Author: Clive Barker
Publication Date: 1986
Blurb (Amazon): Frank Cotton's insatiable appetite for the dark pleasures of pain led him to the puzzle of Lemarchand's box, and from there, to a death only a sick-minded soul could invent. But his brother's love-crazed wife, Julia, has discovered a way to bring Frank back—though the price will be bloody and terrible . . . and there will certainly be hell to pay.
I'm assuming everyone in the world has seen the last Harry Potter movie? This isn’t a spoiler but there is this part in the movie where Voldemort is in some place that looks like a train station and he looks like a cross between some sort of fetus and a seahorse. When I saw it with my friends, we were all wondering what the frak we were looking at…in fact, it is pretty safe to say that I am still wondering a few months later. So I know Clive Barker wrote this novella decades before HP7p1 would come out but nevertheless, the movie impacted my reading enjoyment. Why? Because a man in The Hellbound Heart is trying to become more flesh and bone (just like good ol’ Voldy) and needs blood to do so. As he becomes more substantial there is a period of time where all I could picture was some weird-looking seahorse thing flapping around in a corner. This is supposed to scare me? Mission NOT accomplished. Also, Barker went out of his way to mention one of the victims’ saggy, gray underwear before he dies. I was more disgusted by the saggy briefs than the murder.
I feel a bit foolish that I didn’t know the movie Hellraiser was based on this novella until my book club buddy told me at our meeting. Because I read an e-version rather than the DTB, I didn’t have the benefit of all the creepy drawings. (Tip #1: Read the DTB. Actually there is only one tip.) I said to my friends, “Hey! That picture looks like that guy Pinhead from that horror movie!” Cue the cricket noises. Considering how short this work is (around 125 pages), Barker really packs a punch of a story. The brevity of the work really limits characterization and plot development. It felt like I was walking down a cafeteria line and just looking at all the things I could have but then never taking a bite of any of it. What kind of woman would just start killing people to feed blood to the demonish presence that may or may not be her brother-in-law with whom she had a rape-and-if-not-rape-certainly-rapey experience with before her wedding? Who the hell moves into a house where one room is totally dank and seemingly haunted? Who disposes of bodies and/or bags of bones by just tossing them in the spare room? Who finds a crazy-ass box in a haunted house and just starts playing around with it? (because that can only have GOOD results, right?) I just had to stop typing for a second to laugh at the memory of us rehashing the plot of this novella at book club.
Here’s the lowdown:
Was it scary? No.
Am I an idiot for not realizing Hellraiser was based on this book? Yes.
Do I recommend it to horror lovers? Meh, not really.
Was it worth the read? Yes, for the weirdness.
Do I want to watch the movie now? Yes, if only to see if there is a seahorse fetus scene.