‘From Page to Screen’ is a brand new feature which has been in the pipeline for quite a while. BCC’s guest reviewer, Andrea, will be reading a book followed by watching a movie adaptation and then writing a review about both. This feature will be posted once a month.
This month’s page to screen is The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker and the horror movie Hellraiser directed by the author himself!
The The Hellbound Heart is a horror novella first published in the Night Visions third anthology by Dark Harvest in 1986, then republished by Harpercollins as a standalone novella in 1988. It always intrigued me that such a short story could be the premise for such large horror movie franchise such as Hellraiser, so I finally decided to see what the fuss was all about.
As well as writing the original novella, Clive Barker also wrote the screenplay and directed the movie in 1987, just a year after the first publication of The Hellbound Heart. This has always made me think Barker saw the larger picture from the get go, and may have even wrote the screenplay as an expansion of the novella.
Frank is an off the rails, womanising traveller who seeks the most ultimate of pleasures when he keeps hearing about Lemarchand’s box; a puzzle said to hold all kinds of wonders. After tracking the box down and bringing it to the almost derelict house he and his brother had inherited he creates an alter to the box as he tries to work out the puzzle and open it.
The box should open the doorway to the Cenobites’ demons who should in turn grant him pleasure no man on earth could comprehend. He opens the box and the Cenobites arrive, but what they offer is not what Frank thought it would be. The fine line between pleasure and pain is crossed as the Cenobites take him away.
The book is written in Barker’s trademark visceral, dark and twisted style, blurring the lines between pleasure and pain, imagination and reality, and good vs. evil.
I’ve always been drawn to an antagonist, but Frank is particularly unlikeable, and I found I liked him because of that. The other characters are also rather unlikeable. There is Frank’s boring brother Rory, his beautiful wife Julia, and their somewhat unremarkable friend Kirsty.
The lack of empathy I felt for the characters only heightened the horrific elements of the novel because I found myself uncaring what happened to them, and getting sucked into the darkness shining from the Lemarchand’s box; wanting them to get hurt.
It felt like the line between good and evil was blurring because of my own negative emotions towards the characters.
The Cenobites didn’t have as much page time as the others, but there was no doubt that it was their world we were delving into or that they had the upper hand. Sometimes just a snippet of something is enough to make you shiver and refuse to ever try opening one of those puzzle boxes.
Many of the scenes from the movie were direct translations from the book; almost as if Barker had written the novella with a thought towards the big screen. The characters were jigged around somewhat. The unremarkable friend became Rory’s daughter, and Rory had a name change to Larry.
I’m not really sure why the point of the name change was, but I feel that the change of dynamics between the characters was a good idea. There needed to be more of a connection between the characters, a link that kept them together for the running time of the movie. The trials and tribulations of a father and daughter is more emotive than that of a man and a family friend.
The dark and twisted style of Barker’s novella translated really well to film, at least partly because Barker got to see his creation from beginning to end unlike lots of writers. He obviously had an image in his head and this also meant that any changes he made in the movie had more weight–because it was Barker’s world and if anyone has the right to move things around it’s him.
The Cenobites were almost as I’d pictured them from “Hellbound Heart“, although I imagined Pin Head a little more androgynous than he actually is.
It’s a creepy movie that makes you afraid of the dark, and what’s under the bed or peaking through the crack in your door, though I think the slower pace of the movie didn’t work as well as it did in the novella.
Maybe that is why Barker changed the ending to something with a little more action. The purest in me thought it should have been the same as “Hellbound Heart”, the movie buff in me realised it needed that little extra oomph, then the part of me that trusted Clive Barker, reminded me that he could do whatever he wanted in his own sandbox. He may have even used the chance of writing and directing the movie as a way to change things he was unhappy with in “Hellbound Heart”.
The movie is a very close rendition of Barker’s vision; and why wouldn’t it be when he had the pleasure of turning his own work into a movie? “Hellbound Heart” shows that you don’t need many words to create something that sends shivers down your spine. Hellraiser might have dragged more than the novella, but there is some dark and disturbing undercurrent to it that no other horror movie seems to have. They are both brilliant in their own rights and compliment the whole Hellraiser ’franchise’.