Meghan: Hi, Paul. Welcome back to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books and thank you for being a part of this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. Interesting fact for you: I was looking at post views for all of my Halloween celebrations over the years and I found that YOUR Clive Barker Retrospective in 2019 (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5, Pt 6) has the most views of all GUEST BLOG POSTS in the history of me being a book blogger. Which I find super awesome. I should add that to the trivia next year!! What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Paul: I love getting together with the kids and getting dressed up. For my family and friends, Halloween is a big event. We have friends who have an annual, themed party, so the costumes and themes are planned for months in advance. We’ve done everything from Historic Villains, to Rocky Horror, to Scary Fairytales. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. I absolutely love it. The chance to just get together with my family and friends, have fun and revel in the darkness is amazing. It’s also the one night of the year where I’m not the weirdo, so that’s cool too.
Meghan: Do you get scared easily?
Paul: Not really. Real life scares me far more than anything in books or in movies. For me, horror and Halloween is an escape from all of that crap we see in the news and, largely, have very little control over.
Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?
Paul: Not so much scary, but one I vowed never to watch again was Salo. That movie works on several different levels. It’s disgusting for one thing, but is also very loosely based on true events. There were portions of that movie which made me feel physically sick. It’s certainly one you only ever need to watch once. If you watch horror movies for fun, that one certainly isn’t a good time.
Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?
Paul: Again, none really. Personally, I find the deaths in movies like American History X or The Shawshank Redemption to be far more disturbing because they’re there with a point and hit close to home. In horror, they’re mostly set pieces to get from one place to another. They’re like the finishing move in a wrestling match. From that standpoint, I appreciate how well they’re done than actually become disturbed by them.
That said, I think the way they rendered the second death of Georgie Denbrough in the first new It movie was really well done. That was pretty heartbreaking actually, and both the young actors really dug deep for that one.
Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?
Paul: Nah, the only movies I really refused to watch are ones which just look too silly to even be funny. I’m talking about stuff like the Sharknado films, which I just can’t even approach. They have their audience, I’m sure, but I’m not among them.
I will admit though, I had to stop watching The Handmaid’s Tale after a while. That series just cut closer and closer to the bone after a while, and it started making me inordinately angry as I saw governments seemingly taking it as an instruction manual. I really enjoyed the series, but I just had to walk away from it for a while. And really, that has to be a compliment to the writers and actors.
Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?
Paul: Would I want that? Really? I mean, if I had to choose one then it’d probably be the Scream franchise, because the antagonist is crap at his job and I’d have half a chance at survival.
Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?
Paul: Again, why would I want that? Writers tend to enjoy torturing their protagonists, so why would you want to be in that position? Nah, this is one time I will advocate for being the protagonist in some sort of comedy.
Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?
Paul: Everyone who knows me (you included) knows the answer to this one. It’s Pinhead, from the Hellraiser movies. There’s a grace and elegance about that character, especially in the first two or three films. I appreciate that his appearances are used sparingly, and that his speeches are few and far between. He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak there’s usually a profundity in his statements which are breathtaking. That’s something I feel they got wrong as the franchise moved on and away from Barker’s original vision, and he quickly became a cheesy parody of what he was meant to be. Still, we have those first two or three movies.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Paul: Well, maybe not an official tradition, but the costume parties at my friends’ house is always the highlight. And, if they don’t happen for whatever reason, then it’s sitting down for a classic movie marathon with the kids, or just reading a good horror story.
Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?
Paul: I’m a big lover of horror movie soundtracks, so the first Hellraiser score is on pretty heavy rotation in my house. That, and the Phillip Glass piano music from Candyman. That’s something that Barker always got in his movies – a great score.
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Paul: A very little-loved Barker novel called Mister B. Gone. As I’ve already said, I don’t really get scared or disturbed by books and movies, but that one I had to put down for a while. There are parts of the book where it’s like it’s talking directly to you. Now, I read it when my daughter was first born, so I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep at the time. So, reading it at the dead of night, with your wife snoring softly beside you, and the book starts threatening your family and describing their deaths. Yeah, that got to me at that point.
Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?
Paul: My wife says I’m a psychic black hole, so creepy things don’t really happen around me. I’ve walked into supposedly haunted places with people who are attuned to that kind of thing, and they say pretty much the same. So, I’ve never experienced anything which couldn’t be explained. It’s quite the disappointment really.
Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?
Paul: There are a few, and many of them offer inspiration for stories. Particularly though, Jack the Ripper is probably the main one. I do love anything to do with ghost ships, which I find absolutely fascinating.
Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?
Paul: A lot of the stories by MR James, which I’ve just re-read. He really was a master of dark atmosphere, and reading his stuff on a dark night is truly creepy.
Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?
Paul: Anyone with a dodgy leg… and my wife. Seriously, hear me out a moment.
So, if you’re being chased by a zombie horde, you’re going to want someone slower than you are, right? It buys you time to get away, so why not keep a person with a dodgy leg around?
And my wife because we recently went to an axe throwing centre and found that she has something of a natural talent for throwing pointy objects at things. So, she is definitely a weapon of choice in any situation.
Meghan: Okay, let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?
Paul: A vampire. That would be erotic as hell.
Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?
Paul: Tough one. Are we talking traditional, slow zombies, or new style fast ones? If its traditional ones, then I’m taking them bastards all day long.
Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?
Paul: Erm… neither sound particularly appetizing. Can I just stick with a JD, or a nice glass of red wine please?
Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?
Paul: Oooh, neither of those, because we have our own version of that here in the UK. I’d stay there in a heartbeat, and take my pad and pen with me.
Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?
Paul: Well, there’s a lot of protein in them maggots, you know?
Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?
Paul: Did you say cotton candy? I do like me some cotton candy …
Boo-graphy: Paul Flewitt is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Sheffield, UK, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Paul began publishing in 2012, beginning with the flash fiction story, Smoke, for OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes anthology. He went on to pen further short stories, including Paradise Park, Climbing Out, Apartment 16c and Always Beneath.
In 2012, he also published his first novel, Poor Jeffrey, which was received to much critical acclaim.
Paul continues to write, contributing to Matt Shaw’s The Many Deaths of Edgar Allan Poe anthology in 2020 with The Last Horror of Dear Eddie. He also began releasing free short stories and fanfiction on his Wattpad account for fun.
After a crazy year and a half, the film industry has taken many turns. From distribution delays and same day streaming, the horror genre is no different with films like Candyman and Halloween Kills/Ends being pushed back over a year. Drive-Ins have been a beacon for genre films with having film festivals and showing classic films. The industry has struggled from an in-theater aspect but with the reemergence of drive-ins, horror fans alike have piled into their cars to watch their favorite films from the comfort of their cars.
Drive-Ins were slowly dying out and disappearing all together, but with the resurgence they have packed in fields with different generations of movie lovers. In October of 2020, my local drive in was showing anything from A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Halloween 4, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even first showings for local films. The importance of these institutions are vital because of the nostalgia and the environment that shapes our childhood.
If you have a local drive-in, please support it even after the pandemic because there is nothing like watching movies in or out of your car under the stars. What is everyone’s favorite drive-in memory? Also feel free to shout-out your local drive-in or chat about your favorite movies in Thrills, Chills, and Kills on Facebook with us!
Boo-graphy: Hello everyone, my name is Zach and I am a co-founder of Thrills, Chills, and Kills. I am the goofiest one of the bunch yet least likely to get injured from inanimate objects. I may have the least experience in writing (as you can probably tell) I make up for it in creative vision (most of the time). Horror has been in my veins for as long as I have been alive. Having watched Halloween around a million times by now, I could probably quote every scene.
I am also an aspiring filmmaker. I have completed 2 short films already and have ideas for several more films in this warped brain of mine. My first film The Mind’s Window is a 13 minute short about being locked in a space not knowing what is lurking on the outside. You can watch it on YouTube for the time being. I have always wanted to make a film that I’m proud of and I told myself this is the time to start. I have another film that is fully shot but is in editing purgatory at the moment.
I love this community and our group so much. My wonderful girlfriend and team captain, Paige, is the reason I have this opportunity to have this horror fun filled life.
Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer: A Retrospective Part 4
1993 was a quiet year on the literary and film-making front for Barker, but that certainly didn’t mean that he was inactive. 1993 was the year that he first displayed his artwork in public, with his first exhibition taking place in March ’93. He was also exploring the possibilities of creating new graphic novels after the successes of Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Tapping the Vein, and other graphic adaptations of his work. Some would meet with success in subsequent years; some would die on the vine. Still, Barker was always moving forward; always looking for the next project.
In literary terms (because Barker is always working on the next books, sometimes two or three at the same time), Barker was close to completing his next major work: the second installment of The Art trilogy, which had begun in 1989 with The Great and Secret Show. Everville was to delve even deeper into the world, theology and metaphysics that he had introduced in The Great and Secret Show, to open up the Metacosm and Quiddity to closer scrutiny and explain its relationship to our world (the Cosm) in greater detail. It was to be another epic work of fantasy, as ambitious in its own way as Imajica was in 1991. In this book, Barker seemed to be in control in a way that he often wasn’t while writing Imajica. If that work almost defeated him, Everville is the work of a writer totally assured in his own skill as a storyteller. Barker was, here in this book, a master of the art with confidence in abundance.
Everville does not follow on from The Great and Secret Show in linear fashion. Like any great history, explaining beginnings often seems to bear little relation to the world we know. So it is that the beginnings of The Great and Secret Show were to be found at the beginnings of the America that we know today; with the pioneers and fathers who birthed the nation.
Everville opens on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800’s, with pioneers searching for new lands to call their own. They set out with the belief that God is on their side and will protect them on their journey, but as the mountains rise around them, the temperature freezes and the snow falls, death, disease, and famine are their constant companion.
On the trail with the pioneers are Maeve O’Connell and her father, Harmon. The O’Connells are a strange pair, with dreams of building a city. It is a dream that they have shared with no one on the trail, but still they are mistrusted and vilified. As the death toll rises and the group lurch from one disaster to another, the O’Connells are blamed for their misfortune and Harmon O’Connell is murdered. Maeve flees into the woods, followed by men with guns to dispatch her. The little girl is protected from the men by a strange, demonic-looking creature, killing several of the men before hiding in the upper branches of a tree. The creature is injured in the fray, and his blood drips onto the ground around the tree. Maeve is famished and turns her head up to the grisly rain, opening her mouth and drinking the creature’s blood. It tastes sweet on her tongue, and invigorates her. Maeve persuades the creature to come down from the tree so that she can see him, and this he does. The sight of him takes Maeve’s breath away, and she falls in love with him instantly. His name is Coker Amiano, and he is in this place to attend a wedding. He leaves, telling Maeve not to watch him leave or follow him; if she disobeys, he will kill her.
Maeve does not listen to Coker’s warning. She peeks through her fingers and watches him leave. Following him up into the mountains, she finds a party in full swing in a cleft in the rocks, with tents erected and much merriment. She sneaks into one of the tents and sees the wedding ceremony in progress, with the bride and groom dreaming a baby into existence. Maeve breathes “beautiful” in her wonder, and her words pollute the ritual and kill the baby being born overhead. Fighting breaks out among the guests as both sides blame each other for the death of the baby and desecration of the ceremony that would have joined two factions and ended centuries of warfare. There is death all around her and Maeve tries to flee. It is Coker who protects her as the survivors kill each other and try to escape through a portal further up the mountain. Coker goes to leave too, but the portal closes too soon and traps his wings. He pulls and rips his wings from his body as the portal shuts and exiles Coker from his own world.
