<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - THE SCARLET GOSPELS ]]>Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:16:45 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW : THE SCARLET GOSPELS]]>Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:48:10 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/horror-fiction-review-the-scarlet-gospelsPicture
The Scarlet Gospels Review

Note: This review was written independently of any other, and  indeed before I read any of the other Gingernuts Of Horror reviews. Any repetition is therefore coincidental and unintentional.

And so the path to The Scarlet Gospel ends with Clive Barkers newest tome: billed as the final story of Pinhead, and also starting fan favourite Harry D'Amour.

Where to start?

I guess the first thing to say is that I really enjoyed this book. The story is really a two-hander, with Harry and Pinhead as the main point of view characters. Harry I found to be as compelling as ever – reluctant heroism paired with an unhealthy fascination/desire to face down the darkness. His supporting cast of friends were also a fun bunch, though I have to confess to finding them to be amongst interchangeable at points, especially during the dialogue heavy sections. Still, it was good to see Harry in a more social context, moving beyond his stock noir loner detective roots to an ever more rounded character, and his development throughout the story I found both compelling and surprising.

In many ways, however, Pinhead's journey was the more compelling, for me. It's worth noting that this is very much Clive Barker's vision of The Hell Priest, rather than the movie version of the character. Though my mind initially superimposed Doug Bradley's face and voice over proceedings, it quickly became apparent this was a very different character. The Hell Priest of The Scarlet Gospels is a vicious sadist who clearly enjoys his work far more than the aloof, indifferent master of pain depicted in the films. Whilst The Scarlet Gospels opens in powerfully cinematic fashion, our lead villain is a very different beast – accepting the character on the terms of the novel made him fresh to me, and made the rest of the journey hugely more enjoyable. 

As someone who is not a huge fan of metafiction, in general, I personally didn't enjoy the notion that The Hell Priest disliked his Pinhead nickname – it felt a little to cute, to me, a little bit too explicitly Clive Barker saying 'knock it off, you guys!'. That said, it did serve as a useful character note. 

For me, the other star of the story is Clive Barker's own vision of Hell. Leaning on Dante for mood, but entirely original in form and scope, I found there to be a ton of Barker's trademark grotesque fantastic in his descriptions of both the place and the population. There were times that it got a little one note, for me, a perhaps unavoidable symptom of the setting for the story (and I'm certainty glad we didn't end up with the original 1000 page draft Barker claims to have written).  Nevertheless, there we some moment, scenes, and locations I found to be darkly fascinating, with flashes of that old genius.

There's plenty of movie gore type violence throughout, and again Barker manages to be explicit (and at times pleasingly gross) without crossing over into tedium. I also found the ending to be very satisfying. I'll be very interested to see how the events of this novel play out in a final book of the art, should such a novel ever arrive.

It's clearly not up there with Barker's best work – it didn't have the epic scope of The Great and Secret Show, or quite the elegance and intimacy of The Hellbound Heart. Oddly, in many ways it's Clive Barker writing pulp action horror, albeit with two of his most beloved creations at the core of that action. I think if you can accept it on those terms, there's a really good time to be had here, because a lot of the other trademark Barker elements are present and correct. 

I think my bottom line is I'm still pretty overjoyed to have a new Barker novel on my shelf, and it was certainly good enough to make me hope we won't have to wait quite so long for the next one. At the end of the day, 'Not quite top-drawer Barker' is praising with awfully faint damnation...


<![CDATA[THE SCARLET GOSPELS : A REVIEW BY ADAM MILLARD]]>Wed, 03 Jun 2015 15:30:03 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/the-scarlet-gospels-a-review-by-adam-millardPicture
The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker


After years of anticipation, this month saw the release of Clive Barker’s long-overdue novel, The Scarlet Gospels, featuring two of his most illustrious characters. No, not Rawhead Rex and Candy Quackenbush – though that might have made for a much more entertaining read. This book sees the return of hard-drinking private investigator (you pictured Scott Bakula, didn’t you?) Harry D’Amour, and the Hell Priest (AKA Don’t Call Me Pinhead). So surely this is going to be a masterpiece of epic proportions, right? Right?

