Those expecting to read Clive Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart” and find a fairly verbatim written version of “Hellraiser” will be disappointed. While there are very strong similarities in this novella to the film, it served as the basis for Barker’s directorial debut, it does stray strongly from the central grisly fairy tale path that the popular horror film followed.
This, however, is one of the strongest reasons to read this excellent book, even if you think that you’ve already seen the movie and don’t exactly need to spend your time flipping through all short 176 pages of it in written form. Think again: You’ll find out that you were missing quite a lot.
While an being an excellent director, Barker’s prose, and the way he weaves his words together, is not an easy thing to capture on celluloid, even by himself. There are such strong horrific images in the book that linger in the mind more than any gore flashed across the movie screen. And the writer manages even more to capture moments of pure beauty and heartbreak. Barker is one man who is willing to develop characters in ways that are unexpected and shading them so that no angel is left without stain nor any devil without one virtue.
The plot is close to the film in regards to Frank, a man who has set himself out to experience all of life’s pleasures, his past lover, Julia, and Julia’s new husband, Frank’s brother .It is with the character of Kirsty that the novella separates itself from “Hellraiser”. Kirsty’s motivations in “The Hellbound Heart” are fuelled by her love for Julia’s husband, an unrequited love that gives the novella its true power. Her devotion to a man who has taken her affection and worth for granted when faced with physical beauty is offset by Frank’s own interest in Kirsty, realizing the plain woman is far more compelling than Julia could ever be.
It is when building with the all too human feelings of love, lonliness and heartache that Barker’s tale soars. While “Hellraiser” makes an excellent film to watch and suffer bouts of fear, the book that served as its genesis brings more to those who choose to open, much as Frank does with the cursed puzzle box, their hearts to it.