They return to Maeve’s wagon, which has been looted and abandoned by the pioneers who had shunned her, and she nurses Coker back to health. Though much has been taken, Maeve finds the plans for her father’s city, along with a cross that a man named Owen Buddenbaum has instructed her father to bury at the first crossroads in the new city. Maeve and Coker resolve to build the city in her father’s memory, and the city would be called Everville.
In modern times, Everville has grown into a banal, all-American town from the movies. It is a town where nothing momentous has, or ever would happen. Its secrets are kept by the Everville Historical Society, which has covered up the true story of Everville’s origins in favour of more wholesome tales… but the truth remains to be uncovered. Indeed, the truth is under the feet of every citizen who walks the town’s streets… and above their heads in the mountains which cast their shadows over the town.
Everville’s annual town celebration is nearing, and the Historical Society has vowed that it will be the biggest and best fair yet. In any dark fiction tale, this could only mean that something apocalyptic is about to occur… and Everville is no different.
Erwin Toothaker is a lawyer who lives in the town, and he is close to uncovering the secrets that the historical society has kept for over a hundred years. He is a single, straight-laced man who no one remembers and less will miss. So it passes that he returns home to a visitor, who kills him. Toothaker does not simply fade into the long goodnight, however; his spirit remains as he finds himself wearing a jacket he thought long lost, the pockets filled with mementoes from his life. He wanders the town, trying to make sense of his new state when he meets other spirits; the long dead town fathers who haunt its streets.
Phoebe Cobb is the overweight receptionist at the local doctor’s clinic. Her life is one of routine boredom until Joe Flicker shows up in town. The pair strike up an affair, enjoying secret trysts on Phoebe’s dinner breaks, or when she can get out of her marital home on the pretext of running some errand for the historical society. The relationship moves along well, and the pair plan to leave town together. Things turn bad when Joe decides to surprise Phoebe by showing up at her home, but they are caught together by Phoebe’s husband. A fight breaks out and Phoebe kills her husband. Joe flees, injured from the fight, into the mountains. He climbs into the heights and finds the portal into the strange world that exiled Coker Amiano so long ago. Curious, Joe steps over the threshold and into the Metacosm, leaving Phoebe to face the police and the gossip in town.
Nathan Grillo has given up journalism and settle in Omaha, once home of Randolph Jaffe. He has become a recluse, battling the effects of multiple sclerosis as he builds a living database of strange events across the USA which he calls The Reef. He waits and watches the database, forming connections between one event and the next, always searching for The Art.
Tesla Bombeck, unlikely heroine of The Great and Secret Show, has spent the intervening years on the road with Raul in her head. She has grown into a weary traveller, going from place to place simply to experience life. She has grown cynical, despite the power that she knows courses through her body. She returns to the ruins of Palomo Grove, where she finds a small group of people who have heard of the events that have occurred there and turned it into a theology, with Fletcher and Tesla as its deity.
By turns, Tesla is directed to Everville, where she arrives in time for the festival… and the events which are about to unfold on its streets.
Harry D’Amour is a New York private eye who specialises in the demonic, and played a cameo role in the events at Palomo Grove. He has experienced a great many strange things in his career, so is perfectly poised for the events which are about to unfold. He has witnessed a ceremony in a basement in New York, a celebration of strange creatures which descends into a massacre. It is this event which ties D’Amour to the events in Everville, and which brings him back into contact with the Art.
Tesla arrives in town and goes to a diner for coffee, where she draws a reaction from the god-fearing diner owner by her mere appearance. On the streets she hears a voice shouting, but cannot place the voice or hear exactly what it is saying. She tries to follow it, and eventually hears an address. She meets Phoebe Cobb and goes to the address to investigate. Here, the voice whispers into her ear once again; “Kiss Soon,” it says. Tesla breaks into the house, and finds the excretal creatures of old adversary, Kissoon, in the place. Together, the women kill the creatures and return to Phoebe’s house. They drink, and Tesla agrees to help Phoebe to find the missing Joe. Their search takes them up into the mountains, where strange creatures are busy building crosses in the heights. Phoebe sees the portal that Joe has crossed through and she follows, finding herself in the Metacosm, while Tesla is stuck in Everville.
Meanwhile, Joe has travelled throughout the Metacosm with a strange man named Noah. He has seen the inverted pyramid city of b’Kether Sabbat, and seen through the eyes of a creature called Zehrapushu. On a voyage on his travels, Joe falls into the sea and drowns, dreaming of Phoebe as his life ebbs away.
Phoebe finds herself in a strange town called Liverpool as a storm rages in its streets. She is taken to a house owned by a fat, bitter old woman called Maeve O’Connell, who spends her days tearing up letters from a former lover named King Texas. It transpires that Liverpool is Maeve’s city; that she dreamed it into being from memories of the town that she was born in. Phoebe tells Maeve about Everville, and Maeve tells her how that town came into being; that Everville was another town that she dreamed into being… and then was chased out of once it grew. Maeve had built the town around a brothel with her husband, Coker Amiano, and her son, a half breed of Cosm and Metacosm. When children started to go missing from the town, it was Maeve and her family that were blamed and they hung them all… but Maeve had survived and fled into the Metacosm, where she dreamed Liverpool. Now, Maeve O’Connell decided, it was time to remind Everville of its roots.
In the meantime, Tesla has been called away from Everville. As a kind of aside to the main story, Howard Katz and Jo-Beth Maguire have been living on the run since the events in Palomo Grove. They have been happily married, more or less, and had a child, but now Jo-Beth has grown distant from Howard and is having strange dreams. Grillo has agreed to visit them, and Tesla arrives with him. Unfortunately Tommy-Ray Maguire, the Death Boy and Jo-Beth’s twin, is also on the way. In a breath-taking pursuit, Tommy-Ray chases down Grillo and Jo-Beth as Grillo tries to get a reluctant Jo-Beth to safety, causing them to crash their car. Tesla arrives on the scene with Howard and Jo-Beth admitted that she has been having an affair with her twin, and that her child is Tommy-Ray’s. Grillo and the baby are trapped in the car as Tommy-Ray and Howard enact a confrontation which recalls the final moments of Fletcher’s life in The Great and Secret Show, Grillo lies dead with the baby in his arms as, overcome with rage, Howard fires a gun at Tommy-Ray and ignites petrol that has spilled on the road from the crashed car. The petrol ignites, engulfing Jo-Beth in flames. Howard leaps into the flames and dies with Jo-Beth in his arms. Tommy-Ray retreats in grief, enshrouded by his army of ghosts.
Tesla could do nothing at all but watch the tragedy unfold, holding the baby in her arms as her parents did battle. From behind her, Tesla hears a sob and turns to see a trio of children standing a short way away from her: the Jai-Wai, Rare Utu, Yie, and Hahe. They have been haunting her on the road for a time now, and explain that they want to see tragedies unfold before their eyes in return for power. Owen Budenbaum has been their arranger for many years now, but they have grown tired of his brand of entertainment. The Jai-Wai missed the events at Palomo Grove and heard of the tragedies which surrounded her there, and now they want to see, wanted to know. Disgusted, and eager to be away from the grieving Tommy-Ray Maguire, Tesla takes the baby and makes her way back to Everville.
Owen Budenbaum has arrived in Everville to reclaim what is his, a seed planted a hundred years before. Maeve O’Connell had been true to her father’s word and built a town, not quite the city that he had envisaged, and buried the cross at the first crossroads. Over the years, that cross had been gathering power into itself, and Budenbaum had come to collect. Over the days since his arrival he had struck up a casual liaison with a boy named Seth Lundy, a strange soul who heard hammering from the heavens. Tesla’s arrival in the town had proven to be something of a complication, but he would stop at nothing to get what he had sought for so long… the Art. Now, as the day of the festival in Everville arrived, it was time to collect and he will allow nothing to stand in his way… especially not Tesla Bombeck.
In the Metacosm, in the city of Liverpool, the Iad Uroboros had arrived. The Iad was a devouring force which destroys everything in its path. It was no ordinary storm which engulfed the city… it was the Iad. Phoebe Cobb finds herself rescued from the ravages of the Iad by Maeve O’Connell’s sometime lover, King Texas. He is the King of Rock, and he holds Phoebe deep in the ground while chaos reigns on the surface. While underground, Phoebe persuades Texas out of a decades long despair borne of Maeve’s indifference toward him. Phoebe’s words inspire Texas to protect Liverpool from the Iad, and he wounds the seething mass. After the battle, Phoebe finds herself back on the surface and sees the Iad disappearing through the portal that had delivered her into the Metacosm… and she watched as both the portal and Iad disappeared.
On the mountain over Everville, Harry D’Amour has found himself in grave danger. Beings from the Metacosm have gathered at the portal and he has disturbed their devotion and killed their priest. As punishment for his crimes, the beings have readied him for crucifixion. He is tied to a cross when Kissoon appears. After a brief conversation, Kissoon passes him by and proceeds up the mountain and leaves D’Amour to his fate. It seems to him that all is lost as the executioner, the dim-witted Bartho, arrives, but he is struck down with a hammer by a man that Harry does not know. The man, when Harry is freed from the crucifix, is Raul, the ape-boy that Fletcher had created, and who had been resident in Tesla’s head until Kissoon blew him from her mind. Raul now has a body to call his own, and he has come to Everville. The pair watch as Kissoon climbs the mountain and approaches the oncoming Iad, even as the ground turns to liquid and tremors shake the mountain to its roots.
Erwin Toothaker has also found his way up the mountain with the town fathers and has witnessed all that has transpired. As the Iad approach, one of the fathers shouts out and runs toward the portal. The man is Coker Amiano, and he has seen his wife, Maeve O’Connell, striding over the threshold.
As Raul and D’Amour descend down the mountain, Raul hears the voices of the dead screaming at him. They direct him into the trees and there they find the harridan, Maeve. In her own inimitable fashion, she demands that D’Amour carry her down to the town… her town.
Tesla returns to Everville with the Katz baby and arrives at Phoebe Cobb’s place, where she finds Seth Lundy waiting for her, sent by Budenbaum to bring her to him. The baby is unsettled, and Seth offers to help her while they talk. Seth tells her that Budenbaum wants to see her, that he considers her a significant insignificance, but their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the Jai-Wai, who again try to convince Tesla to be their agent. After the conversation, she agrees to go and meet Budenbaum at a coffee shop in the town, but on the way they are attacked by a gang of Everville’s good old boys. Seth is beaten and the baby taken by the god-fearing Bosley, but Tesla manages to escape and goes to the coffee shop to meet her adversary.
At the coffee house, Budenbaum and Tesla trade tales. Tesla tells him what she has guessed of his plans, and in return Budenbaum tells her the true tale of Everville, his place in its creation and his purpose. He has spent two centuries trying to set the conditions necessary to acquire the Art, and now he wants it. What he needs is the Jai-Wai, but they have deserted him in favour of Tesla. In return for his help in turning back the Iad, Tesla agrees to bring the Jai-Wai to the crossroads and then get out of town; being a Nunciate, Budenbaum believes that the Art would be conflicted about who to enter if Tesla was there. Tesla agrees to bring the Jai-Wai, and sets out to find them.
