This fast-paced, action-packed novella served as the basis for Clive Barker's extreme horror movie masterpiece Hellraiser, but it is well worth reading on its own merits. The human heart and its vulnerability to perverse pleasures of a sensuous nature is a compelling theme at the heart of Barker's writing. Those familiar with the movie will find that this original story matches up fairly closely with what they have seen, but there are some important differences. For one, a little more information about the infamous puzzle box is revealed. The characters are fleshed out a little better, yet Julia remains a cold person whose motives are not completely understandable. The Cenobites are actually featured much less here than in the movie, and the physical descriptions of them are far less developed--Pinhead himself reportedly speaks with a girlish voice in the novella. The blood and gore are certainly here, but their full magnitude is determined by the imagination of the reader. Interestingly, Kirsty's relationship with Rory (who was called Larry in the movie) is ambiguous at best. While one assumes Rory is her father, Kirsty always refers to him by name, and her relationship with him, if he is her father, is not a normal one for she seems to relate to him as some sort of potential lover.
The depth of Barker's vision is much better developed in print than on the movie screen, and that is what makes this novella a must-read for fans of extreme horror. The dark side of the human soul is a source tapped deeply by Barker's imagination, and he is unafraid of revealing the depravity of any given individual. As such, his writing betrays a complexity and ingenious subtlety which critics of horror will never identify or understand. Surprisingly, there is really not a great deal of perverse sexuality in this particular work, so readers who tend to shy away from his Books of Blood may actually find The Hellhound Heart to be the optimal doorway by which to enter the haunted, terrifyingly alive world of this modern master of horror.
on 19 September 2015
My Thoughts On The Book:
“No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering.”
The Plot Of The Story:
Before I start this review I just want to say that for those who have seen the movie but not read the book, or vice versa even, the two are NOT the same. The storylines are similar but obviously there have been changes, some significant and some not so much. The movie is a seminal piece of horror movie history and the book is also a seminal piece of horror writing, creating one of the scariest and one of my personal favourite iconic character creations ever....... Pinhead the Hell Priest!
So for those who are unfamiliar with the book here's the gist of the story.......
Julia is married to Rory and they have just moved into a new home, a house owned by the brothers and where Rory's brother Frank used to stay before he mysteriously disappeared. Except Frank didn't just disappear..... he was addicted to pleasure, of the naughty kind of course, and in his search for reaching the next level in pleasure he came across Lemarchand's puzzle box, or the Lament Configuration, which is supposed to be the key to the ultimate pleasures imaginable. In his solving of the puzzle box Frank opens the door to another dimension, a world full of pleasure, but instead of the lusty women he expects to see Frank is shocked to find scarred and bizarrely mutilated creatures in their place. These beings are the Cenobites and they inform Frank that he can have the pleasure he desires but sadly for Frank it's not what he imagined and the Cenobites take him into their dimension.
Meanwhile Julia and Rory are settling into their new home. Rory is happy to be in a new home with his beloved wife but he doesn't know that on their wedding day Julia began an affair with his brother ad has a strong bond to Frank, a bond that allows Frank to break back into the human world with a little help from a few drops of Rory's blood after an minor accident in the room where the Cenobites took Frank. Frank returns a literal shadow of his former self but he needs Julia's help to survive, he needs blood to bring his body back to itself but can Julia do the things he will ask of her?
This is classic horror and classic old school Clive Barker and I know many get very wary of some of Barker's early work as it does have a bit of a reputation for being very graphic on the blood and violence but the thing with his work is that there is always a wonderful story behind it all, a deep and intensive story and that is the case here.
What Is There To Love?
This is a very creepy tale and I think that is what I love the most about it, of course my feelings towards the novella have been influenced over the years due to my love of the movie and of Pinhead as a character in his own right but this book isn't about Pinhead as he is just one of the four Cenobites in the case and doesn't have a 'starring role' as such. This book is about Frank and Julia and their strange and destructive obsession with one another and goes to show how truly horrific some people can be towards others because of the love of the one person in the world they love more than anything and that they should NOT be with under any circumstances. This is a romance that is horribly bent and twisted out of shape and that has the most appalling effect on those around them as well as on one another. Personally I like to see that not all romance can be positive as sometimes in novels there is too much focus on the positive things about being in love with someone else and this book bucks that trend to show the other side of the coin and show how horribly things can go, I like it!
What Is There To Dislike?
