The Hellbound Heart

by Clive Barker

“She knew he was telling the truth, the kind of unsavory truth that only monsters were at liberty to tell.”

I was speaking to a friend about the book yesterday, told him that this was where all the Hellraiser movies came from, and he naturally responded with, “Oh cool, so you get to see the origins of all of that… the creatures and stuff.” No, this isn’t an origin story of the Cenobites or of Pinhead, but it’s the first time we ever got to see these amazing, depraved creations. The hellish minions are driving the action in most of the novella, but aren’t present as much as you might think.

This story details the relationship between 4 people: Rory, his wayward wife Julie, Rory’s wild brother Frank, and Kirsty, a younger, plainer girl with a crush on the married Rory. Frank, harboring a wild streak a mile wide has spent his life seeking pleasure. Eventually he’s run out of or bored with anything that pleases him and is given the puzzle box as the path to ultimate ecstasy. When he’s finally able to open the box, the Cenobites arrive, treat him badly, and leave him for dead, somehow stuck in the walls of his Rory and Julie’s house. Julie learns of Frank’s presence in the walls, and her own wild emotions and wickedness rekindle her passion from their previous affair as she attempts to help the brother.

We don’t get to see why the Cenobites are the ultimate expression of pain and suffering, inflicting pain (or the highest levels of pleasure, as they see it) using methods and experiences far beyond anything a mortal could dream up. We barely get a glimpse of the type of power they wield, though it’s definitely there. So is Pinhead, though he’s not quite the spokesman he becomes in the movies. If you want origins you can look at the disavowed movie Hellraiser 4: Bloodline, which everyone hates including the director who went so far as to have his name removed from the film. Origin story or not, Hellraiser 4 isn’t nearly as good as this novella.

Written very early in Barker’s career, he had already developed the chops to deliver lines like the above quote, like “But despair had taught her the fine art of squeezing blood from stones,” like “There’s no such thing as almost,” and the unnerving, “The Cenobite tittered.

The genesis of an expansive and important world, at least as far as we knew at the time, lies with The Hellbound Heart. This is a very highly recommended read if you’ve ever had an interest in Hellraiser, and a solid, brilliantly imaginative tale if you haven’t.

He has such sights to show us.

4+ stars

 

 

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