As Tesla and Budenbaum are holding their treaty in the coffee shop, Harry D’Amour and Raul have arrived back at the town and are helping Maeve O’Connell to find the place where her whorehouse had stood as Kissoon is descending the mountain with the Iad at his heels. At the same time, Tommy-Ray has arrived in town and found Bosley with the baby that he believes is his. He takes the child from him, even as Seth protests, and disappears into his cloud of tortured spirits with the baby and departs.
At the crossroads, Budenbaum is waiting for Tesla to arrive with the Jai-Wai. He has made his preparations, and now he only needs the divinities to arrive. And arrive they do: Tesla has agreed to their offer to be their new guide in the world, providing that the Jai-Wai themselves tell Budenbaum that his services are no longer required. They approach to tell him, knowing that their decision means an end to his long life, but Budenbaum has a trick up his own sleeve. As they approach Hahe sees something amiss with the road under Budenbaum’s feet and goes to investigate. Instantly, he is caught in the trap that the man has laid. Rare Utu is the next to be caught in the trap, and both are dissolved and turned into light. Yie sees all of this and catches hold of Tesla, the mere touch rendering her immobile. Yie advances on Budenbaum and he too is caught, but his voice and rage unhinges Tesla’s mind and she falls, sinking into the earth as Budenmbaum screams in rage and defeat. As she dies, she sees the medallion and the power that it holds; her last thought is of the cross under Palomo Grove, and the representation of humanities evolution from amoeba to divinity and then back again.
D’Amour, Raul, and Maeve arrive at the crossroads in time to see Tesla fall, and Maeve recognises Budenbaum. She advances on him, demanding answers for all that has befallen her since her childhood… events that he set in motion. Raul stops her and tells her of Coker’s presence, news which softens the harridan, but still she advances on Budembaum. As she speaks to him, ribbons of light begin to play around her hands and coalesce around her, taking form from her memories. The light was rebuilding the whorehouse, down to the finest detail. As it rebuilt itself around her, Budenbaum retreated, unwilling and unable to take the memories being made manifest. While the building is taking place, Maeve talks about the house, her husband, and her son, Clayton. At her words, a realisation hits D’Amour and he makes off to investigate further.
Beneath the road, the medallion is at work on more than just the rebuilding of memories. Tesla has felt herself die, has felt herself putrefying, and turning to dust under the power of the Art. She is aware of the wonders all around her, and understanding what it is the medallion has given her in death.
D’Amour runs through the streets and finds Budenbaum. The defeated man tries to persuade D’Amour to help him, to dig for the medallion. He shows Harry his hands, which he has mangled in the attempt, but D’Amour refuses. Budembaum then threatens D’Amour, and is about to make good on his threat when Seth Lundy appears and stops him, leading him away to care for him. D’Amour carries on through the town and finds the Iad. He screams into the cloud, calling for Kissoon, and then using his true name, Clayton O’Connell. Kissoon appears then, interest piqued with D’Amour’s knowledge of his name. Harry tells Kissoon that his mother is alive, and that she is waiting for him. Kissoon agrees to go with him, not out of sentimentality, but out of curiosity. When they reach the house that the medallion has built, Kissoon refuses to go inside and asks D’Amour to go in and fetch her to him. Harry fetches her… and predictably, Kissoon kills her.
The violence and death do not go unnoticed below ground. Tesla feels the death and sees the blood spreading across her sky. She rages and races back to her body. When she feels the flesh around her, she realises that this is what the medallion wanted. She feels the power of the Art surging through her, raising her up, and claiming her for its own. This was not a gift that can be refused, it is a possession which holds her in its grip and which she would need to learn to control.
On the surface, Maeve’s corpse turns to ash and rainbows of light spring from the ground as Tesla appears in the air, insubstantial at first, but solidifying and becoming real. At her appearance, the Iad screams and retreats in fear of her. Kissoon tells her that there is nothing she can do; the end will still come, before he too retreats.
So to the aftermath and Harry D’Amour returns to New York and faces his own demons, knowing that no matter how many he puts down there will always be more climbing out of the pit.
For Tesla, she has to put her mind in order. She now holds the Art and is more than she ever was before. She travels to Omaha, back to Grillo’s house where she takes his post at The Reef, watching the mysteries and listening to the whispers of the world as she tries to understand who this new Tesla will be.
With Everville, Barker had further cemented his place as the great imaginer of our times, a writer for whom boundaries of genre meant nothing. He had created a middle novel (Everville was intended as a second book in a trilogy) which could both stand on its own and provide a glimpse of wider tales too, which has piqued the interest of readers ever since its publication. All over Barker discussion boards, you will see readers demanding that Barker write that elusive third book of the Art with almost the same rabidity that you hear from fans of George R.R. Martin calling for Winds of Winter. It can only be testament to the quality of writing in this book that, twenty-five years after its original release, the appetite is only gaining strength.
1994 is notable for the release of Everville, but Barker was also busy in Hollywood. Four years after his hellish experiences directing Nightbreed, Clive decided that the time was right for him to retake the director’s chair for a new feature.
Clive had been eager to get Harry D’Amour onto the screen for a decade, and United Artists had now given him the green light to bring his short story, The Last Illusion, to the screen. Barker had first mooted a D’Amour movie back in the late eighties, with an original screenplay called The Great Unknown. D’Amour is clearly a character that Barker feels a great affinity with, appearing in several short stories and making appearances in The Great and Secret Show and Everville, but only now, with the successful Hellraiser movie franchise and a growing list of bestselling novels, were the studios looking for more Barker material to put on the big screen. The Last Illusion, with embellishments from the original Books of Blood story, became Lord of Illusions and went into production in July 1994 with Barker directing.
Lord of Illusions is a much bigger story than its literary counterpart, offering much more in the way of backstory for Swann, and introducing the Mephistopheles-like Nix (surely one of the unsung antagonists in the Barker canon). Although the heart of the story is still very much culled from The Last Illusion, Lord of Illusions builds on that story and offers us a glimpse into the world of Swann and D’Amour that is only ever hinted at in the story, culminating in an apocalyptic endgame which would take the $11m budget to its limits. Scott Bakula plays a very convincing Harry D’Amour, while Famke Jansen embodies the noir femme-fatale of Dorothea to perfection.
Barker was very astute in the production of Lord of Illusion. Keeping in mind the cuts that had to be made to Nightbreed, he inserted several scenes that he knew would be cut in an effort to save more important scenes from the cutting room floor. One scene had to be recoloured to remove the impact of a sea of blood on the screen and, after test screenings, there were several scenes removed to cut time, but it did remain the movie that Barker wanted to make. Thankfully, unlike Nightbreed, the Director’s Cut of this film was released to DVD soon after the theatrical cut was released and restored the missing narrative with a commentary track from Barker himself.
It was also the last movie that Barker has directed to date.
Events in 1995 also informed Barker’s next book, Sacrament.
A sense of things passing, of impermanence, pervaded Clive’s mind through the sickness and death of his cousin, Mark, from complications connected to AIDS. As a gay man, the AIDS epidemic had been stark in Barker’s mind since its rise to prominence in the 80’s; the sense that gay men were threatened as a tribe because they did not propagate and were born to extinction. These thoughts are at the heart of what Sacrament was to become as a story, a tale centred on extinction and the impermanence of things.
I have to admit that I found Sacrament to be one of Barker’s more difficult books on first reading, the manifesto he was putting forward often speaking louder than the story. As I came to understand the intention behind the book, and the inspiration for it, I also came to understand that this is one Barker tale where the story isn’t really the point. Here is Barker trying to say something far more profound which works on many different levels: an environmental message as much as it is a humanitarian one, a cry of near-despair from the LBGT community as much as it is the same for humankind at large. Given the news we read today of extinctions and the state of our planet 23 years after the book was released, it remains to this day certainly one of Barker’s more prescient tales.
Will Rabjohns is a photographer who plies his trade in war-torn and famine ravaged territories. His stock in trade is not the human suffering is these areas, however, but the impact that these very human events have on wildlife. He photographs endangered species in their habitat, struggling to survive under the scourge of mankind.
During a trip, he is attacked by a wounded bear and grievously wounded. He falls unconscious, and as he heels his mind transports him back to his childhood in England.
Will’s dreams take him back to when he was thirteen, wandering the hills around the village where he lived. He was a loner. His older brother was the family favourite, but died young, which left Will to wander and dream. On one such rambling, he encounters the strange Jacob Steep and his partner, Risa McGee. Steep is the “Killer of Last Things,” travelling the globe to put an end to the last remnants of each dying species. The pair had been together for many years. Rosa had carried eighty-seven children, and all of them had died at birth.
Will wanders with the pair, listening to the wisdoms that Steep imparted: “Living and dying we feed the fire.” It is a lesson that Steep illustrates to Will in stark terms, encouraging him to throw a moth into a flame. Then, at Steep’s encouragement, Will kills two birds with the man’s own knife. “Imagine that these two birds were the last of their kind,” Steep tells Will. “This will not come again… nor this… nor this…” It is a stark lesson, and one that Will takes to heart. Such a small act of cruelty could change the world.
After this lesson, Steep touches Will and the boy is given a vision of Steep’s history. In 1730, the man was sent to confront an artist who had given up his life to debauchery and excess. The artist, Thomas Simeon, had been taken under the patronage of a mystic named Gerard Rukenau and taken to his retreat in the Hebrides in order to create a record of the building of a cathedral to the arcane that Rukenau had named the Domus Mundi. Steep had been sent to track the artist down, but Simeon had committed suicide rather than submit to being returned to his patron.
Steep blamed Rukenau for the artist’s death, turning his back on the man in favour of his mission to wipe out the last of every endangered species, similar to the way that Will would capture endangered species and record them in photographs. When, as an adult, Will sees one of Simeon’s paintings, he recognizes the relationship between the art and his own photographs. Whereas Will was recording species in extremis, in the moments after extinction, Simeon was recording the moment preceding extinction.
When Will wakes from his coma, he is visited by a strange presence called Mr. Fox. The creature tells him that God wants him to see. He tells him that the passing of things, of days and beasts and men he’d loved was just a cruel illusion and memory… a clue to its unmasking.
Being gay, Will is a race of one, an endangered species all his own. Steep and Rosa know this and are plotting his extinction. They return to Will’s childhood home and assault his father; a bait to draw Will back in.
Will does go home and confronts Steep, and touching him again he is met by another chilling image. He saw the human race as a scourge which descended on every other living thing. He wished for a plague to wither every human womb, for death to silence every throat. Will understood Steep’s wishes; it was often how he saw humankind himself.
Will pursues Steep north, to the Hebrides island of Tyree (the scene of many happy holidays for Clive Barker himself), where he discovers the Domus Mundi of Rukenau. He does not find a wondrous cathedral, as he had seen in his childhood visions in Steep’s memory, but a cesspit clogged with filth and detritus.
High atop a network of fetid ropes sits the sinuous Rukenau himself, but he is no satanic deity. His arrogance has created a prison for himself; one step outside his creation would mean his death, the price of his immortality. The Domus Mundi is Rukenau’s prison, and he has covered its beauty in shit and dirt.
Rukenau was the illegitimate child of an architect who abandoned him. Rukenau devised a plan to revenge; to create a cathedral which would leave his father’s churches empty. Rukenau studied architecture and magic, studying the magical properties of geometry to achieve his plan. Finally he enlists the help of an angel, but he fails to understand the Nilotic’s plans… he needed an artist. Thomas Simeon was that artist, hired to interpret the angel’s vision.
