candy man turned 30 this weekend. Under almost any other circumstance, you’d call Bernard Rose’s horror masterpiece…but another name is more important. Rose may have written and directed the film – but it was based on a short story titled The forbiddenpublished in 1985 and written by creative force Clive Barker.
Barker had started out in experimental theater in Liverpool in the 1970s, working with a company of reps that included his school friend Doug Bradley. Barker also made short films during this period, then caused a stir with books of bloodpublished in six volumes between 1984 and 1985 (The forbidden launches volume five). He wrote screenplays adapting two of these stories – raw headed rex and Underworldboth run by George Pavlou – and was so unhappy with the results that he decided to do hellraiser himself, adapting his own short story, the infernal heart. The million dollars he needed eventually came from Roger Corman’s New World production company. The result was a strange sort of Faustian, Chekhovian, adult domestic drama about sexual obsession – albeit with supernatural underpinnings, monsters and lots of blood. hellraiser has been very different from the popular Freddys and Jasons at the time. And yet, somehow, it became another one of those extended horror sequel factories.
A small confined film (taking place in and around a single house in Cricklewood, although perhaps it’s supposed to be America, since everyone is oddly dubbed) it nonetheless nodded towards a fascinating extended mythology. Bradley played a demon with pins in his head: a minor role on paper, but thanks to the actor’s ironic gravity and startling makeup, a role that audiences took notice of. hellraiser had a fascinating pair of villains in Julia (Clare Higgins) and Frank – a character who, thanks to prosthetic FX makeup and story-swapping bodies, ends up being played by three actors; mainly Oliver Smith, but also Andrew Robinson and Sean Chapman. But “Pinhead” got away with all the dubious “frankness”.
“I think it’s something Clive does,” Bradley said. Empire, back in the September 2012 issue. “He’s good at dropping these amazing characters that make you go ‘Woah! Who are they?’, and then at the end of the movie, you’re still none the wiser “We are Cenobites. Okay, and a Cenobite is…? ‘We are explorers in the farther regions of experience.’ Yes, but who the fuck are you?!” Films of, shall we say, variable Quality immediately followed to explore this question, written and directed by others who seemed more interested in expanding the Barker mythology than Barker himself. He had already moved on.
Barker’s fantasies were accessible from our own world, his mad Narnias approached by the threads of a mysterious tapestry.
What Barker was able to get hellraiser fact speaks of the name he had made for himself so quickly. Stephen King called Barker “the future of horror”, although that endorsement quickly soured for an artist who didn’t. want to to be the future of horror at all; same books of blood themselves are often more witty than their reputation as purely macabre and terrifying. He followed hellraiser with the failure Nightblood in 1990, and the least seen lord of illusions in 1995, but has never directed since. Movies didn’t seem to really work for him. His imagination was too big for the frame. Budgets, technology and studios got in the way of what he was trying to achieve.
Roses candy man arrived in 1992, the same year as Anthony Hickox’s Hellraiser III turned Pinhead into a complete slasher, complete with manic cackle, kill lines, and nightclub bloodbath. candy man was altogether fancier, transposing Barker’s story from an abandoned housing estate in Liverpool to the destitute projects of Cabrini Green in Chicago. In the process, he ran with Barker’s theme of class inequality, but added a thread of racial politics and a whole mythology – rooted in 19th century American plantations – for his iconic and tragic “monster”. . An instant classic and a critical and commercial success, Rose had achieved what even Barker had never achieved: an uncompromising creative adaptation of Clive Barker that won universal acclaim.
Barker, meanwhile, was enjoying the creative and commercial peak of his career in print. Next to the court books of blood came his first full novel, the hardcore horror The game of damnation. But then he swerved into a sequence of huge books that were as much fantasy as horror. There were still monsters, and scary things were still happening, but, starting with Weaveworld (1987) and continuing until The Big Secret Show (1989), Imajica(1991), Everville (1994), Sacrament (1996) and the raging family saga Galileo (1998), there was also unrivaled scope and breathtaking vision: a sense of wonder to counterbalance the darkness; a torrent of subversive and free-flowing eroticism; a collection of extraordinary spheres of existence and the liminal spaces between them. As in works by authors like CS Lewis, L. Frank Baum or Stephen R. Donaldson, Barker’s fantasies were accessible from our own world, his wacky Narnias tackled by the threads of a mysterious tapestry, the ocean of Quiddity or the space-chaos of the “In-Ovo”. A recurring theme is the return and preservation of forgotten magic or exotic creatures hidden among us. Imajicathe greatest of all, is a road trip through four Earth-parallel “Dominions” (the fifth), by a human and his alien lover “Mystif”, to confront God.
