The Essential Films Of … Clive Barker!

2022 is the year in which master of the macabre Clive Barker turned 70, and is also the year that his most well known movie creation Hellraiser, recieved a glossy re-boot to bring the tale to a new generation, after three decades of patchy sequels to the original horror masterpiece. Barker originally burst on to the Horror literary scene with the publishing of his his short stories collection The Books Of Blood in 1984 and 1985, with the greatest author in the genre at the time Stephen King proclaiming, ‘I’ve seen the future of Horror, and his name is Clive Barker. What he does makes the rest of us look like we’ve been asleep for the last ten years.’ King’s words went some way to elevating the credibility of Barker’s work among his own substantial fanbase, and the popularity of The Books Of Blood provided a springboard for Barkers’s move into film, whilst also retaining a prolific status as a writer of novels.

Barker would look to make his stamp on the movie world by adapting and directing Hellraiser (1987). based on his novella The Hellbound Heart (1986). Barker had been disappointed with other film adaptations of his works, and having already made indie art horror films as a student, he felt he could do his story justice with a relatively modest budget of $1 million. He went on to create one of the key horror films of the 80’s, which would launch a franchise with one of the most recognisable characters in horror, the hell demon Pinhead (played by his good friend Doug Bradley). There have been a number of other key adaptations of Barker’s work in both cinema and television, sometimes with Barker writing the screenplay and directing, and sometimes with Barker sitting back in the producers chair and letting others creative juices flow, using the inspiration of his novels.

Here are his key movies :

1. // Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser was darkly gruesome with undertones of depraved S&M, which follows the story of Frank (Sean Chapman) who meddles with a powerful and magic configuration puzzle box, opening a portal to hell and unleashing demons known as Cenobytes. They claim the souls of anyone able to decipher the puzzle box, taking them to the brink of agony and ecstasy before tearing their bodies apart, claiming their souls for eternal damnation. The movie Barker created stays very faithful to his novella as Frank is trapped between dimensions in his old empty family home, where he had performed his ritualistic ceremony with the puzzle box. Sometime soon after, his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into the property. Julia seems tormented by the memory of her husbands brother, and in flashbacks we learn that they previously had an affair.

Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) visits her father and step mother often as they get settled into the home, and while moving in Larry cuts his hand on a nail as he brings a mattress upstairs, spilling blood onto the wooden floor of the room in which Frank unleashed the Cenobytes. The blood brings the floorboards alive and it becomes apparent that the spillage acts as some kind of conduit between the two worlds, bringing part of Frank back in a gloopy visceral scene of body horror, not unlike that of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). But the form of Frank is incomplete, he is initially a skeleton without flesh and he needs more spilled blood in order to completely regenerate back into our world.

Frank’s deformed body calls to Julia and he is able to convince her to spill the blood he needs with the promise that when fully formed they can be together. Julia begins to go to bars to pick up men in order to bring them back to the house for Frank to feed on. The seduction comes easy to her, and so does the murder. Interestingly other than a brief shadowy composition at the beginning of the film, Pinhead and the Cenobytes are absent from the movie for a large part as Barker’s tale focuses on the relationship between Frank and Julia. Frank explains to Julia that once his body is whole again they must leave the house before the Cenobytes realise that he has made his way back to the world.

We do see the gruesome creatures in flashback as Frank tells Julia the story of what has happened to him, and it is clear just how gloriously twisted the imagination of Clive Barker is, which would have come as no surprise to those who had read his works at the time. Frank wants Larry to be his final victim, but Julia brings back another stranger, only to be seen by Kirsty who comes to the house. Believing Julia to be having a straight forward affair she lets herself in, planning to catch them in the act. What she discovers of course is more than she bargained for. Frank attacks Julia who picks up the puzzle box , throwing it through the window before making her escape where she again picks up the box before passing out. She wakes up in hospital and begins to play with the puzzle box which opens, unleashing the Cenobytes. She pleads for the mercy of her soul, striking a bargain that she can take them to Frank who has escaped them.

She rushes back to her fathers house, where she discovers Frank has taken on the form of Larry by wearing his skin. She realises she is not speaking to her father when he utters the phrase, ‘Come to Daddy’, something Frank had said to her in their earlier scene. Frank kills Julia, as it is Kirsty he now wants. She runs back to the attic room, drawing him in where the Cenobytes lay in wait. They allow Kirsty to leave while chains and hooks fly out of the walls and attach themselves to Frank. The last thing she sees is his body being ripped apart. However the Cenobytes follow her through the house, ‘We have such sights to show you’ they snarl, before she is able to close the box sending them back to hell.

