- Posted by Carl Lyon
- On June 18, 2015
- 0 Comments
Here at CONtv we know that there are so many areas of fandom and so few hours in the day. In order to help you decide if a specific genre, sub-genre, artist, or hobby is worth the investment of your time, we present CONtv 101. A series of “introductory level courses”, CONtv 101 is NOT your typical “best of” list. The purpose of each course is to provide you with a strong, basic understanding of each topic through a carefully selected syllabus.
“I have seen the future of horror…his name is Clive Barker.” –Stephen King
Course Description: Clive Barker is a renaissance man of horror, blending together the cosmic, the horrific, and the fantastic to explore new frontiers in the genre. This course will introduce you to his various works across multiple forms of media—books, artwork, films, and games—and give you a greater appreciation of a man whose flair for the grotesque and beautiful and the erotic has influenced horror for over thirty years.
Books of Blood
Barker’s three-volume collection of short stories, stitched together with the titular piece “The Book of Blood,” in which angry spirits carve the remaining stories on the flesh of a charlatan medium, is the perfect introduction to the author’s written work. Several of the stories contained within have seen film adaptations (“Rawhead Rex,” “The Midnight Meat Train”), and the rest run a broad spectrum of tones, making sure the extensive body of work never becomes stale.
The Thief of Always
Barker’s first foray into books for younger readers, The Thief of Always eschews the author’s more graphic sensibilities for a more whimsical, age-appropriate fantastic fable. The book follows Harvey Swick, a ten-year-old boy who runs away from home to live in the Holiday House, a mansion where Halloween and Christmas are daily occurrences and all of his desires are given to him. However, like many fables—and the rest of Barker’s works—there is a price to be paid.
Visions of Heaven and Hell
Not really reading as much as art appreciation, Visions of Heaven and Hell is a volume of Barker’s artwork, spanning decades, subjects, and mediums. From simple charcoal sketches to garishly hued oil paintings, Barker’s sensibilities are on full display. The fantastic, the grotesque, the depraved, and the beautiful are all shown in equal measure, and a must for this course.
Horror and sexuality have always been strange bedfellows, and nowhere is this more apparent than Hellraiser, Barker’s own cinematic adaptation of his novella “The Hellbound Heart.” It explores the lengths people will go to in order to reach the apogee of pleasure—or pain—even losing their humanity in the process. While there are 9(!) films in the series, the first one is the selected work for the course, with the BDSM-inspired Cenobites being at their most morally ambiguous, and thus their most interesting.
The full feature is currently available on CONtv.
Another examination by Barker of the nature of humanity and what makes a monster, Nightbreed adapted the novel Cabal for the big screen. Mutilated by the studio on the time of its release, it has since seen a major reworking as “The Cabal Cut,” which restored many of the scenes that made the movie a deeper examination of its themes than theatergoers originally saw. A deeply original and provocative story, fantastic makeup, and a bouncy Danny Elfman score combine to make Nightbreed required viewing.
Lord of Illusions
A mishmash of ideas cribbed from Barker’s stories in Books of Blood, particularly “The Last Illusion,” Lord of Illusions introduces viewers to Harry D’Amour, a detective who has been featured in several of Barker’s other novels, including The Great and Secret Show, Everville, and the just-released The Scarlet Gospels. While “The Last Illusion” or one of the other novels may be a more traditional study in the character, Lord of Illusions also uses some of Barker’s more daring visual ideas to solid effect.
Clive Barker’s Undying
While far from the first foray into gaming for Barker, Undying earns its place in the course for its unique setting and gameplay. While Barker was called in after development had already started in order to rework the story treatment, his more fantastic sensibilities are in full effect. The story centers around Patrick Galloway, a veteran of the First World War who is called to Ireland to assist his friend Jeremiah Covenant deal with the return of his dead siblings, who are all answering to a higher occult power. The supernatural figures heavily into the gameplay, with Galloway wielding spells as well as firearms, and the Covenant children sport gruesome corruption: the artistic Aaron, especially, whose flayed skin and weaponized hooks call back to the Cenobites.
Clive Barker’s Jericho
Barker’s second major attempt at gaming was a double-edged sword, offering up a more traditionally Barker-esque story—with the grotesque visuals to match—albeit with less compelling gameplay as a delivery method. The sense of cosmic insignificance is impressive, with the story deconstructing Judeochristian mythology: the center of the conflict is an aborted attempt at life by God called the Firstborn, and its attempts to escape its extradimensional prison. While not necessary to the course, the game offers up a more distinctly Barkerian tone due to the author’s involvement throughout development.
Salome & The Forbidden
While certainly not as polished as his later works, this duo of 1970’s short films lay down some of the visual and sexual groundwork that would become synonymous with Barker. Salome is a weird take on the biblical story, whereas The Forbidden (no relation to the short story that would become Candyman) flirts with some of the visceral images later explored in Hellraiser (list).