Clive Barker is a man of many talents: artist, film-maker, and author. Even just in the past couple years, he has had movies out, his newest novel Mister B. Gone (which will be reviewed here soon) hit shelves, and he held a number of showings of his art. I have sadly not had a lot of experience with his work (the novel The Thief of Always and short stories from a range of anthologies), and I wanted to jump back into his work, starting at an earlier point, before exploring his newest output. The movies will wait, but his literary works are readily available, and where better to go than his famous novella The Hellbound Heart.
Frank lives his life one adventure at a time, flaunting law and morality in his goal of getting the most selfish enjoyment out of life. However, he runs into a wall as he realizes that his life just doesn’t satisfy him, and he uses a dark artifact to call forth a group of demons known as the Cenobites, making a Faustian bargain: he is theirs, if they will bring pleasure to his life. However, Frank’s deal, like most made with the Devil, goes awry, as the Cenobites don’t have the same sense of fun that Frank does. Hopeless, Frank is left a prisoner, until his brother Rory and his wife Julia move into his old house, and a little bit of blood helps him set a plan. Only Julia knows how to free him, and together they go to any end to succeed.
This dark story of being careful what you wish for is very well told, in a moody, atmospheric sense that works quite well. Barker’s characters are all (often deeply) flawed, giving them far more realism, and his philosophical dilemma makes The Hellbound Heart a thinking man’s horror story. While this tale didn’t have the melancholic beauty of The Thief of Always, it still was a very entertaining, short romp into a dark avenue that we seek in horror. I look forward to the sequel Barker says is in the works, as well as the new anthology out, Hellbound Hearts, with tales by many authors set in the mythos originated in this novella. Barker continues to assert himself as an author worth exploring further.