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Clive Barker: English Horror’s Principle Hellraiser 
Written by: on November 7th, 2014

While the horror movie genre has several notable filmmakers, Clive Barker has distinguished himself from the pack. Film critics far and wide believe that Barker has put his own signature stamp on the genre and inspired numerous aspiring directors. Aside from directing, Barker is also an accomplished writer and illustrator. His flair for aesthetics is part of why his films are so revered and still widely available for streaming and on demand from Amazon Prime and DirecTV. They really do look stylistically different from those of his contemporaries.

One of Barker’s most popular films is Hellraiser. The film is based off of his own short story called “The Hellbound Heart”. This gore fest of a film is raw, rugged and a bit vile but in an extremely entertaining way. It begins with a diminutive puzzle box that is rumored to unleash a unique experience involving feelings of both euphoria and incredible pain. The film’s main character, Frank Cotton, solves the puzzle and it conjures up the spirit of hell incarnate in Cenobites. Cenobites goes on a rampage and the blood fest begins. Barker presents the audience with dark atmospheres and gritty visuals. The film has a distinctly grimy look and feel to it that has yet to be successfully replicated. While there’s a seemingly endless amount of gore, it’s done in good taste. There’s a certain element of refined macabre beauty to Hellraiser that really sets it apart from other horror flicks and still makes it a classic and a mainstay in many people’s horror collections.

Barker’s 1990 film, Nightbreed is a fantasy horror flick based on a story that he wrote two years prior called “Cabal”. Nightbreed’s main character is Aaron Boone, a patient in a mental ward who has been convinced by his doctor that he is a mass murder. Boone eventually makes his way to an allegedly unoccupied cemetery known as Midian. It is here that he encounters the Nightbreed outcasts. These are monsters that have separated themselves from humanity and entrenched their tribe in the cemetery. While the film wasn’t a commercial success when released, it has since grown quite popular. Barker blames his presentation of the film as a traditional slasher to studio executives as the reason for its flop. He also admits that he was unhappy with the final cut of the film yet it was released anyways. Still, Nightbreed is now a cult classic that is praised by horror film fans worldwide.

Along with Hellraiser, Candyman is one of Barker’s best known horror flicks. Almost every film buff knows what it means to say “Candyman” three times in front of a mirror. Even those who aren’t into the horror genre respect this film’s story and unique visual style. Candyman is another film based on one of a story written by Barker. The Candyman is a supernatural entity with amazing powers. He haunts a Chicago housing complex by luring victims with sweets that are often spiked with razor blades. Two academics embark on a research project centered on this alleged myth but soon find that the rumors are much more than urban legends. Much of the film takes place in the haunted home and the viewer is often left hanging in dramatic suspense. Of particular note is the film’s lack of gore. It succeeds in scaring the daylights out of viewers without resorting to pools of blood and ax wielding murderers.

Barker has left a firm imprint on the horror genre that will continue to influence filmmakers far into the future. Perhaps Barker’s greatest accomplishment is taking the horror genre into the mainstream. Both Hellraiser and Candyman are timeless works of art that audiences will still enjoy years from now. Even those who don’t have an affinity for scary movies are quick to recognize the merits of these two masterpieces.

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