Barker created Hellraiser with a reported budget of around $1million, and it would go on to achieve worldwide box office revenue of over $15million making him a very wealthy man. Hellbound : Hellraiser II (1988) soon followed as Barker moved into executive production, carrying on where the first film left off as we follow Kirsty coming to terms with what she has experienced after waking up in a psychiatric hospital. We get a back story on Pinhead and how he came to be a Cenobite, which is then explored further in Hellraiser III : Hell on Earth (1992) focusing also on investigative reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell), as she stumbles across the mystery of the puzzle box. There have then been a further seven sequels as we discover the origins of the puzzle box and its creator in Hellraiser IV : Bloodline (1996) all the way through to Hellraiser X : Judgement (2018) and now the glossy reimagining in 2022.

2. // Candyman (1992)

They will say that I have shed innocent blood. But what’s blood for … if not for shedding? With my hook for a hand, I’ll split you from your groin, to your gut’.

And so begins Candyman (1992) with an ominous voiceover from the grizzly antogonist. A film based on Barker’s story The Forbidden from Books Of Blood, which was adapted for the screen and directed by Bernard Rose (Paperhouse). We learn the tale of Candyman, an urban legend passed on by word of mouth, that if you look in a mirror and say his name five times, he will appear behind you. The film follows Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen Highlander 2), a graduate student who is writing a thesis on urban legends, and starts to investigate the story of Candyman, which appears to have been reborn out of a number of recent murders in a poor housing project called Caprini Green. She visits the project with her friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons Hard Target), and the two women stick out like a sore thumb in the poor, deprived neighbourhood where it is assumed they are cops. They enter a derelict apartment where a murder attributed to the Candyman occurred, and find it covered in graffiti including a large portrait memorial of the Candyman himself. The tone of the film as they explore and investigate the apartment is wonderfully bleak and murky, and shot with perfect tension.

We learn that the legend first appeared in 1890. Candyman was the son of a slave who had become a renowned artist, commissioned by a wealthy white landowner to paint his daughter. They fell in love and she became pregnant. When this was discovered he was chased through the town and a mob cut off his hand with a rusty blade. He was smeared with honey stolen from a bee hive and stung to death before being burned, with his ashes scattered among the site where the Caprini Green housing project now stands. Helen revisits the project alone and meets a little boy who tells her more about Candyman. He takes her to a public toilet block and tells a story about a murdered boy who had been gutted and castrated by Candyman. She heads inside the block with her camera, ‘Sweets to the Sweet’ is written on the wall in shit, and one of the cubicles is full of bees. She is ambushed by a gang of men, one holding a hook in his hand who says he is Candyman, and she is beaten to within an inch of her life. The imposter is soon captured by Police and after she ID’s him, the other murders are attributed to the copycat killer, and it appears the legend of the Candyman is just that.

But Helen is visited by the real apparition in the very next scene. Candyman (Tony Todd The Man From Earth) proclaims, ‘Helen, I came for you … Be my victim! I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom. Without these things I am nothing.’ Helen passes out. She awakes in the apartment next to the derelict property in the projects, where she discovers a decapitated dog and a baby boy missing with his cot covered in blood and his mother screaming. The police storm in and Helen is arrested, although she has no recollection of what has happened. She has visions of the missing baby as she sleeps in custody, before her partner Trevor (Xander BerkeleyBarb Wire) arrives, and she is released on bail. She is left alone in her apartment where she is visited by Candyman again. ‘Do you believe in me !?’ He tells her he can take her to the missing child, but that he must kill her in return. Her friend Bernadette visits, and Candyman murders her. Trevor returns home to find the bloodbath and Helen laying on the floor with a knife in her hand. She blacks out and wakes up handcuffed to her bed with Police in the apartment. She runs from the bed and Bernadette is lying on the floor, completely butchered.