Steep enters and cuts down Rukenau’s web of ropes, killing the man. Rosa follows in his wake, cleaning the dirt from the walls to reveal the beauty and grandeur of the man’s creation. On the walls are paintings of creation, in all its chaos and wonder. As Rukenau dies, he offers Will his final secret; Steep and Rosa are the Nilotic angel, split in two by Rukenau’s necromancy. They would wander the world and learn the nature of their gender, unable to live apart but tortured by each other’s company as they could never be close enough. With a touch, the two halves of the angel are reunited; Rosa’s brightness bleeding into the darkness of Steep and becoming whole once more.
The newly restored angel moves deeper into the Domus Mundi and Will follows. It seems to him that he is not moving through painted echoes of the world, the expert markings of a skilled painter, but through the world itself. Seeing the world and its creation laid bare like this, he feels joy at the knowledge that the House imparts. He comes to realise that joy comes from being.
With these revelations, Will returns to his childhood home. He wanders the countryside and sees the landscape with new eyes, feeling the same joy that was awakened in him within the Domus Mundi. He sees creation in everything around him; in the smallest stone and sheerest cliffs, the least blade of grass and the oldest gnarled tree. He has been changed forever by his experiences, and he is renewed.
These changes are brought home with startling finality when he fulfills a promise made to his friend and former lover, Patrick. He is dying of AIDS, and Will had promised him that he would be there at the end. The time has come for Patrick, and Will goes to his bedside to be there with him. Now, with his new insights, he feels uncomfortable at the deathbed. He feels he is intruding and no longer death’s voyeur. It reaffirms the change that has been wrought within him, and he knows that it is a change for the better.
Sacrament marked a change in Barker’s attitudes toward his sexuality, which he had previously regarded as very much a private matter. He had never been “in the closet” as far as friends and colleagues were concerned, and had been in several romantic relationships over the years. With Sacrament though, he decided to be more publicly open about his sexuality and speak about issues that the LGBT community faced. He arranged a series of interviews with gay publications which were headlined as “coming out,” but really it was Barker speaking out.
Of course, Barker had written gay characters into his books as far back as Books of Blood, but his publisher in America still begged him to rewrite Will Rabjohns and be less explicit about his sexuality. This Clive refused to do, and used the story as a vehicle to convey a message that bears repeating loudly even today.
What came next for Barker was inspired by an encroaching landmark in time; the millennium. It was a theme that Clive had already addressed in a couple of his stories, most notably in Everville and Imajica, but now he had reason to tackle the theme in a more direct way. Chiliad: A Meditation was a wraparound short story which appeared in the Revelations anthology in 1997, edited by Douglas E. Winter and focused on the impending millennium.
Chiliad was written during a tumultuous time in Barker’s life. With the end of a six year relationship distracting him, Clive went away to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. This is a location that would feature heavily in his novel Galilee, but in 1997, it was very much an escape from the bleak place that his life seemed to have become, and The Chilad served as an object to focus his mind back upon work.
The Chiliad is written in two parts, beginning and ending the Revelations anthology. In the anthology, each of the ten stories included represent a decade in the century, with Barker’s story serving as a wraparound for the entire work.
The story begins with an introduction. Shank lives by the river in the village of Tress. One day he finds his partner, Agnes, face-down in the water, the victim of a murder. Filled with rage, Shank tracks down three men and kills them in revenge for his lady’s death, not knowing that they are innocent. When in the throes of killing the last victim, Shank becomes ensnared with the man and drowns in the river himself. That is the last event of any significance which takes place on that spot, and nothing will change for a thousand years… until 1940. It is in this year that a German bomber will mistakenly drop its bombs on the village and destroy the church. After the war, a new church is built and an artist in commissioned to design four stained glass windows, but only three of the designs are completed.
The first window showed John the Baptist preaching in the river to a crowd of worshippers. The second window shows Christopher, with the young Christ on his shoulders. The third window showed Christ himself, walking on the water, while the fourth window remains blank, showing only the sky. What the artist had reputedly intended was to depict the second coming of Christ, arriving with the river flowing in the wrong direction and the sun, moon and stars all appearing in the same sky… but all that exists is a plain glass pain.
The second part of the story takes place as the world turns onto the new millennium, a thousand years after the deaths of Shank and Agnes. Devlin wanders near the church by the riverbank, troubled just as Shank had been so many years before. Devlin is an insurance broker from the city, and on two nights a week he makes pots and bowls in ceramics class. He is a banal, uninteresting creature. Devlin is remarkable, though, for his own wife was found dead and washed up in the river the previous night. Like Shank before him, Devlin dreamed of tracking down the killer and meting out his own justice.
While ruminating on the death of his wife, Devlin is transported to the night of her death. He sees her wandering on the riverbank with her secret lover, and he sees himself wielding the knife that takes the lives of both wife and lover. By some trick, Devlin questions himself to discover how it was that he came to commit such a crime, but this is only the beginning of his revelation. This other Devlin transports him back to a time when he was caught watching his sister and her lover’s sexual tryst, but Devlin knows there is more to the story than that.
Devlin is transported back through the history of mankind, witnessing crime after crime, until he witnesses the night a millennium ago when Shank’s wife died. We see a man clutching the knife that killed Agnes, the priest of the nearby church. When the priest sees the flame that is Devlin, he believes it to be Christ. He embraces the flame and Devlin burns to nothing as the priest lies down to die.
Watching, the narrator of the piece finds his own revelation and finishes the story, leaving the notepad where it might be found. Then, with nothing more to do, the narrator wades into the river to meet a fate that isn’t explained, but is left as incomplete as the stained glass in the church.
Chiliad is perhaps a throwaway story written for a new millennium anthology, but it served as rehabilitation for Barker and is regarded as one of Barker’s own favourite stories. It is a meditation on loss and regret, a harking back of things past. It opened the floodgates of creation on many fronts. It greased the wheels for his great work of the new millennium: Abarat. It was upon his return from Kauai that Barker would begin work on a series of canvases that would form the basis for that great, ambitious work.
But he had work to complete, too. The next year brought Galilee into the world.
1998 was a year of changes for Barker. Just as the end of his relationship with Malcolm Smith had sparked and fuelled the writing of the Chiliad, so the beginning of Clive’s relationship with David Armstrong was the spark that fed the writing of his next ambitious work, Galilee. Indeed, there are many striking similarities with Clive’s life at the time and the romance which takes place within the pages of this book (Atva “Galilee” Barbarossa is surely an approximation of Armstrong,) and Kauaii features very heavily. Armstrong brought to Clive’s life family, in the personage of Armstrong’s daughter, and another dog to add to Clive’s own pack.
Just as the Chiliad was a very bleak story, Galilee is almost joyful. It focusses on transformation, redemption (that idea that Barker returns to again and again throughout his books), and hope for the future. Along with Imajica and the Books of The Art, Galilee should rightly be considered as one of Barker’s greatest triumphs.
Edmund “Maddox” Barbarossa is the writer and narrator of this history of the great feud between the Barbarossa family and the Gearys. Maddox is a cripple, confined to a wheelchair since an accident rendered him paralysed from the waist down. He lives in the home of his step-mother, Cesaria Barbarossa, with his half-sisters and one of his half-brothers. As the millennium approaches, Maddox senses that the time is right to tell the story of the Barbarossas, to uncover the mysteries and intrigues that are entangled in the family name. Of course, that also means that Maddox must tell the story of the Geary family, American royalty similar to that of the Kennedys, and the story of Rachel Pallenberg, the woman who could destroy or save them all.
The Barbarossas are deities and demi-gods, living for thousands of years and influencing the world in all of that time. The story opens with Cesaria Barbarossa and her husband, Nicodemus, walking along the beach on the shores of Galilee. Their child runs away and dives into the sea, swimming away from his parents. The child has no name as yet, and the parents are arguing about what his name should be. They ask a fisherman what the boy’s name should be, what the name of the village he hails from is, and he answers “Galilee.” Cesaria refuses to name her child after the sea into which the child has tried to escape, but meeting the pair does inspire the fisherman to travel to the city of Samarkand, where he becomes a shaman and teaches supplicants of the world and the day he met with gods.
Years later, Cesaria and Nicodemus live a polygamous life, where Nicodemus pursues several sexual conquests (civilisations through the centuries have created statues in honour of his cock) and raises horses. In turn, Cesaria has entered into an affair with Thomas Jefferson, whom she inspires to build her house, l’Enfant. It is here that Cesaria retreated to and lives out the rest of her years with her children and, latterly, her stepson Maddox. It is at l’Enfant that Nicodemus begins an affair with Maddox’s wife, and is where Maddox is kicked by one of Nicodemus’ horses and paralysed in an accident which kills his father. What can Maddox do but forgive his dead father his trespasses?
All of this Maddox hears when he is summoned to the attic room where Cesaria lives in l’Enfant. The experience is as terrifying as it is inspiring, and Maddox finds that he can walk again… for a short time. Following these revelations, Cesaria gives her blessing for Maddox to write the story of her family… their time is coming to an end, after all.
The Gearys are an old American family, rich beyond the dreams of avarice. No one in the country truly remembers where the family earned their fortune; their fingers are to be found in numerous businesses across their empire. They are the kind of family, like the Kennedys, who are seen on the cover of Time magazine and held up as the all-American archetype.
Hearts break all over America when Mitchell Geary, the grandson of Cadmus Geary, falls in love and marries Rachel Pallenberg. She is not a rich girl from a rich family by any means, but meets Mitchell when he stumbles into the jewellery store where she works. She helps him to choose and buy a broach, and ends up with a husband.
Of course, happiness cannot last long for Rachel and Mitchell. She falls pregnant and soon miscarries; doctors tell her that she cannot bear children. It is a major blow to the couple, for whom children are a priority to assure the continuance of the family name and fortune. Mitchell soon begins philandering and Rachel leaves, at first going back to her parents’ home. After a visit from her sister-in-law, Margie, she finds out about a place that is perfect for her to find her mind… and is kept specifically for the Geary women to escape to. So it is that Rachel travels to the Hawaiian island of Kauaii and changes the course of her life… and the lives of all the Gearys.
At the house in Kauaii, Rachel meets the caretaker of the house, Niolopua. He welcomes her warmly, promising to look after her every wish during her stay, and leaves her to her thoughts. She luxuriates in the house’s seclusion, spending her time relaxing and getting her mind in order. As the sun sets, Rachel sees a ship and watches as it passes the bay on which her retreat sits. She watches for a while, and then disappears into the house to sleep. She is awoken by the smell of burning; someone has built a fire on the beach as she slept; local youths, she reasons and returns to sleep. When she awakes again, there is a man in her room. She is taken aback at first, but speaks to the man. He is gentle, softly spoken, and offers no threat to her. She feels comforted by his very presence. When he leaves, she mourns his leaving. The man returns and shows her his ship, the ship that she watched the day before. He takes her away on the boat and they make love, consummating a relationship that could destroy or redeem two families. Rachel has met Galilee Barbarossa.
Meanwhile, the Geary family is falling apart. Mitchell has turned to drink, his brother has descended into debauchery, and the old man, Cadmus, is failing. The family is being secretly run by the old man’s wife, Loretta, in an effort to keep the media and business wolves from coming to the door. It is a situation that cannot possibly last. The cracks become apparent when Margie Geary is found dead, apparently from an overdose. Rachel returns from Kauaii for the funeral, and events soon spiral out of control.
