By Jerome Reuter
Today I finished reading Clive Barkers latest work, The Scarlet Gospels. What he began several years earlier in The Hellbound Heart has reached its inevitable conclusion. At last, we have the final end to the Hell priest, better known as Pinhead. For decades, the order of the Gash has been a fixation of many horror fans. Now, they have been officially laid to rest.
Ever since the release of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Pinhead has continued to remerge in several sequels. Some of these have been better than others, but still do not live up to the first two film installments. As I’ve stated before, the first two films established a mythology. However, the never-ending parade of sequels turned it into a franchise. Pinhead just became another Freddie, or a Jason. Mythologies have always been reinterpreted, and adapted for new audiences since the days of Horace. In the case of the Hellraiser series, everything had completely drifted away from Barker’s original ideas. Therefore, who better than the creator of the mythology to bring it to a proper conclusion?
I’ve read several reviews of this text, some of which have not been exactly favorable. Most of this is the crossover with detective Harry D’Amour. (From The Last illusion, Weaveworld and Everville) However, I think it’s quite an ingenious move, to pair two completely different characters from Barker’s pantheon of work. Both stories in the book intercede yet contrast with one another. Playing out like an Ingmar Bergman film, the book contrasts two entirely different plots, and brings them together at exactly the right moment.
Going back to Hellbound: Hellraiser II, there’s one element in this book that took my breath away; the depiction of Hell itself. In that film we were shown the mysterious God of the Cenobites, Leviathan. In The Scarlett Gospels, we’re given a vivid description of what Barker’s vision of Hell is. From its fauna and flora to the buildings that haunt the bizarre landscape. Aside from that, we learn about the inner workings of the Order of the Gash. Our imaginations help create the monastery from where the Cenobites do their work, and the hierarchy that makes up the order. We also find out how they come to an abrupt and sudden end. (No, I’m not giving it away, read the book to find out.)
Weather you loved or hated this book, one thing is completely certain. You have to pay your respect to Barker. He established a mythology, and chose to bring it to a conclusion on his own terms.
“We have never heard the Devil’s side of the story,
God wrote the entire book“
– Anatole France