Review: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

The Hellbound Heart
The Hellbound Heart

The Hellbound Heart
Clive Barker
Penguin, 2007

While for a student of history or religion the term cenobite might have one meaning, but for those who have devoured a steady stream of horror films it has a whole different meaning. When I hear the term cenobite I do not immediately think of a member of a religious order but instead flashed to the mutilated forms foisted upon my psyche (likely at far too young an age) by the film Hellraiser. Those cenobites, members of the Order of Gash summoned by the Lament Configuration, that iconic puzzle box designed Phillip Lemarchand (or rather Simon Sayce in the world outside the fiction), are truly horrific sights twisted by their exploration of the outer and distant extremes of pleasure and pain. It apparently escaped my notice that their original incarnation was in text rather than film. Their appearance, and that of the puzzle box, so linked to the medium of film that I never really thought to ferret out if there was some sort of source material.

So when I stumbled across a copy of the 2007 reprint of The Hellbound Heart not too long ago I was surprised and excited (which probably says something about myself I’d rather not linger on) to get home and get reading. Much to my surprise Clive Barker’s novella was rather faithfully adapted in the film Hellraiser, which makes sense given that it was both written and directed by its author. And I also found that the source material doesn’t work quite as well as the film. It is difficult to say how I would fell if I had read the novella before the seeing the film. What I read on the page is so directly linked to the images of cenobites seen over many films that separating those images from the text is near impossible.

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