Soon after Margie’s death, Cadmus Geary’s health begins to fail. On his last night, Cesaria Barbarossa pays a visit and repays Cadmus for the evils he has committed, reminding him of a debt that his family owes hers. It is here, for the first time, that Rachel meets the mother of her lover.
Mitchell Geary’s hopes of reconciliation are dashed when Rachel returns to Kauaii, in hopes of Galilee’s return. She finds Niolopua drinking and angry on the steps of the house. He explains that Galilee is his father, and that he has been robbed of a true relationship with him because of the Geary women, who all have had relationships with him and all have broken his heart. Galilee wanders the world, called back whenever a Geary woman needs him and it hurts him every time. It is an arrangement that has gone on for well over a century, and one which has gone on for too long. He leaves her to ruminate on his words, while she waits for Galilee’s return… and return he does.
Rachel is woken after a night of passion with Galilee by the sound of someone creeping through the house. She gets up to investigate and finds Mitchell, drunk and vengeful. He has already killed Niolopua outside; now he wants Galilee, and he wants her to go home with him and play the dutiful wife. She refuses, and Mitchell attacks her, but Galilee intervenes. Mitchell stabs Galilee, wounding him grievously. It seems that Mitchell has the upper-hand as he stalks Rachel up the stairs, but the Geary women have other ideas. An army of ghosts converge on Mitchell and force him backwards, causing him to fall on the stairs and impale himself on his own knife. Mitchell dies there on the floor as Rachel tends to Galilee.
Now Rachel learns the story of Galilee from a book that she has found in the house. During the American Civil War, a man named Nub Nickleberry is a cook in the army. During the war, he meets and befriends Galilee, whose life he saves. Nub asks a favour in return, and it is a favour which grants him fortunes… and ties Galilee to his family forever. Nub Nickleberry changes his name to Geary, and sires one of America’s great families… a family which now lays in ruins.
In the aftermath of the book, Galilee and Rachel Pallenberg return to l’Enfant and meet with Maddox. Galilee visits with his mother for the first time in a century, the prodigal returned at the last. He reads Maddox’s book, and when he finishes he quips, “It’s a great story. Is any of it true?”
And so ends the saga of the Gearys and Barbarossas… or does it?
At the end of the book, there is an intriguing segue where Maddox visits with his brother, Luman. The man is crazy, or so people think, and he has vowed to find his children. He persuades Maddox to help him locate his offspring, which he agrees to do now that his book is finished.
We are then taken on a journey with a floating leaf, and are shown a scene which involves Luman Barbarossa’s children, promising that the tale of the Barbarossas may be far from over.
Galilee is the last of Barker’s truly epic works of fantasy. It eschews horror completely, preferring to focus on the romantic and fantastic elements of Barker’s writing, but does not suffer from that lack of darkness. What Barker has constructed here is an intriguing history of the spiritual and material, mixing the two worlds until they become inextricable. It is a tour de force of imagination, and certainly among Barker’s best works.
1998 also saw the release of a movie that had been in the making since the 1995 release of the second Candyman movie. Alongside Bill Condon, Barker had enjoyed a deepening friendship based on both men’s mutual respect for each other and their similar approaches to creating horror movies. Following the lukewarm reception to Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (for which Barker has pushed for Condon to direct), the pair had mooted several projects, including an anthology movie adaptation of Books of Blood. None of their proposals were ever created, but the movie that Condon approached Barker with in 1996 was.
Gods and Monsters was a biopic of James Whale, director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein in the 1930’s. Both men were huge fans of the director, and had read advance copies of the biography from which the film was adapted: Father of Frankenstein. Gods and Monsters was not a movie based on Barker’s work, and neither was he responsible for the screenplay or direction. Barker was executive producer and patron for the movie, always on hand with help and advice when it was required. Barker funded aspects of the movie from his own pocket, and opened his home up to Condon for a meeting with Ian McKellen, in an effort to persuade him to star.
Like many Barker projects, Gods and Monsters was a low-budget affair and struggled to find distribution and production company support. Condon completed the movie and toured it around the film festivals that year, winning awards and traction. It was released to theatres by Lionsgate in November 98, recouping the costs of production and becoming the most critically acclaimed movie of the year. The movie won Best Screenplay at the Oscars, with Ian McKellen nominated for best actor. Other industry awards were won in the following months, cementing it as the best received movie with Barker involvement… and a great way to end a productive year.
1999 was a quieter year for Barker, as he had effectively washed his hands of the Hellraiser and Candyman franchises by this time. No longer was he executive producer on any of those movies, and neither was he approached for advice on them. Aside from the movies bearing his name, he had no involvement in the creation of any of the movies… and nor did he wish to have any.
This left the way open for Barker to pursue other activities, and this he did with gusto. He painted, worked on pitches for television shows and movie adaptations, and of course he wrote incessantly. He also produced a coffee-table volume called The Essential Clive Barker.
The Essential Clive Barker contains snippets from his books, quotes from movies, and scenes from his plays. Each section in the book is introduced with explanations and thoughts from Clive himself. It is a writer of dark matter explaining his vision and allowing people insight into his imagination. As he said himself in the book, it isn’t intended to be read from beginning to end, but to be flicked through and enjoyed in passing moments. It serves as a great introduction to Clive’s work, and for a deeper delving for those already initiated into the Barkerverse.
The book is split into distinct themes such as Mind, Bestiary, Doorways, Journeys, Terrors, and Making and Unmaking, allowing the reader to explore Barker’s mind and work in an ordered fashion if one so wishes.
In truth, it serves as a bible for fans who wanted to ask him questions. Since the earliest years of his career, he and his publisher received reams of fan mail asking questions on all aspects of Barker’s writing. At first, he tried to reply personally to all of these correspondences, but it soon became impossible with the sheer volume of letters. Thanks to the internet, he set up a website and tried to answer questions there too. Of course, Barker was a regular on the convention circuit, but it was a medium that he never felt comfortable in. Barker is a very shy man, and found convention appearances an uncomfortable experience. In his own words, he had to become another man and perform the part of Clive Barker. That isn’t to say he ever disliked meeting fans, quite the contrary, but fans wanted to touch him and would queue for hours for their moment with the maestro. It was quite a responsibility to make sure that they didn’t leave disappointed.
The Essential Clive Barker was a partial remedy for those who wanted questions answered. This is Barker speaking to the reader, teaching the aspirant writer, and spending that time with the author that everyone craved. A must own for any Clive Barker devotee.
Come back tomorrow for Part 5 of this fantastic retrospective on Clive Barker.
Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.
In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.
In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
Almost immediately after shooting began, the financiers started getting cold feet about the project as costs spiralled due to a prosthetics team that had grown from thirty members to fifty-one, a crew of monsters which had increased from fifty to almost two-hundred, and twenty-five sets at Pinewood Studios in London. The $11m budget had swollen to a reported $20m and Barker wanted more… a dispute which cost Chris Figg his job.
Morgan Creek agreed a deal with Twentieth Century Fox for distribution, and they expressed reservations about the movie when they saw Barker’s cut. They had invested in Barker as “the future of horror,” but Nightbreed was neither a horror movie nor the natural successor to Hellraiser that they had expected.
In post-production, Fox insisted on enhancement shoots, extending filming for three weeks. They told Barker this was to film three new monsters, but was actually to enforce their own changes. They filmed a cameo with John Agar, as well as a new ending which would set-up a possible sequel. They overdubbed several of the actors’ voices, including Doug Bradley and Oliver Parker.
Barker and editor, Richard Marden, flew to Hollywood and met with Fox for a meeting and were told that the movie had been totally recut. Instead of the epic monster fantasy that Clive had intended to make, they had cut it by 30 minutes to two hours and informed Barker that they wanted to cut it even further to 90 minutes, with the focus of the new cut being Decker, not the Nightbreed. At this news, Richard Marden quit the movie and flew back to England.
Mark Goldblatt and Alan Baumgarten took over editing the final cut of the movie, and it was an act of butchery. The cohesion of Barker’s vision was destroyed under the committee-style production. Even after the re-edit, there was more insult to add to injury, as the MPAA did not like the idea of a movie where the monsters were the heroes and humanity were the real monsters. They cut a further seventeen scenes from the movie, saying that they were being hard on the movie due to the heroic monsters aspect.
The final nail in Nightbreed’s coffin was delivered by Fox’s promotional campaign, which totally misrepresented the movie as a slasher flick instead of a fantasia. Nightbreed was not received well, and disappeared from the cinemas shortly after release.
The shame of all this is, of course, that Nightbreed is far from a terrible movie. Even in the butchered theatrical cut, there is a lot to like. Underneath the incoherence, you can sense the movie that Barker had intended to create and characters, such as Narcisse, Ohnaka, and Babette, are still lovable, just as much as Decker is hated. The edit destroyed the relationship between Boone and Lori, so that it is more ambiguous than Barker ever intended.
This was an episode which broke Barker’s heart, telling friends upon his return to England that it would be a long time before he directed another movie. He was drained, both physically and emotionally, after the battles he had to fight to just get Nightbreed made. He realised that he could not be successful in Hollywood unless he could be a part of the fabric of the city, to be involved in the politicking and the business. In short, he had to leave for America on a more permanent basis.
That could have been the end of matters for Nightbreed, but it wasn’t. It seems only right and proper that we take a moment to fast forward to the mid-2000’s and rumours that the lost Nightbreed footage existed. No one was exactly sure where they were or what condition they might be in, but they did exist. Mark Miller, VP of Seraphim Studios, decided to track down the footage to see if anything could be done with them, but was told by Morgan Creek that there wasn’t the audience to even make a bu-ray enhancement worthwhile. There the story may have ended, but for a fortuitous event… In June 2009, Mark Miller announced that he had found VHS tapes in Seraphim’s offices which were labelled “Nightbreed.” Unfortunately, these tapes were not compatible with VHS players in the States, so were sent to Barker archivists, Phil and Sarah Stokes. They digitized the tapes, and what they found was a treasure trove of footage containing pieces that could be reconstructed to reveal Barker’s original vision. It was a start. There was a thread on Revelations, asking fans what they thought of a possible director’s cut being produced, which generated 1200 responses, a number which continued to grow for a couple of years.
In 2010, there was an authorised one-off screening of the digitized workprint at HorrorHound convention, a very rough and unedited version of the tapes that had been found which generated some enthusiasm from those who attended, but momentum slowed amidst Morgan Creek’s refusal to do anything with the tapes because demand did not justify spending the money on a restoration. In July 2010, Morgan Creek told Revelations that a search of their archives for lost footage had turned up nothing, so it had to be assumed that the only material available was on the Seraphim tapes. All seemed lost at that moment, and fans despaired of ever seeing the director’s cut coming to fruition.
Once again, events took a turn in 2011 when Russell Cherrington, Senior Lecturer of Film and Video Production in Derby, UK, and long-time friend of Barker, saw the workprint tapes and saw potential in them. They were grainy and needed some work, but he believed that something could be salvaged from them that Barker might be happy with. Using an early draft of the Nightbreed script, Cherrington and editor Jimmi Johnson set about piecing together a coherent version of the movie. The result would become known as The Cabal Cut.
The Cabal Cut was an ongoing project, with at least 8 different versions as the restoration evolved. Clive Barker offered insights, notes and direction for the project as it finally became the movie that he wanted to make. Upon first viewing of this cut, Barker was reportedly tearful at the result and has said many times that his dream of seeing the film as he envisioned it might soon be realised. Still, Morgan Creek remained unreceptive to the idea of a full restoration.