It is frankly an injustice that, 30 years and more later, we still only really talk about hellraiser and candy manas if Barker were a two-hit wonder.
Between the big books, there were smaller works like Cabal (1988, became Nightblood) and The forever thief (1989 – you know, for kids!), and surprisingly Barker’s career as a great novelist lasted just over a decade, with Galileo marking the end of this era. There were subsequent novels, but it often felt like Barker’s heart wasn’t in it. Coldheart Canyon (2001) was a short story that spiraled out of control and ended at 700 rambling pages. Tortured Souls (2001) was cobbled together from short pieces he wrote for a Todd McFarlane action figure set. The Scarlet Gospels (2015) felt like hellraiser a related fiction rather than a true work of Barker. Notably, there is also the Young Adult Abarat sequence (2002-2011… until now), where the story feels at the service of the hundreds of sumptuous oil paintings that accompany the text. It seems like these days Barker would rather be at his easel than at a desk.
Many of his great projects remain unfinished. Despite his occasional protestations that they will eventually happen, it seems likely to remain the case. There probably won’t be a third art book (to complete the promised trilogy started with The Great Secret Show and Everville) or a fourth Abarat. If you’ve been tapping since 2011 waiting for George RR Martin to write The Winds of Winterimagine what it’s like to wait 25 years for the second half of Galileo.
But Barker was never extremely enthusiastic to review even positive experiences. Perhaps he was burned each time by the manic attention he gave to his projects. Imajica, he claimed, was written in 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for 14 months. It doesn’t even seem possible, but if there’s even a shred of truth to it, it exemplifies young Barker’s energy and obsession. Fourteen months of laser development, but then it’s done, done and we move on to the next one. “His mind moves [so] quickly,” Bradley said. Empire. “Even while he was writing Cabal and lead Nightblood, he would have planned eight more novels and films. Everything he did was always the first in a cycle of 36. He was always like that.
So Barker was an imagination that other people ran with, in comics, spin-offs, video games, and sequels; Roses candy man unquestionably the culmination of Clive Barker’s work in which Clive Barker was not actually involved. Barker remains a presence, a name, a brand. The days of the thousand-page novel every two years are over, but he paints, he draws, he advises, he supervises and comes back from time to time to talk about a television series or a film project – or sometimes to report one. . He said of Hellraiser: Revelations“If they claim it’s from the mind of Clive Barker, that’s a lie. It’s not even from my asshole.
As this exasperation perhaps testifies, it is frankly an injustice that, 30 years and more later, we still really only talk about hellraiser and candy man, as if Barker were a two-hit wonder (with one of those hits largely by someone else). Regardless of the low profile he kept this century, the books he wrote in the 80s and 90s are still incredible work. And yet, although imports and second-hand copies are readily available through the internet, not all of these books are even currently in print in the UK. It’s due to a huge revival; the kind of attention and adulation that Neil Gaiman enjoys.
The titles with which he is most associated keep coming back. Nia Da Costa 2021 candy man – co-written and produced by Jordan Peele – returned to Cabrini Green to address the politics of urban gentrification, as well as decipher some aspects of Rose’s film that now play as racial issues. David Bruckner’s recent hellraiser ‘requel’ (use Scream language), remixed elements of Hellraisers 1 and 2 through a story about the casting of Friends run around the whole Thirteen ghosts. And that’s all very well, but where’s the massive Netflix series of Weaveworldor the mega-budget Prime adaptation of Imajica? When these novels were written, translating them to screen would have been impractical, but we are now in an age where anything is possible with digital effects, and ten-hour runtimes are the norm. Let’s stop talking about hellraiser and candy box – great as they are– and start defending others. They have such sites to show you.
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