The first four chapters would lead you to believe so, as six High Circle magicians, one of whom has just been resurrected against his will, are tortured and humiliated by a never-more-poetic Hell Priest. No amount of pleading can save these poor bastards as Pinhead (let’s just get it out of the way now) calls upon his hooks and turns them into something you would normally find on a side-plate at a hillbilly barbecue. One of them, Felixson, is fortunate to be spared, only to reappear in a later chapter as a mangled creature whose sole purpose is to follow Pinhead around telling him how pretty he isn’t.

With those four chapters out of the way – and bloody good they were, too – we catch up with Harry D’Amour, who is having a miserable night out at his local bar, celebrating his birthday in the only way he knows how. Several flashbacks and a couple of was-it-a-dream?’s later, Harry is contacted by the only friend he has, Norma “black, blind, and 63” Paine, who has been visited by a ghost going by the name of Carston Goode. Goode, it seems, was something of a deviant in life, which is evident when Harry head over to his house and rifles through his knicker drawers, only to find that little box of pain and pleasure, Lemarchand’s Puzzle Box – not to be confused with the equally painful, Rubik’s Cube.

All’s well and good. Harry knows that the box can’t open itself, so everything is…wait a demon-summoning minute. The box has learned how to open itself, and before you can say “Jesus wept” Harry is standing with one foot in Hell, staring into the face of the legendary Pinhead. After surviving that encounter, barely, Harry is drawn back into Hell after Pinhead steals his best friend Norma “black, blind, and 63” Paine and takes her on a whirlwind tour of Pyratha – like Rome, only without all the Romans knocking about the place.

What follows is essentially two-hundred or so pages of cat-and-mousery (if it’s not a word, it should be), with Pinhead just a few steps ahead, leaving dead demons in his wake for Harry and his ragtag band of Harrowers – seriously? Do they do cover songs at weddings? – to trip over. One member of the band tells jokes so terrible, he ought to go it alone as a pub comedian.

And that is part of the problem with The Scarlet Gospels. It’s too light-hearted, with quips coming thicker and faster than at a Tim Vine gig. Surely, if you were in Hell, surrounded by demons and the like, the last thing you’d be doing is plunging into your brain for an innuendo that would make Frankie Howerd blush. It’s hard to care for characters who don’t care enough for their own safety to quit with the jesting and concentrate on the task at hand.

Another problem is Pinhead’s objective. What does he want with Harry D’Amour in the first place? It quickly becomes apparent that the Hell Priest (or Pinfuck as Harry affectionately calls him) requires someone to take notes as he butchers his way through Hell. Surely there are millions of temps out there willing to take the job for less than minimum wage and on a zero-hours contract? The fact that Harry seldom witnesses any of Pinhead’s brutal undertakings is irrelevant.

When Odd Thomas and The Scooby Gang finally catch up to Pinhead, he’s pulling swords out of a long-dead (suicide, of course) Lucifer and preparing to take over Hell with his own brand of ruthlessness. The only trouble is, in removing said swords, the Morning Star is revived and not in the best of moods. There’s a bit of a punch-up, which Harry doesn’t see as he’s running in the opposite direction, followed by a fifty-page ending in which Harry is blinded, but it’s okay because he can now see the ghosts his friend Norma “black, blind, and 63” Paine once had to tolerate every living hour, so, swings and roundabouts…

After all that, and though it might sound like it, The Scarlet Gospels is not terrible. There is plenty of action in Hell, with demons falling left, right, and centre, and some of the imagery will stick with you long after you finish, particularly those opening chapters. The sequence in which we are dragged back to Harry and Norma’s first meeting is particularly well done, and Felixson’s demise is another noteworthy moment. Barker’s version of Hell, however, does come across as a slightly worse off Dudley City Centre with its lack of fire and brimstone, but perhaps that is what it is truly like, and this reviewer will no doubt find out soon enough.

Overall, The Scarlet Gospels is not bad; it’s just not the poetic, intricate, profound piece of work we have come to expect from such a visionary author.