We hear a monologue from Candyman speaking to Helen ‘Why do you want to live?’ He is trying to entice her to embrace death, and to become a legend of folklore with him, a symbol on peoples lips and a terror in their dreams. She is taken to a psychiatric hospital and handcuffed to a bed where she is again visited by the apparition. She screams and nurses run in but there is no one with her. She is clearly tormented and does not know what is real. Helen is taken in to see a psychiatrist. She discovers she has been sedated for a month and is being charged with first degree murder. She is played the video recording of her first night where it shows no one in the room with her when she is screaming at Candyman. To prove his is real, she says his name 5 times into the mirror …. The tension builds, suddenly he appears behind the psychiatrist and guts him. ‘Your mine now’ he says to Helen, before flying out the window. Helen manages to escape from the hospital and returns home to find Trevor redecorating their apartment with another woman and realises he has been having an affair. Candyman is in her head ‘They will all abandon you … all you have left is my desire for you’. She goes to the apartment block and finds Candyman, she gives her soul in return for him returning the missing baby unharmed. Bees pour out of his mouth and cover Helen, as he kisses her.

Helen wakes in the room and follows the sound of the baby crying to a pyre made of junk that has been built for a bonfire. The baby is in the middle and Helen heads inside to save it. The residents of the ghetto descended on the pyre and begin dousing it in petrol. They set it alight as Candyman appears to Helen inside. She crawls out of the burning bonfire saving the baby, but not herself as she is engulfed in flames. We see Candyman burn inside the pyre and hundreds of bees descend into the sky. In the final scene we Trevor sitting in his bathroom crying. ‘Oh Helen’ he says to himself in the mirror. ‘Oh Helen … Helen’ he says repeating her name 5 times. He turns the light off … and she appears behind him, burned and with a hook in her hand. She guts him, before his new lover runs in to find him butchered in the bath … she screams!

Candyman tells a folklore tale of a nightmare bogeyman, which arrived at a time in the early 1990’s when existing horror icons of the 80’s such as Freddie Krueger and Jason Vorhees, were beginning to either outstay their welcome with numerous poor quality sequels, or had become parodies of themselves. Candyman became one of the biggest and most recognisable new horror characters of the era, with the film spawning the sequel Candyman 2 : Farewell To The Flesh, which dived deeper into the original story of the supernatural killer. As well as a recent reboot in 2021, which tells a new story based on the legend, a generation on from the events of the first movie.

3. // Nightbreed (1990)

Barker’s next project in the directorial chair following Hellraiser (1987), was this unusual blend of fantasy and horror. The tone of the film was a lot more colourful than Hellraiser, with the opening score of Danny Elfman (Batman Returns / A Nightmare Before Christmas) providing a blockbuster movie vibe. We see a montage of dancing creatures in a graveyard, which with Elfmans score seems like something from the deepest, and darkest depths of broadway. This is a dream sequence and we meet Boone (Craig Sheffer A River Runs Through It), a troubled man who we learn has been working with a psychiatrist called Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg Videodrome / The Fly) to try and decipher the dreams and psychotic delusions he has been experiencing.

In the next scene we see a home invasion murder of a family by a masked knife man, who moves through the house in a Michael Myers / Jason Vorhees kind of way, in a real nod to classic slasher flicks. Boone meets with Decker who speaks to him about the case of the crazed serial killer, and puts the idea into his head that he is the murderer. Six families have been killed over ten months, but Boone has had a numbers of black outs from that period, and questions his involvement and whether he was capable of such atrocities. Not being able to live with the guilt, he attempts suicide by jumping in front of a truck. But he survives and in hospital a doctor tells him that he has been taken a hallucinogenic substance, not the Lithium he was under the impression Decker had been providing him with. In hospital he meets with a crazed man called Narcisse (Hugh Ross Patriot Games) who tells him about a place called Midian, where monsters like them can be at peace, and live in a community with other monsters like them. A magical place in which you need to be invited into. Narcisse then cuts and peels his scalp off in a gross scene of body horror, befitting of David Cronenberg himself.

Boone runs from the hospital and makes his way to the mystical Midian, which turns out to be the graveyard from his dream at the beginning of the movie. He is ambushed by a couple of monsters who don’t look unlike a couple of random Star Trek aliens. He manages to escape as they are about to kill him, but not before he is bitten in the neck. As he makes his escape he is captured by the police who are with Decker, and he is gunned down. That night in the morgue the bite regenerates his body. He is brought back to life and heads back to Midian. On discovering his body missing and having been told about Midian, Boone’s girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) decides to travel there to see if she can find his body. She meets Sheryl (Deborah Weston) in a truck stop and they agrees to travel together. Meanwhile in Midian, Boone meets Narcisse and he introduces him to the creatures that live below the graveyard. The monsters live by a strange code of laws and he is told if he is accepted to be one of them, he must leave his former life behind forever. He takes part in an initiation ritual and is embraced into the tribe.

