|The sweet suffering... a moment of exquisite pain from Hellraiser|
The film doesn’t always have its own way, at times the novella wins out with sophisticated and evocative writing. The brilliant opening sequence of the novella where Frank invokes the Cenobites is heavy with ritualism, the Cenobites described in quasi-religious terms as "theologians of the Order of the Gash", with Frank preparing for their arrival with a display of various offerings – urine, severed dove heads, sweets and flowers (the only one of the items the Cenobites accept). Barker writes:
He had worked ceaselessly in the preceding week to prepare the room for them. The bare boards had been meticulously scrubbed and strewn with petals. Upon the west wall he had set up a kind of altar to them, decorated with the kind of placatory offerings Kircher had assured him would nurture their good offices: bones, bonbons, needles. A jug of his urine-the product of seven days' collection-stood on the left of the altar, should they require some spontaneous gesture of self-defilement. On the right, a plate of doves' heads, which Kircher had also advised him to have on hand. He had left no part of the invocation ritual unobserved. No cardinal, eager for the fisherman's shoes, could have been more diligentThe Cenobites are more mysterious, less stylized, perhaps less ridiculous than their filmic counterparts (although the idea for Pinhead was more or less formed even at this early stage - "Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jeweled pin driven through to the bone"). In the second appearance by the Cenobites in the novella and film, Kirsty strikes up a bargain to lead them to Frank, ("Oh yes. We know Frank") but the film unwisely diverges from the original story by adding a scene where Kirsty slips into another dimension and is pursued by a grotesque wall-hugging creature. It’s a moment that does much damage to the serious adult tone of the film, due in some part to some unconvincing animatronic effects. The climax of the film suffers a similar fate when the character of the sinister derelict (a character created for the film) reveals his true self as a winged monster – another ludicrous moment undone by some mediocre effects work. The novella’s climax by comparison is far more restrained and interestingly, the idea for the derelict can be traced back to a very peripheral character in the novella, the enigmatically titled Engineer. In the final scene of the novella the puzzle box is placed back in Kirsty’s hands:
As she turned away somebody collided with her. She yelped with surprise, but the huddled pedestrian was already hurrying away into the anxious murk that preceded morning. As the figure hovered on the outskirts of solidity, it glanced back, and its head flared in the gloom, a cone of white fire. It was the Engineer… Only then did she realize the purpose of the collision. Lemarchand's box had been passed back to her, and sat in her hand.The Hellbound Heart is a grey area in the Clive Barker cannon. It's an important piece of writing - one of the author's purest works of Horror fiction, but still the novella remains one of Barker's most obscure books (it's currently out of print in the UK), paradoxically so considering the novella was the starting point for Hellraiser, Barker's signature work and a film that spawned no less than 8 sequels, inspired numerous comics, graphic novels and toy spin-offs, and introduced the world to an iconic movie monster. Whether you care or not for Hellraiser, The Hellbound Heart is highly recommended for all you seekers, sensualists and explorers in the further regions of experience.
|"What's your pleasure sir?" A keeper of the puzzle box. Artwork from Clive Barker's Book of the Damned: A Hellraiser Companion (Vol. 1 1991)|