<![CDATA[THE SCARLET GOSPELS : A REVIEW]]>Thu, 28 May 2015 09:39:33 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/the-scarlet-gospels-a-reviewSCARLET GOSPELS REVIEW PictureTHE SCARLET GOSPELS REVIEW
I suspect that whether you enjoy this book will really depend on whether you come at it with preconceived ideas or not.

If we forget about the author for a moment, this is a nice little horror book. The first third is certainly fantastic. The middle section is slightly badly paced. The ending is rather disappointing but overall you’ve come away from it feeling that it was a good read. There were some nice ideas, some brilliant imagery and some entertaining characters.

Now let’s consider this in the light of it being written by Clive Barker, author of “Books of Blood”, “The Hellbound Heart”, “Everville” and the Abarat series, to name just a few. In “The Scarlet Gospels” are two of his previous characters: Harry D’Amour and Pinhead. Let’s take them in that order.

We last met Harry in “Everville”, an astounding novel and one I highly recommend that you read if you haven’t already. I read it recently so that Harry’s character and back story were fresh in my mind. At the end of “Everville”, Harry confronts and destroys something that has terrorised him from the first. I was very interested to see what new challenges Barker would set for Harry in “The Scarlet Gospels”. I was a little disappointed as to where he ended up and the journey he took to get there. In “Everville”, he was a character that seemed to attract trouble but beat it back, sometimes at great cost. In “The Scarlet Gospels”, he attracts the worst sort of trouble: Pinhead.

So, before I continue, let’s consider Pinhead’s background as well. This is far more varied having appeared in “The Hellbound Heart”, eight films and several comics. His character and background isn’t static, but is moulded to fit the medium of the moment. But perhaps one feature which is constant throughout is his power. Admittedly, as the bad guy, he’s usually always bested by the hero/heroine, but to all others he is death and pain incarnate.

These are two iconic characters of the genre and I was salivating at the idea of them coming head to head, yet the book wasn’t close to what I’d hoped for. Their encounters took up a tiny proportion of the book and their confrontations lacked any particular menace or meaning. Harry seems to swear an awful lot – not that this offended me, but I felt it was rather out of character. Harry is also almost entirely reactive rather than proactive, which makes his character feel a little weak.

As for Pinhead, he gets off to a glorious start in the first chapter. I read of his first kills with morbid glee, strangely being more horrified by what he did to the one he kept alive than what he did to those he killed. And his subsequent mutiny is vividly described then executed like clockwork. But after that he starts to have doubts, and fears. This is not the Pinhead I know, the one who slaughters and dominates wherever he goes, only to bested by a worthy opponent. By the end, I felt little interest the character beyond a need for closure.

Considering the novel overall, I found that, if divided into three parts, it could be summarised as: brilliant, slightly above average and disappointing. For the first part, the pacing is perfect: there is danger and respite in equal measure, and we get to see Harry doing what he does best. His first encounter with Pinhead sets the scene for what promises to be a rollercoaster ride of cat-and-mouse games. But the novel fails to deliver on that promise. From the moment Harry and his companions step into Hell, the constant peril starts becoming monotonous. I liked Barker’s vision of Hell, but the characters seem to race through it all, avoiding the need for the vivid descriptions that filled “Everville”.

So, all in all, this book is a decent read, but it’s not Barker’s finest. It reads almost as if it’s setting up a further book with a different villain (whose name I won’t give to avoid spoilers). I can only hope that the next novel is as vibrant and engaging as I’ve come to expect from Barker.



<![CDATA[The Feminine Mystique in Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II]]>Mon, 25 May 2015 16:55:17 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/the-feminine-mystique-in-hellraiser-and-hellbound-hellraiser-iiHELLRAISER REVIEW Picture
“The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States” (15). 

Published in 1962, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique sought to expose the existential crises that forced millions of white, upper-middle class, American women to live in a haze of depression, disillusionment, and despair. As such, the bestselling book was both controversial and critically acclaimed. Its publication and popularity marked a significant turning point in American history, particularly sexual politics. Reactions to The Feminine Mystique fueled the Sexual Revolution of the late sixties and fomented the Women’s Movement throughout the seventies. 