Lori and Sheryl arrive at the graveyard and Sheryl wants to stay in the car while Lori explores. Lori comes across a dying creature, while a lady calls her from a sepulchre and asks her to bring the creature into her, where it shape shifts into a little human girl. Grateful the lady tells her that Boone is with them. She is then attacked by the monster who bit Boone and runs to the car where she finds Sheryl murdered. The masked killer from earlier in the film appears, and in the least shocking twist ever, he removes the mask to reveal himself as Decker. He chases her through the graveyard and just as he is about to murder her, Boone arrives. He over powers Decker who manages to escape, but Boone is banished by the master in Midian, for breaking the law by going outside to save Lori. We learn that the monsters of Midian are known as Nightbreed, shapeshifting beings of the dark, who cannot bare the sunlight of the day, and Lori learns that Boone has become one of them. We see a whole society of the creatures, in glorious pre-cgi, practical effects montage, again with a thoroughly fantasy movie feel aided by Danny Elfman’s magical score.

Boone and Lori leave together and stop at a hotel where they discover a bloodbath which turns him into a halfbreed demon. They are then ambushed by the police and Decker, and Boone is captured. He is put in jail, while the local police chief, under the orchestration of Decker, sends a task force up to Midian to search for the demons. Narcisse and one of the demons break Boone of jail and head back to Midian for a final showdown between the cops and the Nightbreed. Decker let’s his masked altergeo come to foreground as he seeks to kill Boone and Lori. Finally after defeating Decker, Boone is given the Nightbreed name of Cabal by the master, and tasked with leading the survivors on a journey to find a new home as Midian has been destroyed in the battle.

Nightbreed is a movie that while staying faithful to Barkers original story (which is no surprise seeing as Barker also adapted for the screen), does feel a little rushed in places with style often prioritised over substance. Barker brings the visuals alive perfectly, but he does miss some important plot points from the novel. Glossing over some of the key character motivations, particularly that of the relationship between Boone and Decker at the beginning, which really sets up the whole story in the book. However that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Nightbreed is both an engaging and intriguing movie, that is totally unique … and totally Barker.

4. // Lord Of Illusions (1995)

‘There are two worlds of magic … One is the glittering domain of the illusionist. The other is a secret place, where magic is a terrifying reality … Here, men have the power of demons … And death itself is an illusion!’

And so begins Lord Of Illusions, written and directed by Barker, which stars Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap / Star Trek Enterprise) as Harry D’Amour, a private detective with a gift dealing with the occult and the supernatural. He heads from his native New York to a job in LA, and is offered $5,000 a day to protect Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’ConnorThe Mummy), a famous Las Vegas stage magician, who in-fact disguises his ability for real magic as stage trickery. Swann is a marked man and his life is under threat by a bizarre religious death cult called The Puritan. In the opening scene of the movie we saw Swann some 13 years earlier, as he rescued a young sacrificial girl before murdering the cult’s leader Nix (Daniel Von Bergen The Postman), an evil and sadistic sorcerer.

The movie is based on Barker’s short story The Last Illusion, which naturally appeared in The Books of Blood. Harry D’Amour is a recurring character that Barker would turn to again as the lead protagonist in his novel The Scarlet Gospel, a sequel of sorts to The Hellbound Heart, pitting D’Amour in a battle with the priest of Hell himself, Pinhead. At this point, Barker was at the height of the success of his directorial movie career, after Nightbreed (1990) had been considered a solid and intriguing directorial follow up to Hellraiser (1987), while his production of Candyman (1992) had also been a hugely successful horror movie for the era.

With the central character being a private detective, there is an obvious element of Film-Noir to the movie. Harry forms a close relationship with Swann’s wife Dorothea (Famke Janssen X-Men) throughout the film, and after initially acquiring his services she takes him to see the glamorous and star studded stage show, where he is able to see her husband’s work up close. Swann can levitate and control electricity, and Barker gets to flex his theatrical artistic muscle by bringing the Vegas style stage show to the screen. All too soon however Swann is gruesomely killer in a sword routine seemingly gone wrong, after he is impaled by half a dozen blades.

