So because the Savior reviewed the iconic movie adaptation of Clive Barker’s disturbing romance novella, I figured I’d cover the lesser known novella, The Hellbound Heart. In a rare instance, Barker did the novella as well as direct the film adaptation which definitely shows. Both are very similar. Frank Cotton, a discouraged sexual deviant, sits in a candle lite room and toys with the ominous Lemanchard’s Configuration (or Lament Configuration), a beautiful, ornate puzzle box that once opened will call forth the seraphic Cenobites to bring him absolution and pleasure. Little does he know how subjective pleasure can be. Frank disappears and his house back in the states goes to his brother Rory, his beautiful but cold wife Julia, and his daughter (in the book their relationship is less specific and she never really refers to him as Daddy or father but rather implied) Kirsty. Rory is a kind, boring man. Julia is a prude who fantasizes about banging Frank, and the brief affair she had right before marrying Rory, and Kirsty is a normal teen girl who loves her dad and tolerates Julia. When moving, Rory scratches himself on a nail and that little bit of blood summons the horrible remains of Frank to find Julia and our plot begins. Julia needs to bring horny men to Frank so he can slaughter them and take there flesh to recover his flesh before the Cenobites find him. Desperate for zesty love Julia obliges. Kirsty, suspecting Julia of having an affair, follows her only to find the horrible truth and comes face to face with her skinned perverted uncle Frank. She manages to escape with her life, waking in a hospital with the box. She opens its and out emerge the Cenobites, not the angels we were lead to believe but gruesome, deformed creatures lead but a tall, colorless figure with a grid craved into his face and nails dug in that would be called Pinhead by fans for decades after. The Cenobites tell Kirsty they want to show her pleasure; she barters her life if she produce Frank. They agree, only sparing her if they can punish the bastard who fled them.
Hellbound Heart is my favorite love story; and it is a love story as well as a soap opera. The Cenobites are written to make you picture them as angels and are masterfully revealed not to be both in the opening and the third act. Clive Barker write Pinhead to have a fearsome, quiet presence reminding me a lot of classic Darth Vader, which is the best compliment I can give. Even in his later works, anytime Pinhead is involved, he gives the story a sense of dread and despair that only the best characters in horror can. It’s a short read, maybe 130-140 pages if that, so definitely pick it up for a good scare and stay away from old music boxes!