The only thing I have ever been able to dislike about this novella is the fact that it is a novella at all. I so wish it was three of four times the size it is and that the story was seriously expanded as it's simply just long enough in my opinion but then again if it was longer maybe it wouldn't have the same punch to it that it has right now in it's current form. Luckily for me Clive Barker has written another book featuring Pinhead and another of his seminal characterisations, Harry D'Amour so I will get my dream of more Pinhead.
How's The Writing?
Clive Barker's writing is always awesome in my view. He has a real talent for getting the scariest feel out of the book and into the reader's brain, he really does write some of the creepiest and lingering prose in the horror genre and it's not always mega descriptive to give you that sense of horror either, sometimes it's just the way he builds up a scene.
Of course with The Hellbound Heart being a novella there isn't much in the way of wriggle room for Barker to get the feeling of horror across yet somehow he has still managed it and managed it very well indeed, while it may not be as graphic as the movie was with some of the imagery you still get the feel for what is happening and a good mind's eye image of how things look too. The pacing is great and Barker really does amp the story up across the course of the novella and not always in the most predictable way either. The characterisation are also very good considering the limited text, especially Julia, you really do feel for her plight but at the same time are a bit disgusted with the way she goes about things and the abominable way she treats her husband. The world-building is also pretty good considering it's a novella, obviously the mythology isn't as in depth as it I'd have liked it, you don't really get to know much about the box and the cenobites and where and how they came to be (obviously the movies go into this in more depth) BUT I think in this case the not knowing much adds to the overall mystery around them and makes them that little more creepy as you don't know, if that makes sense?
I know that Clive Barker's work isn't for everyone but I am personally a huge fan of his work as it's always unique and fascinating in so many ways. He always keeps me engaged in his prose and his talent keeps me consistently coming back for more and more of his work, I just wish he was a little more prolific with his books but he is a busy man with more than just his writing to keep him busy.
This is scary little book and is the best way of experiencing Clive Barker for the first time, along with his short story collection, The Books Of Blood, as many of his full length novels are big and often complicated affairs making this the perfect starting block for those wanting somewhere small to start.
Would I recommend it, well yes, being a lover of horror novels I would but I do get that this type of story is not for everyone but for those that enjoy being scared and freaked out then this is a book to read and if you are a fan of the Hellraiser movies than you need to read this to see how the Hellraiser phenomena originally came to life.
on 8 August 2015
Clive Barker is my favourite contemporary horror writer and it was the Hellraiser film (one of my favourite horror films) that introduced me to his work. This is my third time reading the novella that inspired the movies and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first time.
There's so many aspects that elevate this into a classic read. First is the eloquence of the author's word craft. Just reading the language is a joy in itself. As a writer myself I can only marvel at the talent displayed and hope that I will one day match such skill. But I was a reader long before I became a writer and this remains a fantastic read.
The film based on this novella is excellent, mostly because of the cenobite characters, demons wrought from the flesh of those foolish enough to attract the attention of the order of the gash. The variety of the suffering visible in their forms works well on screen and the written word. The key difference here is that the book treats them as a collective rather than the simple imposing character of Pinhead as a leader.
The film does a decent job in visualising the horror in this tale, but the book does a far better job in describing the sensual nature of the cenobites. And that for me, beyond the quality of the writing, is what makes the story stand out. Normally the duality in horror is expressed as simple good versus evil, or the bestial against human, but here it's not so simple. The pain and pleasure is entwined, indivisable to coin a phrase.
It's a short read, but no less potent for that. The language is finely wrought and full of experssive dark imagination. A superb read and one that if you are a horror fan should be on your TBR list if you haven't already read it.
First published back in November of 1986 by Dark Harvest Publications within their third volume of the 'Night Visions' series of anthologies; Clive Barker's classic tale 'The Hellbound Heart' sets in motion one of Barker's most successful franchises, creating a truly iconic addition to the horror genre. The tale was later re-released as a stand alone novella by HarperCollins in 1988, after the outstanding success of the 1987 film adaptation directed by Barker himself, simply entitled 'Hellraiser'.
The tale begins by introducing Frank, a self confessed moral degenerate, whose life is spent in an endless search of the greatest pleasures known to mankind; no matter how despicable or taboo they may be. Frank's constant quest brings him to a mysterious cubic box known as the 'Lemarchand Configuration' that was created by the master craftsman Philip Lemarchand. Frank successfully tracks down the box in Dusseldorf, and returns to the UK to the home of his recently deceased grandparents. Whilst squatting in the confines of the attic, Frank solves the box's puzzle which opens a gateway to hell.