While it may seem passé now, Friedan’s work — severely flawed as it is — for the first time provided otherwise privileged women with a way to articulate the deep sense of dislocation and loss experienced while simultaneously ‘having it all’; loving husband, spotless house, doting children, etc. Certainly, it was easy to see why it would be problematic for well-educated women to limit themselves to homemaking and domesticity while their husbands’ were out nurturing careers and socializing. There was a freedom to masculinity that women, no matter how skilled, smart, attractive, or fertile, could ever attain.

Twenty-five years later, after the establishment of Roe vs. Wade, the ratification of the Civil Rights Act, and the ending of the Vietnam War, the world was in significant social and economic upheaval. Conservative regimes ruled much of the Western world and their fiscal policies and cultural ideologies resulted in massive societal unrest. Economic recessions, political corruption, and widespread poverty, were just a few of several interconnected large-scale problems that shaped men and women’s daily lives. Such unrest was most often countered by direct political action but also in the subcultures and countercultures that sought to upend social norms. After the radicalism of the sixties, and the idealism of the seventies, the eighties were all about individualism, excess, and empire. Communism clearly didn’t work, socialism wasn’t much better, and in the unstable neoliberal free market of post-Cold War capitalism, the most rational thing to do was simply, ‘take the money and run’.

Amid this milieu, Hellraiser was born. To suggest that Liverpudlian ‘Imagineer’ Clive Barker intentionally and specifically situated his family tragedy of pain, pleasure, loss, and betrayal among the aforementioned cultural backdrop is a bit presumptuous. However, like all effective speculative fiction, there is something of the real world reflected or refracted in the otherworldly escapades that unfold. In Hellraiser, with its cheeky working title, Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave and the lesser known but all the more significant title, What a Woman Wouldnt Do for a Good Fuck, Barker gives a wholly transgressive answer to the question of what happens when a woman’s potential is squashed by society’s normative forces. In Hellhound: Hellraiser II viewers are then presented with the consequences of such transgression, consequences that originally suggest the capacity for unlimited (or at least, vast) power, provided necessary sacrifices are made.


 Hellraiser, or The Unhappy Housewife Unleashes Hell

In the case of Hellraiser, viewers are asked to consider the existence of one Julia Cotton. At first glance, her background is little more than implication and insinuation, all of it connected to either her oblivious husband Larry or her lover and brother in law, Frank. Initially, this might seem like an oversight on behalf of the writer— the beautiful female character has no real connection to the narrative outside of the two male leads — but considering the sociopolitical context of the time, Barker’s characterization of Julia is a powerful indictment of the empty excesses of the eighties. As Friedan writes in The Feminine Mystique, “American housewives can be given the sense of identity, purpose, creativity, the self-realization, even the sexual joy they lack — by the buying of things” (208). 

It is clear from the opening scenes of the film once the Cotton’s arrive at 55 Ludovico Place, that Julia is ill-at-ease in her newly acquired roles of mother and wife. Viewers don’t know what Julia’s life was like before Larry and Kirsty, but the tension between the triad is evident the moment the three interact. Kirsty Cotton clearly despises her (and the sentiment is largely mutual) while whatever closeness she and Larry once shared has been all but shattered after an afternoon spent with Frank atop her wedding dress in their marriage bed. The notorious lovemaking scenes between Julia and Frank show two people completely raw for one another, while Larry’s entreaties for sex only occur when Julia pretends to be scared of the thunder (in an attempt to conceal skinless Frank’s presence in the attic). Certainly, Frank’s sexual appetites are perverse as his desire for Julia is grounded in some level of sibling rivalry, but Frank also enjoys the power of destroying Julia’s cold and reserved facade. It is only with Frank (initially) that Julia is able to experience depths of being and heights of sensation formerly unknown. Frank is attracted to those unseeable, unrecognized aspects of Julia’s personality; Larry is primarily attracted to her girlish vulnerability.  

While Larry is dutifully conforming to societal norms concerning masculinity and material gain, Julia is discovering that all those things she previously lacked; a ‘sense of identity, purpose, creativity, self-realization and sexual joy’ are a mere hammer’s swipe away. As Julia’s sexual obsession with Frank grows, so too does her lust for killing. Soon, it becomes clear after the first kill that Julia is no longer seducing strangers just to feed Frank, she is leading them to their excruciating demise because she enjoys it. 

