Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels is about to be released as a trade paperback. This book may be one of the author’s most divisive works to date. Fans of Hellraiser and Lord of Illusions either love or hate the story, and many have said that it lacks the intensity and impact of Barker’s earlier works. Having The Scarlet Gospels published as a trade paperback means that more readers than ever before will be able to gain exposure this horrific and epic work.
Seeing Harry D’Amour face off against the ultimate Cenobite Pinhead is a bold move for the author and the world he has built with his writings. The stories Clive Barker has written over the years have intertwined now and again to create a mythology but never have two major characters faced off against each other like this. With the films Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War and Freddy vs. Jason all containing giant battles between titans of fiction, fans are left to wonder if a Hellraiser vs. Lord of Illusions movie would be worth seeing, or even possible?
The Hellraiser movies started off strong and quickly took a nosedive into schlock very early in the series. Most diehard fans will claim that the only good films made from Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart are the original Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Honestly, I think these two films could have been classics that would have maintained a huge following if further sequels had never happened. One of the biggest downfalls for the Hellraiser series was the popularity of Pinhead. Being so iconic wound up crippling the franchise for the remainder of its run, and in recent years, Pinhead has become much less of an intimidating figure due to overexposure.
Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions, on the other hand, is a one and done cult classic that people are still discovering today. The tale of Harry D’Amour investigating the death of the world’s greatest magician has earned a large following from Clive Barker fans and film lovers alike and the newly remastered and released Blu-ray from Scream Factory makes the movie look better than ever. The film showcases excellent performances from Kevin J. O’Conner as the illusionist Swann, Daniel von Bargen as the black magic master Nix and Scott Bakula as occult private eye D’Amour. It’s a great movie that begs for a follow-up.
Hellraiser was Clive Barker’s biggest move into the world of filmmaking. The tale of a family moving into a house that had been used to summon the darkest entities Hell has to offer turned out to be one of the most iconic and controversial horror movies in history. It’s a haunted house picture that blends the influences of the occult with BDSM culture and throws in plenty of blood and gore on top of a gothic romance foundation. The original film is multilayered and worthy of critical analysis.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II followed in the vein of the first installment, yet made the attempt to up the ante on the horror and gore. The sequel works for the most part minus a few minor flaws, but the following films in the series got progressively worse as the years went on. Hellraiser is now a franchise that many horror fans ridicule. Each entry that followed Hellbound has met with little to no critical acclaim and audiences now expect further entries to be cheap direct to video garbage.
Since there has only been one official Harry D’Amour film, it’s hard to for fans of the movie to separate actor Scott Bakula from the character. Lord of Illusions is a small part of D’Amour’s story, but the chapter we get to see opens a world of possibility filled with endless opportunities for future installments. Developing the mythology of an underground network of spiritualists and shamans that deal with battling the forces of Good and Evil has always been a part of Clive Barker’s body of work. Harry is a great vessel for that, and his Bogart-like charm makes him accessible.
Lord of Illusions is not an easy film to watch passively. It takes a lot of attention to detail while viewing to pick up on the subtleties of the picture. Swann’s motives are complex, and his battle with Nix features themes of God versus man, man defeating God and man becoming God. It is magic meets theology meets gothic horror all wrapped up in a new school Hollywood noir narrative. Just comparing the tone of the movie to Hellraiser is enough contrast to make it seem like oil and water.
The Scarlet Gospels a grand scale Lord of the Rings style horror epic. The scope of the story is huge, putting Pinhead against the ultimate dark ruler himself, Satan. Harry D’amour enters into things by way of finding the Lament Configuration puzzle box while investigating the home of a dead soul he was hired by to solve a murder. When Harry opens the box, he is thrown headfirst into a plot involving the destruction of creation and the overthrowing of Hell by Pinhead.
The book starts with Pinhead and his team of Cenobites systematically destroying all of the magicians and illusionists in the world to collect information on becoming the ruler of Hell. The book goes from being very dark and horrific to feeling like a gritty detective story, and the jump between the two styles works for the most part. Many fans have voiced their displeasure with the fact that the whole book doesn’t capture the vibe of the early Hellraiser movies and The Hellbound Heart. The first chapter in The Scarlet Gospels is a perfect blend of graphic horror and brutality that Pinhead fans will no doubt love, but the rest of the story reads like it took inspiration from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series more than anything else. It’s just now what most fans were wanting despite the fact that the story is one of Barker’s best.
Hellraiser movies are nothing to get excited about these days, and a new Lord of Illusions would feel odd without Bakula in the lead. Fans of both film adaptations might love to see a crossover, but at this point, it would be a stretch to think that a big screen version of The Scarlet Gospels would be any good. It’s fun to remember that at one time a faceoff between Freddy, Jason and Pinhead was going to happen, but now it seems like no one can ever capture the effect of playing the iconic cenobite in front of the camera again since Doug Bradley has all but disowned the role.
It would have been great to see a Harry D’Amour vs. Pinhead movie back in the late nineties when the two characters and the actors who portrayed them were in their prime. Seeing these two worlds collide would have been a brilliant follow-up to Lord of Illusions, and anything would have been better than Hellraiser: Bloodline and the miserable flop that was Hellraiser: Inferno starring Craig Scheffer. The Scarlet Gospels is a book worth reading and the audiobook is fantastic as well, but if a film were to be made it would have to be lightning in a bottle. Who knows, maybe the new Hellraiser movie and Idris Elba’s The Dark Tower will be enough to get people interested in this crossover. A new Clive Barker film might be just what we need.