As he searches for clues backstage, D’Amour is attacked by members of the cult. But he escapes and takes it upon himself to unravel the mystery of Swann’s demise whilst trying to protect Dorothea in the process. Ultimately he does more than protect her, and before the spilt blood of her husband has had time to dry, she and D’Amour are soon making love, much to the disgust of Valentin (John Swetow) the illusionists faithful servant. That night Harry and Dorothea are visited by a phantom, and they discover that the failed sword illusion was a set up, and that Swann is not really dead. Swann has faked his death to throw the cult off track, which is due to the impending resurrection of Nix, who will be coming for him in revenge.

In the climatic finale, Dorothea is kidnapped along with Valentin, and taken to the place of resurrection of the master. It transpires Dorothea is the young sacrificial girl from the beginning of the movie that Swann had rescued when he killed Nix. The climax of the movie as Harry and Swann infiltrate the ceremony to rescue Dorothea is pure over the top horror fun. With lots of nods to classic 80’s flicks, and a thoroughly tongue in cheek John Carpenter-esq vibe.

5. // The Midnight Meat Train ( )

A killer named Mahogany is stalking the New York underground at night, in this thoroughly viscerally gruesome adaptation of the opening story in Barker’s Books Of Blood. One of the biggest budget imaginings of his work, the movie stars Bradley Cooper (The Hangover / Limitless) as Leon, a photographer with a fascination of the dark and macabre. He wants to shoot the real city and that means seeking out the very darkest elements. He heads out with his camera at midnight to see what he can find, and follows a gang into a subway, stopping them from attacking a young woman. She thanks him with a kiss before embarking onto the train, in the otherwise deserted subway. Once on the train she soon meets her grizzly fate, as she takes a hammer to her face before being ritualistically butchered by the mysterious killer (Vinnie Jones Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels).

The next morning Leon reads the paper and discovers that the girl he had saved in the subway has gone missing. He heads to the local police station to speak to a detective about what had happened, and shows her the photos he had taken prior to the woman’s disappearance. We next see Mahogany take out his rage on a bunch of yuppies with a rather dodgy scene of schlocky CGI, that sees an eyeball burst from its socket as one of the men takes a hammer to the back of his head. The CGI is different for a Clive Barker film, and represents the shift into the millennium, compared to his earlier works which were filmed during the practical effects rich time of the late 80’s / early 90’s. That night Leon is once again out night hunting with his camera, and takes a picture of Mahogany as he disembarks a subway, coming face to face with the killer. Although sensing something sinister about the brute, Leon is unaware quite how extreme his exploits are at this stage.

He notices a pentagram ring that Mahogany is wearing, which matches the ring on the hand of the person who had held the door, so that the missing female could make the train the previous night. He takes it upon himself to stalk Mahogany, and investigate the girls disappearance himself, discovering that by day this mysterious person works in an abattoir, and by evening he sits silently in the underground tube station …. waiting. As Leon goes deeper down the rabbit hole he starts to have weird dreams where he is killing people on the subway. He becomes obsessed with following Mahognay, and his personality starts to change eating rare steak in one scene when he had been living as a strict vegetarian previously. Finally Leon catches Mahognay in the act after following him onto a midnight train. A very ritualistic act where after bludgeoning his victim with a hammer, he removes the teeth, finger nails, eyeballs and hair, before hanging them up by their feet, all while Leon snaps away from the next carriage. He is seen and Mahognay chases him through the train where he clobbers him, hangs him up and impales him with chains … Hellraiser style!

The shot fades, Leon wakes up and is alive in a deserted subway. But how has he survived? He makes his way home, he has been flayed and bears the scars of the pentagram symbol from Vinnies ring. Leon’s girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb Iron Man) visits the killers hotel room barely escaping with her life, and then goes to the cops, where the same detective is again very sceptical of what she’s being told. When she returns home Leon is gone. She heads to the subway to look for him where she boards a train, stumbling across Mahoganay and a number of flayed bodies.