This is nowhere more apparent than when Julia and Frank re-consummate their relationship while Frank is wearing his dead brother’s skin. Julia, re-invigorated from the encounter, teases Kirsty once she returns from the hospital. Encouraging her to step into the attic to view the skinless body believed to be Frank, Julia is almost giddy once Frank (wearing Larry's skin) begins his menacing pursuit of Kirsty. Once they are all cornered on the steps of the crumbling home, Julia holds Kirsty while Frank attempts to stab her. However, Kirsty maneuvers away from them both and Frank drains Julia instead. As he exsanguinates her, Julia cries, “Not me!” to which Frank callously responds, “Nothing personal, baby.”  

Hellbound: Hellraiser II or A Womans Place is in the Labyrinth 


Julia Cotton returns via the bloodied mattress that held her corpse in the first film. From it, she emerges a skinless horror in a bizarre mockery of birth, orchestrated by occult practitioner and psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Channard. Dr. Channard’s curiosity about the Lament Configuration has lead him to perform several terrible acts; firstly allowing an unstable patient to cut himself repeatedly on the bloodstained mattress to resurrect Julia, then allowing the mute patient Tiffany to solve the puzzle-box and potentially incur the wrath of the Cenobites. 

Similar to the events in Hellraiser, for Julia to return to her complete state she must be supplied with living bodies to drain dry. Channard, infatuated with Julia — who is again using her skills at seduction to meet her ultimate goals — kidnaps young women whom Julia is more than happy to deplete. When Julia encounters Kyle she leads him to Channard’s attic, filled with desiccated bodies hanging from the ceiling. Kyle, entirely shocked by the revelations about his beloved mentor, is in the perfectly vulnerable state for Julia to strike. She tells him, “Come to Mother,” and weakened by the horrors around him and unable to resist the gorgeous and dangerous Julia, he does. She empties him, and moments later Kirsty discovers Julia, resurrected.

The two face off, and Julia backhands Kirsty into momentary unconsciousness. Free from potential disruptions, Julia and Channard take Tiffany (who has opened the Configuration) into the void opened by the malevolent mechanism. Channard’s curiosity, coupled with his undeniable attraction to skinless Julia — featured in perhaps one of the most disturbing kisses ever captured on screen — provides him with the opportunity to explore the Labyrinth; home of dark god Leviathan, an oblong shape that blasts black light across an endless maze. 

As Channard is drenched in the black light which reveals his early surgical investigations on small animals, his involvement in the murder of Tiffany’s mother, and his experimentations on human subjects, Julia introduces him to “Leviathan! Lord of the Labyrinth!” Still reeling from Leviathan’s power, Julia identifies herself as a servant of the Cenobites’ god, explaining that she was chosen to deliver human souls back to the deity. Channard realizes too late that he has been set up, as the Pillar of Souls arises from the void and begins its agonizing process of turning him into a Cenobite. Throughout this entire sequence, this Julia is much different than the Julia of the first film. Here, she is confident, purposeful, exacting, and calculating. In Hellraiser, Julia Cotton is simply a murderess, killing to bring back her lover from the dead. However, in Hellbound: Hellraiser II she is no longer working on anyone’s behalf but her own, bringing souls back to Leviathan, a god that she has decided to serve. Julia’s purpose is not just concrete, it is now given a spiritual dimension as well, a philosophical motivation that transgresses the basic moral and ethical codes of not just patriarchal society, but civilization itself. 

After momentarily dispatching Dr. Channard, Julia encounters skinless Frank. Trapped in a hell of untouchable phantasmic women, Julia meets Frank at perhaps his lowest point. Spurned by Kirsty’s advances, his flesh burned away, he believes that the woman in Julia’s skin is the same lovesick woman he stabbed and left for dead in the house on Ludovico Place. 

However, Julia tricks him into believing that she still loves him and instead, literally rips his heart out. After doing so she holds the slow-beating organ in her hands and reassures Frank that it’s, “Nothing personal, babe.” 

