The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

(No Series)

From his Books of Blood to the Damnation Game, Weaveworld and the Great and Secret Show, to scores of short stories, bestselling novels, and now major motion pictures, no one comes close to the vivid imagination and unique terrors provided by Clive Barker. The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, a nerve-shattering novella about the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within its endless domain. It is about greed and love, loneliness and despair, desire and death, life and captivity, bells and blood. It is one of the most dead frightening stories you are likely to ever read.

 “In moments they would be here — the ones Kircher had called the Cenobites, theologians of the Order of the Gash. Summoned from their experiments in the higher reaches of pleasure, to bring their ageless heads into a world of rain and failure.”

Not many minds can come up with the twisted worlds Clive Barker does. The plot for the Hellbound Heart is a creative, freaky version of Hell. The underlying theme is the fine lines between pleasure and pain, the greed and desperation of mankind to always seek what is beyond its reach and out of this world. But, besides all that, it is in a way a demented, twisted, dark, fairy-tale like love story. It focuses on a woman who believes she is in love with her husband’s brother, and would do anything to reclaim that passionate night she once held with him.

The story is as much fantasy as it is horror, with a bit of realism intertwined. (yikes)
Dark, stiff, matter-of-fact. The cenobites are not main characters per se, merely tools. Nothing much is revealed on them other than the fact that they work with simple rules to play the darkest game imaginable. Julia is shown as an uptight woman ruled by secret desires she eventually kills for. Kirsty is hampered by unmet excitement in her life, wanting a man who doesn’t care for her in the same way, then being slapped in the face by something she never wanted nor asked to see. Frank is a man who has always been searching for things beyond this world, never happy with something he can easily put his hands on. Rory is a loving man, simple and not adequate for Julia’s tastes, clueless to what she really feels for him. In a way he is the saddest victim of the novel, reminding me of many people walking around today and being used.

The pace is even; this novella has a lot to cover in a relatively small amount of time. Barker goes for the jugular from the first page with summaries of pain, ending with a hopeless sort of ending that doesn’t make one want to sleep well at night.

I always thought that Barker’s style seemed to a change a bit depending on what he was writing. If you read various short stories in the books of blood, you may see what I mean. His writing mildly changes to fit what he’s penciling out, and that’s a good trait. For the Hellbound Heart, his words are devoid of any humor or light. He’s to the point, crisp and short. As always he uses advanced vocabulary, although he doesn’t get as carried away as some of his other works. Many of the words he used to paint imagery/scenes are almost artistic in the way they’re phrased.

The Hellbound Heart carries much of the same weight as the film Hellraiser, but it lacks some magic. The story is a good one, a haunting one, but it’s not something that stands out too much.

The story is different for sure, the characters are realistic (although not that enjoyable), and the ending was exciting. I believe if I had seen the movie after the book, my opinion may be different. There wasn’t the big fight and brawl at the end like in the film; I thought more could have been added there. It just ended up being too short, too wrapped up for my tastes. Kirstys’ climax was strong but because of the timing of her discovery, to the last page, it wasn’t long lasting. I would have loved seeing this as a fleshed out novel.

Even if this isn’t the best book out there, the idea is sensational, the writing superb, the moral lesson clear. I think every horror fan owes it to themselves to read this book.

   Book Quotes:

"She had opened a door... and now she was walking with demons. And at the end of her travels, she would have her revenge... Pain had made a sadist of her.” 

 “No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering.”