Coming forth from this gateway are the Cenobites. Angels to some, demons to others; these tormentors from hell exist to deliver endless torture to their victims, merging the extremities of pain with the farthest reaches of pleasure. Frank is dragged to hell by the Cenobites to spend eternity in endless torment.
The house in which Frank was taken from is subsequently inherited by Frank's brother Rory. During the move, Rory accidently cuts himself and blood is spilled directly upon the area where Frank's ritual was performed. The connection with this life blood causes Frank to be able to gradually tear himself back into our world.
Rory's wife Julia has always held a flame for Frank, ever since they spent a night of passion together a week before she was set to marry Rory. Now, with Frank emerging from his realm of unimaginable torture, Julia learns of Frank's gradual reincarnation and so begins to help him to obtain his human form back again. Julia now begins to add to the blood spill on the attic's floor by killing random victims in the very room where Frank is now beginning to materialise.
Believing that Julia is cheating on Rory, Kirsty (both a neighbour and close friend of Rory's) enters their new home to be confronted by the returning form of Frank. She manages to steal the Lemarchand Configuration and escapes from Frank's grasp. However, after fleeing from the house, Kirsty collapses in the street in a state of utter exhaustion.
After awakening in a nearby hospital, Kirsty manages to solve the puzzle box that is now in her possession and the Cenobites are once again summoned. Kirsty manages to make a pact with them to return Frank if they spare her. Kirsty now has to fulfil her side of the bargain in order to save herself from the endless suffering that awaits her if she should fail...
Barker dives head first into the tale from the very outset, setting down the elaborate fundemantal principles behind his redefined version of hell and the reconfigured notion of evil.
Frank's ritual to open the box's gateway screams to the reader of an eroticism, which although projected as despicable in its taboo nature, is also somehow utterly compelling. Barker floods the reader with wildly elaborate depictions of this ritualistic act, forming a vivid picture to each and every sensation endured by Frank.
Barker successfully immerses the entirity of the tale in an eerie atmospheric depth that seeps through each and every page, forming a constant nerve-chilling undertone to the proceeding plotline. Each character that is brought into play within the tight storyline is expertly fleshed out with carefully developed characteristics and personalities.
Barker maintains a constant undertone of menace throughout the novella, whilst expertly juggling the descriptive levels of blood spill and gore. What is emerges is a haunting picture of these despicable acts and a whole new definition of what hell really is.
The inclusion of sadomasochistic tendencies, exaggerated in such an extreme fashion, develops a whole new notion of this hell. Redefined as a realm of ultimate pleasure devised from the constant endurance of endless pain, Barker has brought into question the whole basic principles of each and every religion, with hell's servants being both angels and demons, depending on your point of view.
Barker taps into the terrifying unknown side of the human soul, playing with his dark ideas, whilst twisting each principle that would be thought of as a safe understanding of our human nature. This unleashes a thoroughly unnerving side to the very feel of what is being played out throughout the length of the tale.
'The Hellbound Heart' is bursting at the very seams with the seemingly unlimited imagination that has been harnessed and explored by the author, to bring together a seductive trip into the erotic depths of limitless pleasure and pain.
The novella can only be described as a monumental piece of horror fiction that in its own way has redefined and reset the bar for shockingly extreme horror. Whilst reading the book it becomes frighteningly apparent that Barker loves to make the reader squirm in their seats, revealing to them the depravity that lurks underneath the flesh and bone of each and every one of us.
The film adaptation of the tale saw a number of minor changes to the storyline, with a far more pivotal role for the lead Cenobite (dubbed as 'Pinhead' by the fans). Although the film version still follows the storyline very closely, the novella offers a deeper insight into Barker's concepts of hell and a deeper understanding behind the nature of the Lemarchand Configuration. The novella was also able to portray the atmospheric nature of the rituals involved to a greater extent, with all of their subtle complexities realised in a way that allows the reader to envisage the true depth of what is happening with the utilisation of their own personally unique imagination.
The novella runs for a total of 128 pages, of which the storyline never once slows from its harrowing and unrelenting pace. 'The Hellbound Heart' is a true masterpiece of dark horror fiction that will force open your eyes to the intertwining nature of the horrific and the divine.
on 28 February 2010
This is a short little book, but it definitely packs a punch. I read thing in three (short) sittings and I think it is definitely worth the money. Need a book to get into Clive Barker? Look no further.
on 10 August 2014
I've been wanting to read this book for years and years and finally caught up with it on kindle. It is every bit as brutally beautiful and brilliant as I'd hoped it would be. The way Barker writes is the best of the best, beautifully evocative and descriptive, yet not too much that get you bogged down with huge chunks of text with no dialogue. Just perfect.