Later, Julia is destroyed (?) by Kirsty and Tiffany. Yet, in the audio commentary for Hellbound: Hellraiser II writer Peter Atkins states that in the original script Julia’s character was meant to survive and emerge as the fully realized Queen of Hell. 

While Clare Higgins’ refusal to appear in any additional Hellraiser films changed the original ending of Hellbound, it is worth noting that both films are only peripherally about the interactions between the Cenobites and the unlucky humans who encounter them. While those exchanges are the most visually arresting, the narrative arcs run parallel to Julia’s transformation from unhappy housewife to infernal assassin. Julia Cotton’s feminine mystique in both films imply that if the world will not allow women the opportunities to realize their full potential, hell has never feared a woman’s scorn. 

By Paula Ashe

Follow the links below for our fabulous Scarlet Gospels celebration 



<![CDATA[MISTER B. GONE BY CLIVE BARKER]]>Mon, 25 May 2015 16:35:14 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/mister-b-gone-by-clive-barker

People don't like this book. Barker fans don't like this book. This is because it is not “Barker,” at least, not as the man's readership has come to expect. This has none of the weight or slow-building mythology of previous titles; none of the resonant metaphysics or deviant sexuality. This is an entirely different stripe of story; one that is written by a different man; one transformed by time and experience. That it is not what has gone before seems to be the principle criticism aimed at it; one that requires dissection to understand its illegitimacy: 

Taken on its face, Mr. B. Gone is a surreal experiment; one tonally and stylistically removed from anything Barker has ever attempted before. For one thing, it's funny; laugh out loud, at times; the vulgarity and obscenity mingled with a gallows humour, not least of which due to the narrating voice of book-bound demon, Jakabok Botch, who regards the world around him with a sardonic distance, as though his being constitutes little more than a metaphysical joke (the punchline of which comes with his ultimate fate, the product being the book itself). He is far, far removed from Barker's usual protagonists, who tend to be normal men or women who find their lives and presumptions turned upside down by the discovery of miracles (dark or otherwise). Jakabok, by contrast, is a demon; a lesser species of Hell-spawn, more pathetic than he is fearsome, perpetually manipulated, brutalised, swept along by events, until he eventually arrives at the state of nihilism that sees him bound; not even able to die and find some solace. Within his prison's pages, he recounts moments of bitterness and abuse; moments of revelation and affection; moments of sadism and obscenity (as befits his born nature), all of them co-mingled in an almost Gaiman-esque stew, the enjoyment of which depends on taking the work for what it is rather than what one demands of it. A rag-doll work, then; one comprised of various elements, all drawn from different sources and exhibiting different qualities. This can lend the whole affair a patchwork quality, especially when the tone shifts from scene to scene; romanticism shifting to abuse and abandonment, abuse and abandonment giving way to Barker's trademark philosophical observations. It is a work that requires readjustment of expectation to appreciate fully, not to mention the ability to separate oneself from desire (would it be wonderful to have a concluding book to Galilee or another instalment of The Books of the Art? Certainly, but one must bear in mind: the writer who created those is long gone; even if such works occurred, they would likely be closer in nature to Mr. B. Gone than any that have gone before).

A fairly successful central conceit; that of a book possessed; which anticipates your reactions to its confessions...a book which speaks to you directly, begging, flattering, ultimately threatening...Jakabok is more than a passive protagonist whose adventures you consume: he speaks to you directly from the page, following your eyes across it and making demands of you that most would not. This lends the book a degree of engagement akin to that in a video game; you are somewhat more invested than you might otherwise be, since Jakabok involves you directly in his narrative as his possible means of salvation. The first line - “Burn this book.”- resonates throughout the entire story, and also serves to enhance the pace and emotion when it comes to moments of intensity.

Plot wise, the book skips and skims over a period of settings and centuries, from the circle of Hell where Jakabok first finds himself, across central Europe where he learns to be far more than he was born to. Again, this is more a series of moments than an interconnected narrative; many are more or less self contained; little confessions and reflections that Jakabok feels inclined to share, with his ultimate fate something that could have easily been a short story in its own right. The reader's individual enjoyment of the work will largely depend on their taste in this regard; anyone looking for the more cohesive, flowing narratives that predominate Barker's previous works will not find one here; there is a lightness and a freeness to both prose and structure that  sometimes border on the poetic or stream-of-consciousness, a factor which may prove as alienating for some as it will engaging for others.