In 2012, The Cabal Cut was screened at Mad Monster Party, which included a panel with Anne Bobby (Lori) and Craig Sheffer (Boone) from the original cast. In attendance was Ryan Danhauser of the Clive Barker Podcast, who was there to report on the event for the podcast. It was in a recorded conversation with Danhauser for the podcast that Anne Bobby said that fans should “Occupy Midian,” and thus a movement was born. It was a slogan that she would repeat during a Q&A, urging fans to campaign to get the damn restoration made.
Following on from Anne Bobby’s “Occupy Midian” clarion call, Ryan Danhauser and Roger Boyes decided to act. That very night, a Facebook Group was created and they began to lay the foundations of a movement. Meanwhile, Cherrington bought the domain name for occupymidian.com. the movement grew quickly as news of The Cabal Cut screening spread, and a Twitter account was also set up to spread the word that the Tribes of the Moon were being called home. An online petition was set up, which garnered 14,000 signatures (mine among them, I’m pleased to confirm), and a letter campaign to Morgan Creek ensued from fans urging the company to make The Cabal Cut available. The question was: what to do next?
The next step was to host further screenings in 2012, this time at The New Beverly Cinema in LA. One screening sold out, and a second had to be arranged to meet demand. Clive Barker was ecstatic with this response, publishing a series of tweets thanking the fans for their support. Next, The Cabal Cut went on tour, with over 40 screenings worldwide with panels including Russell Cherrington and cast members.
In 2014, Shout Factory announced that, in conjunction with Warner Bros, they had managed to find the original film of Nightbreed in over 600 boxes. Not only had they found the missing masters, they had never before seen footage too. It was beyond the wildest dreams of anyone involved in the Occupy Midian movement, and Barker especially. Finally, a high quality restoration of the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed could begin.
Shout Factory’s release was originally set for 5000 copies, but demand meant it was quickly upgraded to 10,000. In less than a week, 2000 copies had been pre-ordered… and it was only available in the US! In November of 2014, the Director’s Cut was on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and in December it was streamed on Netflix and Shudder, where it went to number one in horror. Finally, after so many years and the heartache the original project had caused Barker, Nightbreed was a smash hit. In June 2015, The Director’s Cut won a Saturn Award for Best DVD or Blu-Ray Special Edition Release.
Barker had won, after 24 years… but the war was not yet over. Licensing and rights issues meant that the Director’s Cut could only be released in the US. Despite distributors being eager to bring Midian to shores worldwide, Barker’s hands were tied. All of that changed earlier this year, with an announcement made by Arrow Video that they would be releasing Nightbreed in the UK on Blu-Ray for the first time and pre-orders have proved very popular even after five years of waiting. Barker’s vindication is complete at last.
1991 saw the release of Barker’s most epic, ambitious, and dense work to date: Imajica. Perhaps this was a reaction to the butchery of Nightbreed, as Clive let loose with his imagination and pushed himself to the limits of his abilities.
Imajica was written at a time of upheaval and change in Barker’s life. He was dealing with the fallout of Nightbreed and a move to Los Angeles, which is reflected in the book. Parts of Imajica read like a love letter to the London that he had lived in, and to the UK. There are moments of self-reflection within the pages; the main character is an artist, making his way as a forger. Could this be a comment on himself, writer of horror and expected to rehash familiar themes for paymasters who demanded blood and gore, rather than the more progressive material that Barker offered? Because of this, Imajica comes across to his readers as the most personal of Barker’s work, a story that you see a lot of Barker laid bare and examined as we witness the fall and rise of the main character; John Furie “Gentle” Zacharias.
Some readers consider Imajica overlong and flawed, an opinion that I would disagree with strongly. To me Imajica is Barker’s magnum opus, the storytelling and structure sweeps the reader away in much the same way as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It is a novel which challenges the reader, asking existential, moral, and theological questions in the guise of an epic fantasy. For me, Barker rarely exceeded the powers that he showed with Imajica.
The book opens with a typically Barker treatise on drama, written under the guise of Pluthero Quexos. Here, he determines that true drama can only ever be based around two or three characters. Okay, more might wander on and off stage, but by the end of any play the cast is whittled down until the spotlight falls on two or three characters. It is an opening salvo which sets the stage very well, and is a rule which Barker observes as he whittles down the cast in this story from many, to just one.
John Furie “Gentle” Zaccharias is an artist plying his trade as a forger, and confirmed lady’s man. The beginning of Imajica finds Gentle between conquests and without work for the first time in an age when he receives a mysterious letter from the husband of an old flame, Jude. The husband, Charlie Estabrook, a rich businessman, has paid for someone to kill Jude after the breakup of their marriage and now he is getting cold feet. Gentle goes to meet the man and agrees to go to New York to warn Jude of the threat to her life.
In New York, Gentle tracks Jude’s apartment and saves her when the assassin makes an attempt on her life. He chases the mysterious man and fails to catch him, but does have a strange frisson when he makes eye contact with the would-be killer… a feeling that he knows this person. Bemused, Gentle returns to Jude’s apartment but she asks him to leave; there are too many bad memories associated with him.
He goes back to his hotel room and goes to sleep, but is roused when Jude appears in his room. In the throes of passion, the phone rings and Gentle knocks it off the bedside table. The receiver falls from the cradle and he hears Jude’s voice on the other end of the line. Confused, he snaps on the light and sees that Jude is not the woman he is in bed with… it is the assassin. He flees again, and this time Gentle cannot give chase. Confused and agitated, he can do nothing more than return to London.
Back in London, Gentle cannot simply forget all that happened in New York. The memory of the assassin plagues him, and he tries to catch the likeness of the man on the canvas, exhausting himself as he paints obsessively. Eventually, defeated, he returns to Estabrook and demands to know where the man met the assassin. Estabrook tells him about the travellers’ campsite, and Gentle tracks it down. When Gentle reaches the camp, he finds it in flames. Enraged, he rushed into the flames and catches sight of the assassin, but loses him as he is overcome by the smoke. Once again, Gentle is forced to admit defeat and return to his studio empty handed.
Meanwhile, Jude returns to London. She is contacted by old friend Clem, letting her know that his partner, Taylor, is dying and that they are holding a New Year’s Eve party. He asks her if she could find Gentle and bring him along. Of course, she agrees and does take Gentle along to the party, but he has to leave early when he is taken sick. Jude drives him home to his studio and leaves him there.
Jude goes to Estabrook’s house to collect some of her things, hearing that he is in hospital after a suicide attempt. While taking some of her jewellery from the safe, she finds a mysterious blue stone which she takes as a memento. Back at her apartment, she finds the blue stone in her pocket and studies it, becoming entranced by it. Soon enough, she is taken out of her body and transported across the city to a tower, where she is shown the mummified body of a woman trapped behind a wall. She is returned to her body, but the visions that the stone has showed her continue to haunt her and she decides to go to see Gentle… if anyone would believe her extraordinary story, it would be him.
Gentle is still ill when the assassin arrives at his studio, explaining that he is a being from another world, a mystif of the second dominion. There are five dominions, the creature tells Gentle, from which the Earth has been sundered. Gentle asks the mystif, Pie’Oh’Pah, to take him to these dominions, and the creature agrees.
Jude arrives at Gentle’s apartment in time to see the pair leave, their forms entwining as they left the world she knows. Bereft, she realises that the only way for her to untangle the mystery of the stone (and now Gentle’s disappearance) is to meet with her estranged husband. She goes to visit Estabrook in the hospital, where he tells her that the stone was a gift from his brother, Oscar Godolphin, but will tell her little more. The two brothers did not get along after Estabrook was passed over for inheritance by their father, so Godolphin became the owner of the family estate and Estabrook denounced the family and gave up its name. Jude threatens to track the brother down and ask him directly, but Estabrook begs her not to, telling her that Oscar is dangerous and not to be trusted… he will show her what she wants to see.
A few days later, Jude is taken to the derelict Godolphin estate by Estabrook. They walk around the grounds and Jude enters the ruined house, the sight of the grand hallway bringing forth images of balls and parties which may have been held there. He takes her to see The Retreat, a folly built by one of Estabrook’s ancestors as a gateway to the dominions. They step inside when Oscar appears… and Jude falls instantly in love. Estabrook tells her to leave them, to get away from Oscar, which she only does reluctantly when Oscar tells her to. The brothers are left alone inside the Retreat, and after a time, Oscar comes out with a wound, telling Jude that Estabrook is dead and that he had to kill him or be killed. Jude leaves with Oscar, becoming his lover… and prisoner.
Meanwhile, Gentle is travelling the dominions with Pie’Oh’Pah. He discovers that he has magical powers in these worlds – pneuma. Wherever he travels in the dominions, it seems drama and destruction follows in his wake. In Yzorrderex there is uprising; in Beatrix there is massacre. The pair soon discover that they are being tracked and hunted by the Autarch’s soldiers. They decide to travel over the mountains to a portal out of the dominion, and Gentle frees goddesses that were trapped in ice by the god, Happexamendios. On the journey, the pair marry after a sickness that Gentle contracts from a near drowning.
It is here that Gentle discovers that he is a powerful man, a reconciler. Pie’Oh’Pah tells him that it was his servant when he, as the Maestro Sartori, attempted to reconcile the domions two hundred years previously. He failed in the attempt, and begged the mystif to make him forget the failure and its tragic consequences. He has lived in ignorance for two hundred years, shedding identities like old socks and moving on, never remembering who he was. Unbeknown to Gentle, the Autarch is his doppelganger, a being of his creation around the time of the reconciliation. The Autarch has taken over the dominions and shaped them into his own empire. Everywhere Gentle looks, he sees how he has been responsible for the desecration of the Imajica.
Soon Pie’Oh’Pah is injured in a battle, and is close to death when they reach The Erasure, a sacred place in the Imajica where the dominions are divided by their god, Happexamendios. When the mystif dies, Gentle loses himself to despair and destroys the encampment around the Erasure before returning to the Yzzorderex… to destroy his creation, the Autarch.
While Gentle is busy exploring the Imajica, Jude is distracted by Oscar. She tells herself otherwise, but she has become enslaved to the man. On a trip to the opera, Oscar has to stop off for a meeting. Waiting in the car, Jude realises that the place they have arrived at is the tower that she saw in her vision of the woman. She explores while Oscar is distracted and meets a woman called Clara Leash, who tells her of the Tabula Rasa. The Tabula Rasa is a secret group that for centuries has been committed to eradicating all forms of magic from the Earth. The group is comprised of members of seven families, and that Oscar is a member of that group. Jude tells Clara about the woman in the basement, and she agrees to meet again to try and free her.
A few days later, Jude returns to the tower to meet with Clara. They search around the perimeter of the place, looking for a way in, when they meet Dowd, Oscar’s right hand man. Dowd kills Clara and takes Jude back to Oscar’s house. Now she really is a prisoner. She confronts Oscar and he agrees to take her to the Retreat and to show her the Imajica; he really has fallen in love with her and wants to keep her by his side. He does take her, but while crossing over to the Imajica, Dowd interferes. Jude sees Oscar’s face covered in blood, then Dowd leering at her before she loses consciousness.
She wakes up in the home of Peccable, a merchant of curios from her domino who had worked for a long time with Oscar. Peccable is not home, but his daughter, Hoi Polloi, is. There is civil war raging in the city, and Hoi Polloi is afraid. There is a storm coming, fighting in the streets, and the girl has to shut up the house. For the moment, Jude is trapped in the house with Dowd.