The book is different from the movie. The characters have different relationships to each other and the plot is slightly altered. But the vibe and atmosphere of the book and the movie are identical. If you like hellraiser, you'll love this. The book has added depth (obviously) which works really well when we're inside Frank's head and what it feels like to be skinned, with no muscles around his vertebrae and all his nerve endings exposed.... Just horrible and I loved it. And the history of the box, and 'other charts' and means to reaching the cenobites is gone into, that a map to hell used to belong to the marquis de sade, and another chart is in the vatican... It adds a depth and richness to the story that is missing in the film medium.
In short, it's amazing. Read it. You won't be disappointed. A masterpiece.
on 25 November 2010
Being a huge fan of Clive Barkers Books of blood and his screen efforts such as Hellraiser, Cabal/Nightbreed and his screenwriting for Candyman, I'd have to say that The hellbound heart disappointed me a bit. I had hoped for a lot more insight in the Cenobites. You are offered a few hints, and there's a bit more about Franks lust for forbidden pleasures than in the movie, but the last forty pages (or so) of this rather short book (128 pages) is wasted away on a lot of chaising around, and you never really get a satisfying psychological insight in Frank; he's just a mean dude, and the hierachy and motives of the cenobites remains somewhat a mystery. I'd much rather recommend Barkers different volumes og the Books of blood if you are to dive into his early gory period. Hats of to the idea of this book (which of course is brilliant, groundbreaking) that would have probably knocked me off my seat if i'd read it back in the eighties and had'nt seen the movie like a million times.
Clive Barker's novella will be better known to the vast majority as 'Hellraiser' as that is the film based on this story. It starts off with Frank Cotton opening a box that is supposed to bring him the ultimate in pleasures, but this doesn't turn out to be what Frank expected. Frank disappears from the house he opened the box in, and next we read that his brother Rory, and his wife are moving in to the home.
As we progress with the story we see that Frank was a hedonist, and after becoming disillusioned with what is on offer he becomes nihilistic. For him he expects orgies and such like from opening the box, but he discovers that after being offered sensory overload in fact pleasure means different things to different people, and thus for him it becomes pain, as he is in the clutches of the Cenobites.
With Rory's and Julia's marriage not going so well Frank thinks he can persuade Julia to help him get back to the normal world, but Rory has a friend, Kirsty, who may be able to put the spanner in the works. This story is only novella length, and thus it doesn't really go into much of the world of the Cenobites, leaving a lot up to the readers' imaginations. What we mainly are given here is the lives of the people in our world, and what happens next. This does on the whole make for a fast and thrilling read, but somehow I have always felt that this could have been fleshed out into a full length novel that would add more suspense and horror. This does make an ideal introduction to Clive Barker's works though, if you have never read one of his books before.
on 8 March 2014
I had no idea that Hellbound Heart was the same story (albeit a few minor changes) to the acclaimed horror film Hellraiser. I simply read it because I am a big Clive Barker fan. The novella is short but highly effective. Lemarchand's ancient box is not to be tampered with as Frank discovers. The Cenobites are disfigured creatures from another realm (probably Hell), who appear when the puzzle to open the box is figured out.
Rory's blood drips onto the floorboard where Frank's pleasures had been granted before he lost his life and inadvertently gives life to a half-human, half-creature who uses Frank's passionate affair with Frank's wife to get him more blood so he can be whole again.
Brutal, visceral and brilliant, the story sprints to its conclusion. Only a story so imaginative could have been created by the one and only Clive Barker.
Read the book first and then watch the film.
on 12 August 2011
This,of course being the book that inspired the film HELLRAISER,is undeniably impressive.
True if you've seen the film,you know the synopsis about forbidden pleasure coming in the form of a unique puzzle box,which when opened unleashes hell. PINHEAD and his evil friends aren't really quite so intimidating in written form as they are in the film (where they are certainly hellish creations). The story of FRANK wanting his brother's cheating wife to kill to put flesh on Frank's bones in really impressivley written. But having seen the film loads,i knew where the story was going,and being only 128 pages,it is very short,but there's no denying it's brilliance. If it's possible for a book to TEAR YOUR SOUL APART,this has a bloody good go.