From The Daily Bruin, Thursday, May 7, 1992
A Living 'Hellraiser'
Clive Barker, creator of the popular horror series, defends the devils sprung from his mind
By Cody Goodfellow
Looking at Clive Barker, it's difficult (as interviewers confronted by the mild-mannered Los Angeles transplant seldom tire of observing) to picture him as the enfant terrible responsible for such visceral shockfests as The Damnation Game or the six-volume Books Of Blood, and such masterpieces of dark fantasy as Weaveworld, or his recent magnum opus, Imajica.
After hearing the Liverpudlian author-playwright-illustrator-director state his case, it's even harder to conceive of his association with the unbridled mayhem of the upcoming Miramax release, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth.
Horror film sequels have traditionally been dreadful rehashes, where only the gimmick one-liners and variety of garden implements used to dispatch witless teenage victims separate one film from the next. But Barker's belief in the integrity of this sequel, scripted by longtime associate Peter Atkins and directed by Tony Hickox (Waxwork), is as evident as his surprise at the success of the series.
"These things can't be planned, you know? Who can predict the stuff? The things that become cults- whether it be Twin Peaks, or (David) Cronenberg's pictures -the audience responds to images in ways which are beyond the artist's planning, and very often, they respond to images the artist didn't even know were there."
Of the sequel itself, Barker explains, "This is a movie that extends its geographical parameters. The first picture was a domestic picture- a house and a hospital. The second one was an asylum picture. The third one is on the streets. It's a very different picture, and great fun as a consequence of that. I think where the challenge comes in sequels is simply to avoid repetition."
Indeed, where the series' principal malefactors, the Cenobites (for the uninitiated, the Cenobites are a semi-monastic order of undead sadomasochists, slaves to sensuality, even in Hell), were once limited to providing their excrutiating ministrations only to those depraved enough to summon them, the carnage in Hell On Earth comes with no such Faustian strings attached. The Cenobites' numbers are bolstered by new converts, and the resurrection of and conflict within their leader, Pinhead (Doug Bradley, another longtime Barker cohort), is the central focus of the plot.
"The fact that Pinhead (aptly dubbed by Barker "the Patron Saint of Piercing") is a character that audiences want to watch, that women find sexy, that people have tattooed on their own bodies, I think, is perfectly extraordinary, and I'm incredibly pleased about it. I don't think an analysis of what he does in the movies ever completely illuminates the charm that the guy has. I'm pleased, but I remain, as I know Wes Craven does about Freddy (Krueger, of the Nightmare On Elm Street film franchise)startled that these images have proved so persuasive."
But barker is quick to point out the differences between Pinhead and his less reserved colleague. "Freddy, particularly in the latter pictures, has become something of a comedian. I liked the first Freddy immensely, and I've liked him less and less as the movies have gone on. He seemed to me to have moved more and more out of the realms of horror and into vaudeville, which I don't find terribly entertaining. The Hellraiser pictures are basically pretty dark, and their darkness is obviously part of their appeal. I like to feel that the writer or filmmaker is really going for the jugular, not trying to sweeten the attack too much."
Though uninvolved in the actual production due to his literary commitments, Barker has seen to it that the original spirit of the characters is retained. "You can never stop Pinhead from being an antihero; people will make their own judgments about that. But I have resisted pressure to make him a clown, though I have to be fair with the people I've worked with in the pictures, that there hasn't been a lot of that."
Barker sees in the series far more than the label "horror flick" conventionally allows; the treatment of dark sensuality, and of human evil itself, reaches beyond the domain of the genre.
"You can turn on MTV and at 4:00 in the afternoon, there are images that our parents would never have been exposed to until their wedding night. Those images permeate our culture. They permeate the way we sell cars, the way cigarettes are sold to us, and we have to deal with that constantly, and it can twist us out of true." In the Cenobites, we may see the unfulfilled desire for empowerment we all share. "It seems to me that the call to darkness is only strengthened if it's refused or denied. What one should say is, 'Yes, that's part of me, there's a little devil in me.' And by accepting it, you also control it."
Of course, the film boasts the spectacular special-effects mayhem one would naturally expect from a Hellraiser film; and at a time when Silence Of The Lambs sweeps the Oscars and Basic Instinct rides out controversy into a wave of box office receipts, the question of the influence of explicit violence has once again entered the mainstream. barker is characteristically analytical on the subject.
"Where I see a much worse problem in our culture is where acts of violence- and I'm talking about the Rambo movies, for instance -are celebrated for political reasons, where you will say, 'Not only is this guy blowing the heads off 200 individuals, but he's the good guy for doing it.' I prefer a culture that's fascinated by Hannibal Lecter over a culture that makes an icon of Rambo."
Suddenly, Barker doesn't seem so out of place in the environs of the horror sequel milieu, as Hell On Earth begins to seem less and less like its stalk-and-slash counterparts. Those who would write the Hellraiser films off as gory escapism may do so, barker asserts, at their peril: "You're in a very dangerous situation if you deny fantasy's place in your life, if you deny the place of sexual fantasies, of revenge fantasies, and say, 'No, I'm pure, I never indulge in those kinds of things.' Then, you are in fact empowering those things, because the thing that's denied is the thing which grows behind your back."