Once the storm passes, Dowd decides to leave the city and means to take Jude with him. Jude tries to persuade Hoi Polloi to leave with them, but she refuses to leave without her father. So it is that Jude finds herself wandering the broken streets of Yzzorderex in the company of Dowd, with unrest raging all around her. In the midst of all of this, Jude is passed by a great procession of soldiers bearing a palanquin. When the curtains part as the palanquin is dropped, Jude comes face to face with her mirror image. The woman she fleetingly encounters is Quaisoir, the Aurarch’s cruel paramour, on her way to view the day’s executions. Jude resolves to meet this woman who has her face, and discover all about her sister.
In the tumult on the streets, Jude is parted from Dowd and she decides to climb the hill to the Autarch’s palace. Once inside, she finds her way to Quasiour’s apartments and the woman herself, a drugged and paranoid harridan. She falls asleep in Quaisoir’s bed, and is woken by Gentle. They make love on the bed, neither lover knowing that the other is not the person they think.
Here it is that Quaissoir is blinded, and in her weakened state she explains how Jude came to be. Two hundred years before, Quaisoir had been married to Joshua Godolphin, but a man named the Maestro Sartori had become enchanted with her, and she had fallen in love with him. In return for his part in the Reconciliation, Sartori had requested Godolphin’s wife. Being a fair man, Sartori had created a double which would love Godolphin for the rest of his life. Jude was that double, but there had also been an unintended consequence of the working: Sartori had also created a double of himself, the Autarch.
Quaissoir persuades Jude to take her into the city, to find her “Man of Sorrows,” but instead they find Dowd. He tries to kill Jude, but Quaissoir kills him. They return to the palace and Quaissoir retires to a room between the Pivot Tower, a receptacle of prayers which a monolith within the tower collects from all over the dominion and the source of the Autarch’s preternatural ability to know all the goings on in the Imajica.
Meanwhile, the city is in uprising and the people are marching on the Autarch’s Palace. Gentle arrives and finds himself in his brother’s palace, where he seeks the Autarch out. They find each other and battle through the palace, but the Autarch flees. Gentle finds the Pivot… and both Jude and Quaissoir. Now, Gentle resolves to destroy the Pivot and does so, breaking it with pneuma. In the midst of the destruction, Quaissoir refuses to leave the room under the tower and is killed as the Pivot Tower falls. With Gentle bereft, injured, and exhausted, the pair return to their own Dominion at last.
Jude takes Gentle back to his studio before returning to her own apartment. After sleep, she is invited to another party at Gentle’s old employer’s house, Chester Klein. When she arrives, Gentle is there and looking rested and much the better for sleep. They leave together and return to her apartment together. After a night of passion, Gentle leaves on business; he is ready to build an empire now and begins to act very strangely, but Jude overlooks this. Upon returning, he finds the blue stone and takes it from Jude. This is when Jude knows that this Gentle, who she has taken into her heart and into her bed, is not her Gentle, but the Autarch Sartori… and that she is now pregnant with his child.
While Sartori is out on his empire building business, Jude meets Oscar Goldolphin and returns to the tower. They go straight to the basement in search of the goddess trapped behind the walls, but are disturbed by the sound of an intruder. Oscar goes off to investigate, and Dowd appears, back from the dead. He kills Oscar and advances on Jude, not knowing that there is a being of power in the basement with them. The wall begins to dissolve to reveal the goddess, and he makes a fatal error… he touches her. In a rage, the goddess kills Dowd and asks Jude to find her son, Sartori.
Meanwhile, the real Gentle has returned to a place he barely remembers, a house he once occupied when he was the Maestro Sartori. The house on Gamut Street is filled with ghosts from his past, and all of them confront him as he tours the rooms of his old home. At last, he is met by a demon called Little Ease, an emissary of Gentle’s twin sent to waylay him. In one fell swoop, Little Ease opens Gentle’s mind and all of Gentle’s memories of his past lives, which have been forgotten, flood back in and makes him crazy. Little Ease sends him on his confused and shambling way back into the world.
Alone and addled, not knowing even his name, Gentle wanders the streets of London and falls in with a group of homeless people. Among their number is a boy who draws with charcoal; Gentle takes them and begins drawing on the walls, the floors… every surface he can find. He is drawing a map of the Imajica, if only he could remember what it was.
While all this is going on, Jude and Gentle’s friend Clem is searching for the real Gentle. Taylor has returned from the dead and told Clem that Gentle has returned and he is going to do something wonderful. Clem volunteers with a soup kitchen in the evenings. On one of these evenings feeding the homeless, Clem finds pictures drawn in pastels all over the pavement and walls, pictures that could only have been drawn by Gentle. He follows the trail of artwork and finds the man himself, and realises that he has lost his mind… or rather, rediscovered too much of his mind. They walk together, Clem trying to find Gentle in among the ramblings as the night draws on. Eventually, at dawn, they come back to the camp and hear giggling from one of the sleeping vagrants. Clem’s partner, Taylor, is in the light and speaks through the boy, Monday. It Taylor is that reminds Gentle of who he is and what it is that he is made to do; he is all of the things that he remembers, and he is the Reconciler. Together with Monday they return to the house on Gamut Street, where Gentle confronts the ghosts and embarks on his first reconciliation, that between his past failures and fallen friends, before making plans for the rite that will realign the Imajica.
Jude also arrives at Gamut Street with the ailing goddess Celestine. Gentle is preoccupied by the preparations for the reconciliation, but is persuaded to talk with the woman. She tells him a story that she told him as a child, the take of Nissi Nirvana. It is, of course, her story. Gentle comes to understand his own nature from the story: he is the son of Happexamendios himself, who raped Celestine and left her in her madness. Celstine tells her story, then passes away with her son in her arms.
As the time draws near, Jude begins to have reservations about the reconciliation, and decides that she must stop the working, finally siding with Sartori against Gentle. As Gentle is preparing for the rite, he finds that Jude has sabotaged the working and throws her out before finding the stones that will form the circle that he needs to perform the deed. He throws his mind out and visits the other maestros in the other dominions, making sure that the working is safe before they begin. Then, they begin the reconciliation, imagining themselves as the dominions that they represent. All seems to be going well until Gentle is pulled from the circle and attacked. Sartori has found his way to Gamut Street and is intent on destroying both the reconciliation and Gentle. A fight ensues, and this time Gentle is victorious and kills his brother. The reconciliation has taken on its own momentum, restructuring the Imajica and opening doors to bring the dominions back together.
In dismay and disgust at her own actions and anger at Gentle for being the man that he was, and is, Jude returns to Yzzorderex and finds it much changed. The goddesses have taken over the Autarch’s palace, and they take Jude in as one of their own.
In the aftermath of the Reconciliation, Gentle realises that he has one more task before him. The First Dominion, the home of his father, is still separate from the rest of the dominions. To be truly reconciled, he must tear down the walls that his father has put up. Once again, Gentle travels through the Imajica and enters the first dominion, finding his father in a city forgotten. Happexamendios reveals himself to Gentle, forgetting his own shape as he manifests himself and appearing as a mismatched and hideous thing. In the confrontation between father and son, Gentle reminds Happexamendios of his sins against Celestine, and the god becomes enraged. He sends out a killing fire across the dominions to destroy the woman, but he has forgotten… the Imajica is a circle, and so the killing fire returns and strikes the god down himself. At the death of Happexamendios, the First Dominion is revealed as a rotting, disease infected place… and in the ruins of this hell, Gentle is reunited with his love, Pie’Oh’Pah.
At the end, Gentle resolves to travel and make a map of the Imajica, a work of art that can never be complete, and will be ever changing… at last, he has purpose.
Imajica was a story that stretched Barker’s ambitions almost to breaking point, the one story that Barker thought he may not have the skill to complete. It has stood as his Lord of the Rings for many readers in the years since its publication. Still, Barker didn’t see this as the peak of his creativity… there were still many more stories to tell, but he had regained control that he felt he had lost with his foray into Hollywood, and now he decided it was time to move back into that circle.
1992 would see Barker move back into Hollywood circles, but not before he took another gamble with his literary career and stuck a further thumb in the eye of critics and readers who still mistakenly labelled Barker a horror writer. This time, Clive decided to release a children’s tale, The Thief of Always, written as he was also creating Imajica.
Barker did have history of writing children’s stories, although none of them had seen publication. The Candle in the Cloud and The Adventures of Maximillian Bacchus… had been written years before, and very much directed toward young adult readers, but his publishers wouldn’t know that. It was indeed a huge gamble for a writer known for writing erotically charged, dark tales to branch out into children’s fiction, but that is precisely what Barker was proposing. It was perhaps a testament to the level that he had risen to that his publishers did not dismiss the idea out of hand; they purchased The Thief of Always for a single dollar, which offered the author much more in the way of royalties. As Clive himself quipped earlier this year to a fan at a convention: “It turned out to be a terrible business decision; it is now available in forty languages… it just shows that the experts don’t always know everything.”
His publishers didn’t skimp on the release, making 100,000 hardback copies available in the US alone. In the 27 years since its publication, The Thief of Always has enchanted a great many younger readers (including my own daughter, who still counts it as one of her favourite books), and has been optioned for movie rights many times, although a finished movie has yet to emerge.
The Thief of Always is also notable as the first book to feature Clive Barker’s artwork within its pages, belying an ambition that would reach its apotheosis with the Abarat series. Of course, Barker’s artwork adorned later printings of Books of Blood and books by other authors, but this was the most extensive use of his artwork yet… and proved to be a talking point and attraction of the book for many years to come. The positive reaction to his artwork led to more work being exhibited in 1993, and a tentative step into the world of art in general. It was a world that Barker mistrusted, and so chose his exhibitors with great care, but was also a pursuit that he found fulfilling over the years.
So it was that The Thief of Always became an important entry in the Barker canon for many reasons: an illustration of the creative freedom that he had won, proof that Barker could sell books in many genres, and that his visual art also had an audience. In one book, Barker had cemented himself as a true visionary and dreamer.
Like Weaveworld and Imajica before it, The Thief of Always opens with a line that could hook even the most sceptical of readers: “The Great Grey Beast February had eaten Harvey Swick whole…”
It was a line which evoked the childhood desperation of boring, rainy days in pre-spring, when there is little to do but watch the rain dripping down the windowpane and dreaming of summer. This is precisely what Harvey Swick is feeling in the opening pages of the book, and like many parents, his mother offers him the same advice that my mother often gave me: “Don’t dream your life away.” Like the opening line, it is a statement which speaks of the whole while seeming an everyday, throwaway comment.
In the midst of his boredom, Harvey is visited by the strange and oddly reminiscent of Shadwell (Weaveworld) Rictus. The man flies in through Harvey’s window and offers him the trip of a lifetime to the Holiday House. Harvey accepts the invitation readily, and travels across town with the man. He is confronted with a high wall which disappears into the February mists, but is really a portal into another world. On the other side of the wall is Wonderland, a place where all of his childish wishes come true. At the Holiday House, Harvey is met by the jovial Wendell, the more serious and melancholy Lulu, and the homely cook, Miss Griffin, and her three cats.
