantasy, science fiction, comedy, and drama. They are also connected by a framing device that involves a psychic medium named Simon McNeal, who claims to be able to communicate with the dead. However, he is exposed as a fraud by a group of skeptics, who torture him and carve words on his flesh. The words are actually stories told by the dead, who use Simon as their book of blood.
The Books of Blood are some of my favorite Clive Barker works because they demonstrate his creativity and originality as a storyteller. The stories are full of surprises, twists, and shocks that will keep you entertained and intrigued. They are also full of memorable characters, settings, and concepts that will stay with you long after you finish reading them.
Some of my favorite stories from The Books of Blood are:
- The Midnight Meat Train: A story about a man who follows a serial killer on the New York subway system, only to discover a horrifying secret about the city’s underground.
- In the Hills, the Cities: A story about two lovers who witness a bizarre ritual in Yugoslavia, where two rival towns create giant human figures by binding their citizens together.
- The Yattering and Jack: A story about a demon who tries to drive a man insane by tormenting him with various pranks and tricks, only to find out that the man is more clever than he seems.
- The Body Politic: A story about a man who discovers that his hands have minds of their own, and that they are plotting to rebel against him.
- Rawhead Rex: A story about an ancient monster who is unleashed from his burial site by a farmer, and who goes on a rampage in rural England.
- The Forbidden: A story about a woman who researches urban legends in a rundown housing estate, where she encounters the legend of Candyman, a hook-handed killer who can be summoned by saying his name five times.
The Books of Blood are collections that will make you laugh, cry, scream, and succumb to nightmares. Don’t believe me? Try them out for yourself.
Weaveworld is a novel that was first published in 1987. It is one of Barker’s most acclaimed works, as it blends horror and fantasy in an innovative and captivating way. The story follows Calhoun Mooney, an ordinary man who accidentally discovers a magical world hidden inside an old carpet. The carpet contains the Fugue, a realm where the Seerkind, a race of people with magical abilities, have hidden themselves from the human world. Cal is fascinated by the Fugue and the Seerkind, and he befriends a woman named Suzanna, who is the granddaughter of the carpet’s owner. However, their discovery also attracts the attention of Immacolata, a powerful and evil witch who wants to destroy the Fugue and the Seerkind. She is aided by Shadwell, a salesman who can manipulate people’s desires with his magical jacket. Cal and Suzanna must protect the carpet and the Fugue from Immacolata and Shadwell, while also exploring the wonders and dangers of the hidden world.
Weaveworld is a favorite because it shows his skill for writing dark fantasy. The novel is a beautiful and complex tapestry of magic, adventure, and even romance. Barker creates a vivid and detailed world within the Fugue, with its different regions, races, and creatures. He also creates a compelling and diverse cast of characters, each with their own personality, history, and motivation.
Weaveworld is also a great example of Barker’s ability to write profound and meaningful stories filled with subtext. The novel explores themes such as identity, belonging, freedom, and love. It shows how Cal and Suzanna grow as individuals and as a couple, as they discover their connection to the Seerkind and their role in the Fugue’s fate. It also shows how Immacolata and Shadwell represent the forces of greed, hatred, and fear that threaten to destroy the magic and beauty of the world.
6. Lord of Illusions
Lord of Illusions is a movie that was written and directed by Barker in 1995. It is based on his short story The Last Illusion, which is part of The Books of Blood. The movie follows Harry D’Amour again, who is hired by a famous illusionist named Philip Swann to protect him from a cult leader named Nix. Nix was a powerful sorcerer who was killed by Swann and his friends 13 years ago, but who has been resurrected by his loyal followers. Nix wants to take revenge on Swann and his wife Dorothea, who was once Nix’s lover. He also wants to unleash his dark magic on the world, creating a new age of chaos and horror. Harry must stop Nix from fulfilling his plan, while also dealing with his attraction to Dorothea and his fear of the supernatural.
Lord of Illusions is also a great example of Barker’s ability to write complex and charismatic characters. This is clear in both the original story and the screenplay. The movie explores the psychology and motivations of Nix, Swann, Dorothea, and Harry, showing them as flawed but fascinating individuals. Nix is not just a madman, but a visionary who believes he can create a better world through his magic. Swann is not just a hero, but a coward who betrayed his friends and hid behind his illusions. Dorothea is not just a damsel in distress, but a strong and independent woman who loves both Swann and Harry. Harry is not just a detective, but a seeker who wants to understand the mysteries of life and death.
Ultimately, Lord of Illusions is not among hardcore Barker fans’ favorite examples of his works, but I hold a soft spot for it in my heart. The movie managed to thrill and frighten me at a time when I felt desensitized to horror, while the short story is worthy of multiple re-reads. Give it a try, and decide for yourself.
So there they are: LOD’s six favorite Clive Barker works. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any comments or questions about the list or about Clive Barker in general, please leave them below. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.
Thanks for reading, fiends, friends, and cenobites! Subscribe to the blog and stay tuned for more horror content coming soon. Pleasant screams! 💀😈
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