What’s Your Pleasure, Sir?

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Despite being one of the more original and imaginative splatterpunk authors, and despite moving away from that field to concentrate more on ornate fantasy works, and despite being involved with a number of cinematic oddities (including cult favourite Candyman), Clive Barker is doomed to be known mostly for being the creative mind behind Hellraiser, one of the more unusual horror franchises to emerge from the 1980s. Although the iconic images of the movies tend to revolve around Pinhead, the pan-dimensional BDSM enthusiast who knows of no boundaries and doesn’t give two shits about your safeword, the better movies in the series don’t revolve around Pinhead as a character – instead, like Pyramid Head in Silent Hill, he’s more of a symbol and a plot element, something that pops up mostly to motivate more relatable human characters in what they get up to.

Barker walked away from the franchise long ago, and wasn’t afraid to express his distaste for the more recent entries in the series. (Of the most recent one, Hellraiser: Revelations, he said it was “NO FUCKIN’ CHILD OF MINE!” and that “If they claim it’s from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.”) However, more recently there were reports that Barker had had some productive meetings with the head of Dimension and a Barker-helmed reboot of the series may be on the cards. Now, then, is a good time to look at the first three films of the sequence and see what there is that’s worth bringing back from them – and what we can say about Barker’s contribution to horror from their distinguishing features.

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20th Century Faust

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Over time, Clive Barker’s work would come to focus more and more on fantasy and less on horror, but this debut novel of his leans fairly hard on the horror side of that equation, though some of the supernatural manifestations are sufficiently tripped-out as to border on fantasy. The Damnation Game‘s maybe-hero is Marty Strauss, whose gambling habit has resulted in massive debts to dubious underworld figures. We catch up with Strauss in Wandsworth prison, where he is serving his sentence for an armed robbery gone wrong he got involved in as a desperate bid to wipe clear his gambling debts. With his wife clearly growing apart from him and years left to go on his sentence, he’s disinclined to think about the future, but that changes when the mysterious Joseph Whitehead, the obscenely wealthy and powerful head of a major multinational corporation, exerts his influence to get Strauss paroled so that he can work as Whitehead’s bodyguard.

Grateful but puzzled as to why he was chosen, Strauss has no idea that Whitehead has very good reason to be scared – he’s been able to live the life he’s lived and indulge the vices he’s indulged thanks to his past association with Mamoulian, a Mephistophelian gambler with power over life and death itself. Mamoulian, for his part, feels his death approaching and insists on Whitehead following through on their mutual understanding – exactly how mutual this understanding was is never clear – that when Mamoulian goes, Whitehead will accompany him into death. With both Whitehead’s psychic daughter Carys and Marty himself as wild cards, the novel chronicles the devastating endgame between Mamoulian and Whitehead.

Continue reading “20th Century Faust”