It soon becomes apparent that the Holiday House is truly a place of dreams where the mornings are spring days, where the daytime is all summer, evenings are autumn days and Halloween parties; night time is winter, with Christmas dinners and Thanksgiving suppers. Harvey tests the claim that all his wishes can come true here, and wishes for a long lost toy ark to be returned to him. That night he is given a Christmas gift, and unwrapping it finds the toy that he wished for, exact in every imperfect particular. The Holiday House was everything that Rictus had told him it was… and much more.
Exploring the Wonderland, Harvey discovers that the place isn’t all about pleasant dreams. Beyond a gnarled hedge, Walden, Lulu, and Harvey discover an old pond filled with fish that Harvey instantly dislikes, swimming round the pond as if waiting for one of them to fall in. He loses his toy ark in the depths of the pond, but doesn’t mourn its loss for long. Harvey also meets Rictus’ nightmarish brothers: Jive, Marr, and Carna. He is told that the owner and builder of the house, Mr. Hood, only wants special children in his Holiday Home, and that Harvey is one of them.
That night, Marr turns Harvey into a vampire as a joke to be played on Wendell. Harvey delights in his newfound powers of flight, swooping down on the frightened Wendell, but rebuffs Marr’s suggestion that Harvey should taste Wendell’s blood.
Harvey is disturbed by these events, realising that happiness and fun comes at a price. He understands that the fun cannot last forever, embodied by Lulu, who has been at the House the longest and is quickly turning into one of its own creatures. He begins to see similarities between Lulu and the fish in the pond, resolving to escape as soon as possible.
Together, Harvey and Wendell follow one of Mrs. Griffin’s cats and find a way through the misty wall and back into the real world. They are pursued by Carna, but he cannot follow them far as reality injures him. Harvey wanders home, but the town feels somehow different to him after his experiences in the Wonderland. He arrives home and finds that his parents are grown old and sad; he has been missing for thirty years! It is only then that Harvey realises the terrible trick that has been played on him, that his time in the Holiday House has stolen time from his life, and the lives of all the other children that visited the place.
Harvey resolves to return to the Holiday House to reclaim that which has been stolen from him. He goes into the cellar and finds Mrs.Griffin in a coffin; she was the House’s first child victim and condemned to remain as housekeeper by her wish for immortality. It is Mrs.Griffin who finally tells Harvey of the nature of the House and its occupants. After freeing Mrs.Griffin, Harvey tracks down and destroys Marr, Jive, and Carna by showing them the nature of their own creation. Now he confronts Mr. Hood in the attic. Here it becomes apparent that the man is the evil of the house incarnate, a reflection of his own darkness. What ensues is a battle of wishes, as Harvey offers wish after wish, which Mr. Hood is bound to grant, and is destroyed. Hood’s destruction frees the children, all of whom were the fish in the pond which Harvey disliked, and all return to their own times.
Harvey returns home and finds his parents restored to youth. He tells them his fantastic story, but they don’t believe him. Desperate to be believed, Harvey takes them to the wall that had been the portal into the Wonderland where he meets and old man who confirms Harvey’s tale. The old man is Lulu’s husband, sent by her to thank Harvey for her release so many years before.
1992 also brought the world a new monster to rival the Freddies and Jasons of the horror world; a monster far more eloquent, intelligent, and darkly-scary than any of them: Candyman.
Based on “The Forbidden” from Books of Blood, Candyman is transported from the run down council estates of Liverpool to the Chicago projects and Cabrini Green. Usually, such transportations are a mere Hollywood flippancy, borne of a belief that audiences couldn’t possibly handle any scenario or story that doesn’t take place in America (because the US is, of course, the centre of the known world…). In the case of Candyman, it does add the dichotomy of a middle-class white woman exploring a largely African-American, lower class area of a big city which simply wouldn’t have been the same if it was set in Liverpool. This aside, and some embellishments to flesh out the characters a little more and offer the possibility of sequels, Candyman remained largely faithful to the original material. The addition of music by Phillip Glass in the soundtrack was a masterstroke; the haunting piano playing in counterpoint to the action lending increased atmosphere to each scene is truly remarkable and fitting with the tale being told on screen.
Clive Barker took a step back and relinquished control to Bernard Rose, who wrote and directed the movie. Barker acted as executive producer, offering his insights whenever they were requested. Rose remarked at the support that Clive gave him and the project, being open to changes that Rose wanted to make. Barker would say later that their minds were very similar, crafting fiction in much the same way, so it isn’t a surprise that they worked together so successfully.
Virginia Madsen plays Helen, the white, middle class university student writing a thesis of modern urban legends. It is her researcher, Bernadette, who recounts the tale of the hook-handed Candyman (reminiscent of Bloody Mary, for any British person who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s), who would appear and kill you if you looked into a mirror and uttered his name five times.
Helen continues her research, despite the dismissals of her lecherous and philandering husband, Trevor. During her research, she learn that there is a serial killer haunting the streets of Cabrini Green. Of course, Helen decides to investigate further.
On a drunken dare with her researcher, Helen looks into a mirror and utters Candman’s name five times, laughing it off as ridiculous horseplay.
In Cabrini Green, the pair discover an apartment where one of the murders allegedly took place, finding the slogan “sweets to the sweet” daubed on the wall. Investigating further, they discover a room given over as a shrine, the image of a screaming man painted around a door and offerings of bedsheets, chocolates, and bloody razorblades on the floor. When they leave the apartment, they meet one of the residents, Anne-Marie, who tells them about the killer they have dubbed Candyman.
That night, Helen holds a dinner party and tells her guests about her research. The overbearing and condescending Professor Purcell pontificates on a paper that he wrote a decade before on the subject of Candyman, detailing the character’s history. Legend tells them that in the 1800’s, a wealthy landowner commissioned a talented young artist (who happened to be a black man) to draw a picture of his daughter. Unfortunately for the artist, he fell in love with the girl. Hearing of the artist’s infatuation, the wealthy man hired a bunch of villains to exact revenge. They took him and sawed off his hand, daubing him with honey, and leaving him to be stung to death by bees. The artist’s body was burned and his ashes scattered on land that Cabrini Green is built upon, and remained to haunt the place ever since.
Helen isn’t convinced by the professor’s dismissal, and returns to Cabrini Green to photograph the graffiti in the apartment. While there she meets Jake, a young boy who lives in Cabrini Green. She asks the boy about Candyman, and he takes her to a public toilet where, according to stories in the area, a disabled youth was unmanned and left for dead. Inside the toilets she finds more Candyman-inspired graffiti and a toilet bowl filled with bees. She is disturbed by four youths, one of them wielding a hook, who attack her and leave her for dead. Later, she identifies one of her attackers in a police line-up and he is charged with the murders that have taken place in Cabrini Green. On a return visit to the estate, she reassured Jake that the Candyman isn’t real; that he is just a made up monster like Frankenstein. On her way home however, walking through a car park, Helen is disturbed by a shadow who calls her name, his deep voice silky and hypnotizing. “Helen… I came for you,” he says.
Out of the shadows steps the Candyman himself (played magnificently by Tony Todd), wearing a long coat over nineteenth century shirt and trousers. In her mind, Helen pictures the graffiti which she now understands are not simply memorials and shrines to an urban legend, but faithful representations of the man. He tells her that he had to meet her, because she wanted the truth behind the myths being told. He brandishes the hook and asks her to be his victim.
From here on, we are not in the realms of a straight-forward horror flick. Candyman’s eloquence and intelligence demands more, and he sets out his mission in the movie with one of the best speeches in horror cinema: “I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom. Without these things, I am nothing. So now I must shed innocent blood… Come with me.”
Helen faints, and wakes in Anne-Marie’s apartment with the severed head of a dog and a meat cleaver beside her. Anne-Marie attacks her, screaming about her missing baby and demanding that Helen return the child. In the fray, Helen wounds Anne-Marie with the meat cleaver, just as police burst into the room and see Helen with the weapon. Of course, they arrest Helen and take her to the jailhouse.
She is bailed out of jail by Trevor and returns home, where she is again confronted by Candyman. Now he tells her that either she must die, or Anne-Marie’s baby will be killed. He wants Helen to become legend, just like him, to be immortal. Bernadette interrupts the conversation, and Candyman kills her, leaving the knife behind to incriminate Helen once again. Now the police confine Helen to a mental institution, but she isn’t safe from the Candyman even there. He lavishes her with more seductions, promising that she will always be remembered if only she will become his victim.
Helen wakes from sedation weeks later, finding that she has been charged with the murder of her researcher. She tells her story to a psychiatrist, who confirms that she is crazy. The Candyman appears then, cutting the man open, and telling Helen that she is his before freeing her.
Helen shambles home, still fuzzy headed from sedation and finding that Trevor has moved one of his young students into the house. They are redecorating, wiping away any trace of Helen’s existence in the place. Trevor attempts to justify himself, but Helen tells him that it’s all over; meaning both their relationship… and her life.
She returns to Cabrini once more, back to the abandoned apartment with the graffiti and the shrine. She finds the place much changed, now adorned with frescoes which tell the story of Candyman on every wall. She finds the man himself, sleeping on a bier in one of the rooms and attacks him, but only awakens him. She offers herself in return for the child, and Candyman accepts
With a kiss, Candyman disappears with the child, the walls now adorned with the words “It was always you, Helen,” and a portrait of his dead lover… who looks almost identical to Helen herself. From outside, she hears the cries of the child and rushes to a pile of detritus that has been built in the middle of the estate. She fights her way into the pile to retrieve the child, but the people of Cabrini Green douse the pile of rubbish with fuel and set it ablaze, believing that Candyman is inside. She realises now that she has been betrayed by him, and fights to save the child before the flames reach it. Candyman appears, and she impales him with a flaming stake, fighting her way through the inferno to get the baby out. Burned, her hair gone, she finally bursts from the flames and lays the baby at Anne-Marie’s feet before she falls to the floor dead.
In typical Hollywood fashion, the way must be left open for a sequel, and Candyman does not escape from that tradition. At Helen’s graveside stands Trevor, Purcell, and Trevor’s new girlfriend. As they lower Helen’s coffin into the ground, the residents of Cabrini Green arrive at the graveside to pay their respects to their fallen hero, and Jake throws a scorched hook… Candyman’s hook… onto her coffin.
Later that night, Trevor is in the bathroom mourning Helen. We see his new girlfriend in the kitchen, chopping up steak with a sharp knife, and she calls to her lover. Trevor turns to the bathroom mirror, sobbing as he calls Helen’s name five times. Helen appears behind him, hook in hand. She guts Trevor and leaves his corpse for the girlfriend to find, and for the police to find her.
Candyman was Barker’s return to horror, and much like Hellraiser it was a success. Bernard Rose was approached to write a sequel, for which he decided to recall another Books of Blood story, The Midnight Meat Train. In Rose’s version, the audience would be transported to London’s Whitechapel where murders oddly reminiscent of the Jack the Ripper killings were happening again. The movie would flash back and forth from the original 1880’s killings to the present day events, ending with the main characters on a train full of human meat. The producers hated this pitch, and Barker himself was convinced that The Midnight Meat Train could be made into its own standalone movie, and so that version of the Candyman sequel was never made. Instead, Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh was made in 1995, with Candyman 3: Day of the Dead appearing in 1997.
Barker had returned to Hollywood, although not as director, and proven that his stories could make successful movies if treated faithfully and with respect. To a degree, it was vindication after the hell that he had experienced with Nightbreed.
Come back tomorrow for Part 4 of this fantastic retrospective on Clive Barker.
Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.
In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.
In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.