Clive Barker And The Human Face Of Horror

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Clive Barker And The Human Face Of Horror

By Kate Voss.

Clive Barker, once christened by Stephen King as the “Future of Horror”, was born in England on October 5th, 1952. Later he went on to attend the University of Liverpool where he studied English and Philosophy. He initially gained notoriety for the publication of his short story collection entitled Books of Blood. Capable of transitioning between a myriad of different styles, Barker has published work as a novelist, director, screenwriter and dramatist, as well as as an illustrator and visual artist. Many of his written works have been adapted into imaginative, genre-defying horror films. A flamboyant, larger-than-life personality, Barker’s creativity seems to know no bounds.


Clive Barker wrote and directed his first film, 1987’s Hellraiser. The movie is based upon Barker’s own novella, The Hellbound Heart. Hellraiser tells the story of a man and his wife who move into an old house, only to discover it is inhabited by a grotesque monster that has lost its body to demons. Uniquely, these demons hail from a sadomasochistic realm, where their greatest pleasure is found in the pain of others. Gore and treachery ensues, as the man and his wife resort to untold horrors in an attempt to appease this demon. Hellraiser is a cult classic horror film – watch it here for free on YouTube – and has also generated several series of comic books. Although considered a “B-flick” by some critics, this film has withstood the test of time, and exerted a heavy influence on the genre of horror.


Nightbreed is Barker’s second film. Once again, he based this film upon a novella he authored, entitled Cabal. As with his debut film, he also wrote and directed this feature. Notably, Danny Elfman composed the score for the film. Although Nightbreed has become an important film in the genre of horror, initially it was regarded as both a commercial and critical failure. Barker has accredited this cold reception to the film company’s lack of knowledge concerning the plot, alluding to the fact that the plot was misrepresented in terms of advertising. The feature centers around a main character who is a psychiatric patient. He is led to believe by his doctor that he is a serial killer. As he is searched out by the authorities and other important figures in his life, he seeks refuge in a cemetery inhabited by a band of creatures called “Nightbreeds.” A series of comic books were based upon the film, although this series was less successful than the Hellraiser comics.


Candyman, released in 1992, was based on Barker’s short story entitled The Forbidden, from Barker’s Books of Blood. Unlike the previously mentioned features, this film was written and directed by Bernard Rose. The film was scored by Philip Glass. This feature was a great success, grossing large profits at the box office and garnering the accolades of film critics.Still popular among horror aficionados and cult Barker fans, around Halloween you can likely catch it at a midnight film screening or here streaming online. Set in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green housing project, Candyman follows the story of a college student who is completing a thesis on urban legends. She encounters the legend of the “Candyman”, and jokingly recites an invocation to revive his spirit. The film chronicles her encounters with this supernatural being. Characteristically gory and disturbing, as one would expect from an adaptation of Barker’s masterful and horrific works, the skeptic student experiences heinous repercussions from her carelessness. The first Candyman generated 2 successful film sequels.

The frightening, fantastical, and yet completely human works of Clive Barker have become hallmarks of the horror film genre. Through his works, audiences are transported to alternate realities, where the darker side of human nature is explored via graphic imagery. By examining the multifaceted dimensions of horror, and its presence within our own lives, Clive Barker has broken ground for future writers and directors to further push the boundaries of the genre.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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