Perhaps I should have titled this "My Heart Belongs to Hellrasier," as - if you ask anyone one who happens to know me well can tell you - I am deeply in enchanted with the Clive Barker created mythos, a term Barker himself states as being "used very liberally these days in regard to the characters and adventures of popular fiction." And Barker is amongst them now, as his Hellraiser mythos has sprouted limbs, heart and - dare I say? - even a soul of its own, never straying from its original intent - to haunt the shit out of us.
Notice, I didn't say scare the shit out of us. No, Hellraiser (or if you're a purist, The Hellbound Heart) isn't merely about scaring us - at least, not in my book. It's more than that - it's about our natures: sexual, violent, human. It's about heightening our desires to test our thresholds. It's about reminding us there are some doors that we should only open if we're prepared for the consequences...or having hooks zip out of the darkness to tear us apart as mangled versions of our lusts watch with pleasure in their absence of light eyes.
Despite Barkers obvious protests against using the term mythos to describe the hell he created, that is what it's become. It has spread throughout the world inspiring authors and artists alike to add to it, much like the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. From film sequels to comic books to short stories, Hellrasier fandom has grown in number, and continues to grow, leaving only one question to spark a smile amongst our faces, "What's your pleasure?" Not too shabby for a novella originally published in an anthology or the independent film that it was later adapted into.
So with that saying, when Hellbound Hearts was first released, I knew I must own it. But I had to play it cool, I didn't want to get my hopes up only to be delivered to pieces that resemble fanfic than anything worth while. With a foreword by the man himself, Clive Barker, and an afterward by the Cenobite himself, Doug Bradley, I finally click purchased on Amazon and waited for the book to be delivered. Surely, anything with Neil Gaiman in it, couldn't be that bad, right?
While not all the stories clicked for me - I could've done without "'Tis Pity He's Ashore" and "Only the Blind Survive" - the book is a great testament on how much Hellraiser has shaped our idea of hell. I was captivated by the tales of the birth of a Cenobite, the going ons in the dark and dreaded No. 55 Lodovico Street, the lustful desires of a nun, the dark world of "Wordsworth" and the hell on earth, end of the world aspect of "The Dark Materials Project."
Also featured in the collection are stories by Kelley Armstrong (Bitten, Dime Store Magic, No Humans Involved, Living with the Dead), Richard Christian Matheson (Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks, Dystopia, Created By), Christopher Golden (The Boys are Back in Town, Strangewood, The New Dead (editor)), Nicholas Vince, who played the Chattering Cenobite in the first two Hellraiser films, and Barbie Wilde, who played the Female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Stephen Jones, the publicist for the first three Hellraiser films, also lends his voice for the introduction of the anthology, reminiscing how one small independent horror film could morph our point of views - and how he helped make it an instant classic. It also includes the graphic short story script by Neil Gaiman's "Wordsworth."
This book is a must have if you're a hellraiser, or are only being introduce - which is a sad, yet hopeful idea for me - the pleasures of the flesh and agony that would be legendary in hell.
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