As to the closing chapters, the book ends in the same jocular vein as it began; with a kind of gallows punchline, in which the ultimate weapon over which both Heaven and Hell meet to squabble reveals itself to be something familiar to any who pick up and read the book, and all of Jakabok's pretences; his claims of power and potential, his threats of torture and mutilation, should you not comply with his demands, are revealed as shams.

Barker himself has gone on record as stating that “...this is a fun one,” a book that he never intended to have the weight or density of previous works, and who could blame him?; After the metaphysical explorations and cultural commentaries of Imajica, Coldheart Canyon, The Great and Secret Show, Sacrament, Everville, there is very serious danger that he could find himself retreading old ground; similar images, similar conceits and conclusions.

Mr. B. Gone, along with the children's series, The Abarat, mark a significant departure from anything Barker has attempted before, but, as a wise man once said: “...different doesn't mean bad. It just means different.”


The demon has embedded himself in the very words of this tale of terror, turning the book itself into a dangerous object, laced with menace only too ready to break free and exert its power.

A brilliant and truly unsettling tour de force of the supernatural, Mister B. Gone escorts the reader on an intimate and revelatory journey to uncover the shocking truth of the battle between Good and Evil.

Follow the links below for more great horror reviews 




<![CDATA[EVERVILLE : THE PATH TO THE SCARLET GOSPELS PART 5]]>Wed, 20 May 2015 10:39:50 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/everville-the-path-to-the-scarlet-gospels-part-5
WARNING: This series contains HUGE spoilers, and is designed as a discussion for people familiar with the source text. I do not wish to spoil your enjoyment of Everville, so please read it before reading this. Thanks.
So this is the final lead in story to The Scarlet GospelsThe Second Book Of The Art. Everville.

I guess I should start by saying I wasn't gripped by the opening at all. It may have been a symptom of reading the book back to back with The Great  and Secret Show, but I was eager for more of Tesla, Grillo, and Harry D'Amour. Instead, I was given an almost 100 page re-run of the text-based adventure game The Oregon Trial, complete with famine and religious bullies.

Okay, that's not really fair. On its own merits, the story is fine – the characters are interesting, the situation perilous, and things develop pretty quickly – it's just not what I was hankering for. And of course once things start getting weird, they quickly get deliciously so. Barker has lost none of his talent for vivid imagery or dramatic violence, or indeed his flair for inventive naming, as Buddenbaum is introduced, sowing the seeds of the city of Everville in the minds of a young girl and her father. He's an intriguing proposition at first – clearly manipulative and with some supernatural knowledge and ability, but not as outright sinister as Kissoon was. An interesting point to note here is that in Clive Barker's work, people with hidden agendas are rarely if ever working with the best interests of others in mind.

Following a superb sequence involving an interrupted wedding that leads to bloodshed, we fast forward to the present day, with the town of Everville building towards its annual festival. Yet more characters are introduced, and at this point I had to consciously abandon my desire for continuity and just submit myself to this new tale, at which point the reading instantly became more pleasurable. I really enjoyed the set-up from there, meeting the town journalist uncovering the unsavoury past of the town, and the illicit affair between Phoebe and Joe. Some of this felt very King-esque, actually – I was on more than one occasion forcibly reminded of the set-up passages from Under The Dome or Needful Things – here are a cast of characters, watch them go about their lives, unaware that there's a piano on a very thin string hanging overhead. I found Barker's gifts for both swift and sure characterisation and situation to be as strong as ever, and was quickly caught up in the 'soap opera before the apocalypse' that I find so compelling in dark fiction.

