With the release of the newest Hellraiser film, I figured it was finally time to read the novella that started it all, The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker.
Frank is bored. He has done everything in the name of chasing that elusive ultimate pleasure. But every drug and sexual escapade only sustained him for a short window of time before growing bored again. That is until he finally finds what he believes to be the key to that pleasure. Spoiler, it isn’t what he expected and suffers for it.
A while later, his brother Rory and his newly wedded wife Julia move into the house Frank called home for a spell. Julia and Frank have a history, one that she would kill to relive, in more ways than one. Things start getting bloody from there.
The novella is creepy and disturbing, with the Cenobites being imposing and just plain gross. If you have read it, you know what moment I am talking about. That mental image haunted my head for the whole day. It also gives several different perspectives of the horror happening around the small cast. It’s highly effective horror, leaving you wincing and uncomfortable.
Alright, time to answer the burning question. Is the book better than the movie?
Honestly, I prefer the film.
Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. However, the film blows the book out of the water. It’s a classic in the horror genre for a very good reason. You can’t watch that resurrection scene and not get shivers. No matter how many times I watch it, it still freaks me out. Iconic stuff.
The novella serves as groundwork for the film, the latter built upon the foundations of the latter. It polished it and elevated it. For example, Kirsty being Rory’s daughter makes more sense for the plot and adds another layer of creepy in the later half of the film. Kirsty is also given a lot more agency and personality in the movie, making her a more compelling character overall.
If you want a short freaky story that you can read on a single dark and stormy October night, The Hellbound Heart is for you. It’s a visceral, eerie and rapid read.