Leon is in the subway and he sees Maya on the train, managing to jump on as it flies past him, just in time to save her from Mahoganay’s hammer. Leon and the killer fight in a gloriously shot over the top gruesome scene, before Mahagonay is thrown from the train. The train comes to a stop, and the driver emerges from the cockpit saying, ‘Please … step away from the meat’. This is where the fantastical conclusion of Barker’s tale comes into play. Soon the train is full of a horde of flesh eating monsters, who devour the strung up corpses as Leon and Maya look on. Suddenly Mahoganay reappears and the fight with Leon continues on the platform before Leon kills him once and for all. The train driver then approaches Leon and rips out his tongue, telling him it will now be his job to serve the monsters without question in Mahoganay’s place. This is no happy ending for Leon, and as if to make his final point, the driver cuts Maya open in front of him, removing her heart.

6. // Book Of Blood (2009)

This movie is an adaptation from the intro set up to Barker’s Books Of Blood, and is directed by John Harrison (Dune). Starring Jonas Armstrong (Edge of Tomorrow) as Simon McNeil, a man who has been branded across his entire body in scribes of horror written by the dead. He is kidnapped by a sociopath who has been paid to flay his skin by a mysterious collector of the occult. He tells his story of how he came to be marked in such a way, with the origins of the tale set in a haunted house which is said to sit at an intersection on the highway of the dead, which allows for an inter-dimensional entry point at which the dead can enter our world. The house is being investigated by a paranormal expert due an unexplained murder that occurred there. She is also Simon’s literature university professor Mary (Sophie Ward). She senses a psychic ability in Simon after he appears to predict her car tyre is going to blow in one early scene, and draws him to help with the investigation.

The two, along with her investigative partner Reg (Paul Blair) set up cameras and move in to the house to begin their study. On their first night in the house Mary starts to fantasise about Simon while the house seemingly begins to show signs of paranormal activity. The next morning there is a commotion from Simons room, and Mary and Reg discover Simon has been attacked by an unseen force in his sleep, and he has a deep knife mark across his chest. Reg is very sceptical of Simon’s involvement in the process, and is concerned that he has faked the attack. The next night Simon is once again attacked, this time by multiple apparitions, and he is discovered in the attic room with further branding on his body and words scratched into the walls of the room.

Mary believes he is a miracle and has been waiting for someone like him to study her whole life. As he lays recovering, she seduces him and they make love. As they sleep after, Mary is visited by a phantom, although the CCTV cameras they had set up in the room show nothing other than her and Simon together. They leave the house to give themselves some respite, and Mary and Simon continue their relationship. But she discovers that Simon had been faking some of the experiences in the house, completely discrediting everything else she has has witnessed. He swears that has not faked everything they have experienced, and that there is something genuinely unexplainable going on in the house.

She evaluates their video footage with Reg, and they find that Simon had many tricks up his sleeve and had rigged the house and the equipment. However as Mary and Reg are clearing up in order to leave, Simon returns swearing that he did not manipulate everything that happened. They all then discover the truth, as the house becomes overrun with the dead, who begin using Simon’s body as a canvass to etch their stories on. The house is indeed a conduit and an opening of dimensions for the dead to enter our world, and Mary promises that she will listen to each and every one of them and tell their stories to the world. She ends up keeping Simon as a prisoner, and becomes rich transcribing the stories that continue to be etched onto his body.

7. // Dread (2009)

Another adaptation of one of the key stories in Barker’s Books Of Blood anthology. Dread tells the story of university philosophy student Stephen Grace (Jackson Rathbone) who meets fellow student Quaid (Jonathan Readwin), who convinces him to join him in studying peoples fears. Both students are haunted by disturbing events in their past, with Stephen having recently lost his brother in a car accident, and Quaid haunted by witnessing the axe murder of his parents S a child, by a home invader. Stephen brings on board his friend Cheryl (Hanns Steen) to help them, and they start interviewing their fellow students having put up posters around the college, inviting people to share their greatest fears.

Quaid is initially disappointed with their results, feeling that their findings are too generic. Cheryl agrees to be interviewed on camera and tells a haunting tale about the childhood sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, and her subsequent fear of meat given that he worked in a slaughterhouse and would abuse her when he returned from work with the stench still on him. The story is exactly what Quaid wants to hear, ‘Finally some honest to god trauma’ he proclaims, and they start to look for darker stories among their subjects.

