Episode 19 - Halloween Special, Hellraiser

Whilst Imperial Steam files is usually a family friendly podcast we sometimes dip into darkness. Although this is more of a celebration of a fine writer, producer, director and artist, but it would wrong if I didn't mention here that I might be discussing adult themes.

Hellraiser was the first horror that ever scared me. Not just the images but the social commentary that was brilliantly captured by Clive Barker. And whilst it would be easy to talk about the horror, I think I will be concentrating more on the human side of things.

Hellraiser was, and is, a ground-breaking work of horror, something that’s easy to forget with the passage of time and a comet’s tail of inferior sequels. Clive Barker showed the world that cinematic horror could be gruesome, scary, thought-provoking and rich with subtext, and needn’t fall back on the standard 80’s stalk-and-slash formula to succeed.

The story is a simple one. A jaded sensation-seeker called Frank opens the now-infamous box in the attic of a house owned by his family, and gets torn apart by the Cenobites for his trouble. Frank’s essence is left trapped and dormant in the room. A little while later, Larry, Frank’s rather staid and douche-baggy brother, moves in to the house with his wife, Julia. We learn that Julia once had a torrid and passionate affair with box-opening bad-boy Frank shortly before her wedding to Larry, the memory of which still gives her hot flushes.

A few drops of Larry’s blood on the attic floor trigger Frank’s resurrection, and he regains some semblance of corporeal form as an anatomically-accurate, skinless monster. Julia discovers him, and instead of recoiling in horror, she promises to help him regain his power. This she does by luring a succession of horny businessmen to the attic so that Frank can feast on their flesh. Eventually, Frank kills his brother, donning his skin and taking his place in the household. Larry’s daughter Kirsty is the only one who can stop the gruesome twosome, but to do so she’s forced to team up with Pinhead and his rag-tag band of Cenobites.


Next up, well I think it's only right to keep up the humanity aspect of things and look at the author of Hellraiser. I will try and deliver a great synopsis of this multi-talented individual.

Clive Barker (born 5 October 1952) is an English writer, film director, and visual artist best known for his work in both fantasy and horror fiction. Barker came to prominence in the mid-1980s with a series of short storiesknown as the Books of Blood which established him as a leading young horror writer. He has since written many novels and other works, and his fiction has been adapted into films, notably the Hellraiser and Candymanseries. He was the Executive Producer of the film Gods and Monsters, which won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Barker's paintings and illustrations have been featured in galleries in the United States, as well as within his own books. He has also created original characters and series for comic books, and some of his more popular horror stories have been adapted to the medium.

His archives have been a source of material for biographies and non-fiction books containing his personal essays, discussions of his fringe theater work, interviews, and other content.

Barker is an author of contemporary horror/fantasy. He began writing in the horror genre early in his career, mostly in the form of short stories (collected in Books of Blood 1 – 6) and the Faustian novel The Damnation Game (1985). Later he moved towards modern-day fantasy and urban fantasy with horror elements in Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show (1989), the world-spanning Imajica (1991), and Sacrament (1996), bringing in the deeper, richer concepts of reality, the nature of the mind and dreams, and the power of words and memories.

Barker's distinctive style is characterised by the notion of hidden fantastical worlds coexisting with our own, the role of sexuality in the supernatural, and the construction of coherent, complex and detailed universes. Barker has referred to this style as "dark fantasy" or the "fantastique". His stories are notable for a deliberate blurring of the distinction between binary opposites such as Hell and Heaven, or pleasure and pain (the latter particularly so in The Hellbound Heart).

When the Books of Blood were first published in the United States in paperback, Stephen King was quoted on the book covers: "I have seen the future of horror, his name is Clive Barker." As influences on his writing, Barker lists Herman MelvilleEdgar Allan Poe,Ray BradburyWilliam S. BurroughsWilliam Blake and Jean Cocteau, among others.

He is also the writer of the best-selling Abarat series, and plans on producing two more novels in the series.

Barker's basic philosophy and approach are revealed in his foreword to H.R. Giger's illustrated work, Necronomicon