Celluloid and Cenobites: The Cinematic History of Clive Barker

The first chapter of The Necrocasticon has cracked open, and like Pinhead’s puzzle box, deliciously horrible things were unleashed upon the world.  Token Tom and the gang discussed the HP Lovecraft of Generation X, Clive Barker.

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This will be a tour of Clive Barker’s film history.  Born in England in 1952, Clive Barker grew up with a taste for horror and fantasy.  He quickly established himself as a prominent young horror writer.  One of his themes is hidden worlds within the real world, and that is a theme that will permeate his movies, another prominent theme in his work is sexuality.

Clive Barker first got into film as a screenwriter.  He wrote the screenplay to Underworld (1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986). Rawhead Rex is about a demon that gets released from his prison, and creates a trail of gore, terror, and destruction across Ireland.  The film was released to less than stellar critical reviews, however, as time has gone by, Rawhead Rex has garnered a cult following.

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Clive Barker was not happy with how his vision of Rawhead Rex was portrayed on the screen, so he decided direct his own films.  This decision lead to his most popular film, and arguably the most popular character created by Clive Barker, Hellraiser (1987) and Pinhead.  Based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser had a 1 million dollar budget, and grossed 14.5 million in the box office.  It made Barker’s first directional outing a financial success.

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Hellriaser is about a man, Frank, who is looking for the ultimate high.  He heard of a box that opened a portal to a world that held extreme carnal pleasures.  The movie begins with him finding the box, and opening it.  Chains immediately rip him to pieces.  The film then jumps and follows the man’s niece, Kristy, who stumbles upon the box.  She discovers that Frank is now a skeleton in the attic who is desperately trying to become human again, by consuming the blood of humans.  The more he drinks, the more his body regenerates.  She opens the box, and makes a deal with the demons who live in the realm on the other side of the portal, The Cenobites.  Their leader, Pinhead, agrees with her deal.  Frank escaped the cenobites, and Kristy offers to deliver him back to Pinhead.

This film really pushes the envelope of sadomasochism.  One common theme that runs through the work of Clive Barker is pushing the limits of taboo issues.

The original cut of the film got an X rating from the MPAA.  Barker had to cut several scenes to make the R rating.

Hellraiser spawned 8 sequels, and one of the most enduring horror icons, Pinhead.  Barker recently announced that he would be writing the screenplay to the remake of Hellraiser.

Nightbreed

After Hellraiser, Barker went on to direct another film that became a cult classic, Nightbreed (1990).  Nightbreed is based on Barker’s novella Cabal.  Nightbreed explored the question, “who are the real monsters?”

The film centers around Aaron Boone, a patient of Dr. Decker.  Decker convinces Boone that he is a serial killer, when in fact, it’s Dr. Decker who is the real killer.

Boone sets out on a quest to find a place where monsters are welcome.  He hears of a place called Midian.  Midian is a city hidden under a massive cemetery, where monsters are accepted.

Once there, the monsters he comes in contact with, don’t believe that he is a murderer, and attacks him.  One of the monsters bites him, and after the police gun him down, Boone wakes up in the morgue, because of the monster’s bite.

Now a true monster, Boone returns to Midian, and is accepted this time.  Tensions build between Boone and Dr. Decker, and a battle for Midian takes place, leaving Boone standing, and charged to find The Nightbreed another home.

Nightbreed was a commercial failure.  Clive Barker has gone on record blaming this failure on the studio, who tired to sell the movie as a standard slasher film, but it is much more complicated than that.

Barker also was not happy with the final edit. After more than two decades, Barker finally was able to release his director’s cut in 2014.

Barker’s experience with Nightbreed and his battles with the studio could explain why he has directed so few movies in his career, and why they are so few and far in between.

Lord Of Illusions

Five years after Nightbreed, Barker decided to try directing again with Lord Of Illusions (1995).  With a budget of 12 million, and only a 13 million gross, Lord Of Illusions was another financial bust for Barker, but it is a fantastic film.  Based on his short story, The Last Illusion, this film features Barker’s signature literary character, Harry D’Amour, in film for the first time.

Scott Bakula plays Harry D’Amour as a private investigator who is hired to investigate a series of disappearances and deaths of illusionists.  D’Amour uncovers an evil plot by demonic cult to harness real magic in the world.  Faced against forces of the occult, D’Amour come to terms with what is really happening and hold onto his sanity, if he hopes to survive and stop the cult.

Again, Clive Barker was not happy with the final edit, and insists that the theatrical version does not accurately represent his vision.  He has released a director’s cut of the film.

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Lord Of Illusions was Clive Barker’s last attempt at directing a feature film, but fear not!  It has recently been announced that a film based on the modern boogeyman phenomena, Slender Man is in the works, and none other than Clive Barker is set to direct.

Slender Man is one of the most interesting concepts to come from the modern social media age.  Born from a few creepy old photo shopped photos originally posted by Eric Knudsen in 2009, Slender Man took on a life of his own.  He is usually depicted as an usually tall, skinny, bald man with no face.  He is dressed in a suit, and sometimes has tentacles.  Slender Man stalks and kidnaps children and is typically depicted as living in the woods.  What he does with the children and his motives are currently unknown.

Slender Man plus Clive Barker is a match made in Heaven….or maybe that’s Hell.  In either case, I’m in! Thank you for celebrating the movie career of Clive Barker with us here at The Necrocasticon! From The Lord Of The Pitts, we’ll see you next time!

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