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Brandon Engel

Clive Barker burst onto the horror scene in the 1980s with his The Books of Bloo
d series, and he immediately began receiving praise from the industrys heaviest h
itters, including Stephen King. Instead of remaining content with his role as a
horror novelist, Barker embraced his many artistic leanings by branching out int
o playwriting, filmmaking, painting, video games, and even toy design. Although
Barker has been noticeably influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, he is also a true visio
nary who has continuously created an impressive and original list of work that s
pans the horror and fantasy genres.
Hellraiser (1987)
Clive Barkers mainstream directorial debut, Hellraiser, was released in 1987, and
it still holds up amazingly well. This stunning piece of cinema introduced horr
or audiences to an intriguing mixture of gore, sadomasochism and Cenobites, and
it was based on Barkers novella The Hellbound Heart.
The story is about a mysterious puzzle box that opens up a gateway to Hell. The
gatekeepers of Hell are the Cenobites, led by the Pinhead (Doug Bradley) are sor
t of like a convergence point between Lovecraftian beasts and eighties goth/coun
terculture. One man almost manages to escape the cenobites by drinking human blo
od of live victims (lovingly supplied to him by his sister-in-law, with whom he
had an affair). One of the most refreshing aspects of Hellraiser was Barkers deci
sion to allow the story to develop at a slower pace. This is a throwback to Brit
ish horror films of the sixties and seventies, and it creates a creepy mood that
is not often found in modern horror movies. The introduction of Pinhead gave go
rehounds a new character to root for, but it also enabled Barker to make a state
ment about religion. After all, Pinhead is the leader of a communal religious gr
oup, and this makes him a representation of Jesus, Satan or a hybrid of the two.
Nightbreed (1990)
Barkers second time in the directors chair gave him the opportunity to showcase ho
w vivid his imagination can be. The creatures in Nightbreed, which was based on
the short story Cabal, were unlike anything that had been seen on the big screen b
efore. The film is about a young man named Aaron (Craig Sheffer) who is manipula
ted by his psychologist (David Cronenberg himself) into believing that he is a m
urderer. Aaron then goes to live in a cemetery called Midian, thats inhabited by
a strange group of monsters and outcasts. Its a film that is told beautifully (al
though cryptically) through the visuals, and it left many filmgoers confused.
Unfortunately, Barker was not pleased with the final result of the theatrical ve
rsion of Nightbreed, and he blamed its poor performance on marketing issues. Cri
tics, on the other hand, attribute the films failure to an incoherent storyline.
Horror audiences and fans of Barkers work have since embraced the 1990 movie, and
this has led to Nightbreed being labeled as a cult film. Barker was also finall
y able to reconstruct the movie in 2014, and a directors cut is now available tha
t has restored his original vision. Regardless of the critical or commercial fai
lure that this film faced, it was still an important entry in Barkers career beca
use it helped highlight the path that his illustrations and paintings would even
tually take.
Candyman (1992)
After the disappointing experience of Nightbreed, Barker was understandably relu
ctant to direct the 1992 film Candyman. Fortunately, the short story The Forbidde
n was brought to life by director Bernard Rose, and the results were a critical a
nd financial success.
The film takes the urban legend of Candyman (Tony Todd) who is supposedly summon
ed if his name is said repeatedly in front of a mirror, and places him in a crim
e ridden community in Chicago. Its up to a Chicago based academic (Virginia Madse
n) decides to explore the origin of the myth, and in the process, discovers the
truth about the Candyman.
Candyman benefited from being set in the real-life Cabrini-Green public housing
projects. This area in Chicago was well-known for having a lot of crime and bein
g filled with graffiti, and this perfectly suited the setting of a story about a
mythological urban legend being brought to life by a skeptic. Unlike many other
horror films that fall under the slasher sub-genre, Candyman is intelligent, ut
ilizes a gorgeous score and does not give into the temptation to give the villai
n any silly catchphrases. This is a testament to the strength of Barkers original
source material. The film is still a fixture of midnight screenings and its beco
me incredibly popular on niche TV networks (see more info here).