2015 promises many things. A new Avengers movie, a combination of ant and man the likes of which we’ve not seen since Mant! And the return of Bruce Campbell to the Evil Dead franchise after a nearly twenty-five-year absence, if you’re into that kind of thing. There’s a lot to look forward to. But the thing that I am most excited about, by far, is Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels. This is a book that Barker has been writing off and on for about fifteen years. It goes back to the type of material that made horror fans fall in love with the author’s work in the first place. It promises to be dark, visceral, and now that it’s finally almost here not enough people are talking about it. So we’ve come up with some reasons you should get excited.
It’s a New Hellraiser Story That Finally Explores Pinhead as a Character
This one’s the most obvious, it’s the reason that most of the people who are excited are excited. If there’s any detail that people know about the story, this is it. But a new Hellraiser story—and an epic novel at that—written by Clive Barker is no small thing. After the original novella, The Hellbound Heart, and the original film, Barker became a strictly a creative consultant. After watching the franchise go downhill in film without even being as involved as he wanted to be, Barker sort of washed his hands of the characters and mythology for a few years. More recently, he has begun to embrace Hellraiser again, co-plotting the comic series and even taking scripting duties on the reboot. But Scarlet Gospels has been the throughline into thinking about the mythology again. The book, as Barker has explained, will truly explore the author’s version of Hell for the first time. More than that, it explores Pinhead as a character—in fact, Barker has said that the book will finally reveal his Cenobite name. This is an incredibly eloquent, elegant villain that has so much untapped potential. He has never truly been explored as a character before, let alone by his creator, and this book will finally change all of that. But it’s not just the Hellraiser mythology that The Scarlet Gospels will explore.
Pinhead has always been an antagonistic figure and will continue to be so here. The protagonist of the book is a character named Harry D’Amour. If you know of the character, it’s probably through Barker’s 1995 film Lord of Illusions. But D’Amour, an occult private detective, has appeared in numerous stories from the author. He first appeared in the short story “The Last Illusion” on which Lord of Illusions is loosely based. He then went on to appear in the novel The Great and Secret Show as well as its sequel, Everville. He has also appeared in the short story “Lost Souls.” Of these, it’s the two novels that matter most as they are the first two books in what is known as The Art Trilogy. These books create a completely separate mythology than the one seen in The Hellbound Heart and the Hellraiser films. Bringing these characters together means bringing their respective worlds together in a pretty big way.
In addition to horrific visions and powerful, erotic high fantasy, Barker is a successful author of young adult novels. He has written four books for teens: The Thief of Always and the first three of a planned total of five in the Abarat series. These books have a very different fan base than Hellraiser, to be sure, but they are in many ways just as rabid. For a few years, Barker had to put aside almost everything just to focus on the Abarat books. And now that The Scarlet Gospels is complete, he’s returned to work on that series. He has by no means abandoned material for an adult audience, but has had work even harder on those books as he creates 200 oil paintings to go along with each. Not only will The Scarlet Gospels be a very adult book, but it will be the author’s first full-fledged horror novel in a very long time. But there’s one thing above all else that makes The Scarlet Gospels worth reading to even the most casual fan of the author.
This has been clear virtually from the get-go. The longer it’s been put off, the worse the films have gotten and the further they’ve strayed from Clive Barker’s original vision. Barker has not been even loosely involved with a Hellraiser film since 1995, at least until he began work on the script for the reboot. For all the sequels after Bloodline, he was not involved and the studio made it perfectly clear that they did not want him to be. The Scarlet Gospels is, if nothing else, a way for Clive Barker to take back the story and mythology that he had created and bring it to an end on his own terms. The character of Pinhead and that entire version of Hell are so different from the ideas that were portrayed in the first few films that it’s hard not to be excited to see them back in the proper hands.