There are some great moments of gore within the movie as Quaid in one scene hallucinates during a visit to a strip club, where the naked dancer starts recieving the same wounds that he had witnessed inflicted on his mother, as a 6 year old during her murder. He constantly revisits the murder when he dreams, and even making love to a girl will result in him having a vision of his mother. Quaid starts to show signs of wanting to play on Stephen’s fears, and gifts him an old car, the same as the one his brother was driving when he died. He also loses his mind at one point and assaults a female interviewee, who he picks up is faking the story she is telling them about her suicide attempt. He then explodes into a fit of rage and smashes up their computer and recording equipment.

Stephen wraps up the study and hands in his assignment. Quaid picks him up in ‘the car’ and wants him to continue their study by taking him to the edge of his dread. But Stephen is not interested in working with him anymore. In the final act Quaid works alone on the study and shows his true colours. He takes one of his earlier subjects hostage and tortures him, turning him deaf which was his greatest fear. He orchestrates another girl with an unsightly birthmark into attempting to commit suicide, after making her believe she will never be considered normal, her greatest fear. Before Stephen turns the table and takes an axe to Quaid’s house in recreation of his childhood trauma, but he is overpowered. Quaid shows him a tape of him having locked Cheryl in a room with a rotting steak, in an experiment to see if her hunger would take over, dismissing her dread by eating the meat. After five days she gives in and then begs to be released from the room, before all of the experimental subjects Quaid has trapped in his house come together, in a climatic final bloodbath.

8. // Rawhead Rex (1986)

The first movie arriving from Barker’s Books of Blood came with this low budget adaptation of Rawhead Rex, one of the standout stories from the collection. However Barker went on record as being extremely disappointed with the transfer to the screen, most notably with the costume design of the demon himself, who returns from the grave to wreck havoc on a small Irish village. This is a true B-Movie style monster in a B-Movie monster film, which did not do justice to the source material in Barker’s view. And off the back of this he decided to develop and fund the creation of Hellraiser, feeling that he could certainly do a better job of making a movie from his source material himself.

Directed by George Pavlou (Underworld), the movie stars David Dukes (Rose Red) and Kelly Piper (Maniac) as American writer Howard and his wife Elaine, who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time when a farmer accidentally disturbs the resting place of Rawhead Rex. Rex is powerful demon who feeds on the flesh of humans, and had been banished to the earth centuries ago after terrorising the local area. Rex is back from the dead and immediately goes on the rampage. Howard is in the area researching the local church which he believes may have been built on an historical sacrificial site. And there are clues to the legend of Rex all around the village. His image is within the art of a stained glass window of the church, while the local pub they are staying in, is called The Tall Man.

We learn early that Rex kills males, but not females who are on their menstrual cycle, and his ultimate motivation is to find children in which to feed on. His arrival also seems to be having a supernatural effect on the local clergyman. There is an undertone of sexuality throughout the movie, with couples passionately kissing throughout, and it becomes apparent that Rawhead Rex is some kind of symbol for fertility. The local villagers and police start to investigate the sightings of Rex and the carcasses he is leaving behind, but seem unable to accept that they are dealing with a supernatural force at first.

As Howard, his wife and their two young children try to leave the village, they stop so his daughter can wee in a field. Rex descends on their car which has been let with just their young son inside, and Howard witnesses Rex murdering then taking his son’s body, and is powerless to stop him. As more witnesses to the demon start coming forward, the police begin to realise what they’re dealing with, and fuelled by answers and revenge for his son, Howard becomes a key figure in unravelling the truth and the history of Rex within the town. In one of the most memorable scenes in the movie, Rex goes berserk in a caravan site, and seems unstoppable as he rips limbs from his victims, batting away shotgun fire like it’s nothing. A battle with Rex then takes place within the grounds of the church where we learn that Rex was an ancient king who ruled the lands centuries ago. During the fight he has a hypnotic influence over the police detective, who ends up ambushing and setting fire to his own team.

Ultimately it is Howard and his wife who are able to banish Rex back to the earth, using a sacred bust of the Virgin Mary from the church, in what is actually a fast paced and decent mid 80’s horror. And in an age of remakes and reboots, this is certainly one film that would benefit from being brought up to date. An aspect sorely missing form Barker’s story is that much of it is written form the point of view of the monster, and this gives the reader an insight into the characters history and his motivations. This is sorely missing from the movie, and maybe could somehow be explored in the remake that is reportedly currently in the works under Barker’s production. KZ

Words by … Abstrakt_Soul


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