Eventually, we do return to Tesla and Grillo, as events in Everville ping up on Grillo's radar, setting the cast of Great and Secret Show back into motion. Grillo had become a firm favourite of mine during GaSS, so I was saddened that he was terminally ill in this story, clearly unlikely to survive events in Evervuille. Barker did I thought a superb job of finding ways to pull all the disperate characters into that narrative, with the Harry D’Amour sequence a particular highlight. Harry finally came into fruition here for me as a character, that promise I began to glimpse at the end of GaSS paying off in spades. I really enjoyed his Catholic-rooted need to confront evil, even as he fears for his own life, and also the sense that he’s always nearly fatally behind the curve, in terms of understanding what’s going on around him – it’s such a different kind of ‘hero’ from the action archetype that’s always in control (though I suppose is very much in the tradition of the noir protagonist).

From there I found the plotting flowed pretty seamlessly, as the lovers crossed over to Quiddity and Kissoon and Buddenbaum’s machinations tighten around Everville, with our heroes desperately trying to work out who is running what and why. There were a few loose ends – I don’t think I ever figured out why or how Death Boy came back, and actually that whole part of the narrative with the child and Jo-Beth and Howie felt underplayed – the drama of it was satisfying, but the change in Jo-Beth behaviour and outlook felt both under-explored and underdeveloped. I suspect the fate of the child is to form a critical part of the final part of the trilogy (should such a book ever materialise), but here it felt strange – vestigial as far as GaSS is concerned, and unresolved by this book.

Elsewhere, though, I found things much more satisfying. Grillo’s death felt dramatic and earned, Tesla’s death and ascension genuinely exciting, and the entities that Buddenbaum was serving were great Barker creations – sinister, yes, but also complex, interesting. There was an alien quality to them, an otherness, that Barker conveyed very well. I also enjoyed how the narrative of the lovers played out, with Texas ultimately saving our reality from the incursion of the lad, and the ultimate conclusion of their story also felt earned, if a little overdrawn. The love story between Buddenbaum and Seth. I also found moving – a creepy relationship, in many ways, in terms of the power dynamic, but also one where love actually wears down cynicism. Barker made I think some brave choices with that part of the story, and for my money carried it off with some style.

Interestingly, I found the ending both anticlimactic and overlong. Kissoon has a portion of the lad onside, Tesla has just gained The Art… then Kissoon just disappears. I get that there’s supposed to be a book 3 coming, but I desperately wanted some face-off between those two characters, and was disappointed not to get anything. I also found that the ending from that climactic moment just dragged, honestly, though as noted above, the conclusion of the lovers story was apt and sweet, and the final image I found touching.

I’m also ever more curious about the lad. They/it feature more heavily in this story, but their true nature remains as elusive as ever, with even some hints that they might not be quite the monolithic cosmic terror that they are portrayed as – of maybe that if they are, they at least serve a more complex function than simply the conformity of annihilation. How Pinhead’s Order of the Gash fits with this mythos is but one of the threads I’m really intrigued with as I head into The Scarlet Gospels.

So how did you find Everville? Sound off in the comments below, then join us back here for the Gingernuts Of Horror review of The Scarlet Gospels...


Follow the links below for the rest of Kit Power's fabulous Scarlet Gospels Special 





<![CDATA[NIGHTBREED : THE PATH TO THE SCARLET GOSPELS]]>Mon, 18 May 2015 16:00:16 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/nightbreed-the-path-to-the-scarlet-gospels
Confession: I’ve always had a soft spot for Nightbreed. I responded to what it was trying to accomplish, to make monsters into sympathetic characters and humans the villains, rather than what it lacked. Even as  a kid, I knew there was something fundamentally flawed about it, but I held firm to my love for Boone and the monsters of Midian, and—perhaps more so—to the coldblooded serial killer, Dr. Decker. I’d often found myself embarrassed as I defended the movie I knew it could have been, not the movie they’d given us.

Later interviews revealed Barker’s bickering with studio heads, who had liked Hellraiser (or at least the money it made them), but felt audiences wouldn’t “get” a movie with monsters as the heroes. 
To Clive Barker and his fans, they had entirely missed the point.
The finished film suffered greatly for it.

Critics pointed to uneven direction and lack of characterization. Little did they know, 40 minutes of Barker’s original film had been cut. And until very recently, it was thought this footage was lost.

The story of how Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut came to be started in 2008, when Mark Miller, co-head of Barker’s production company, Seraphim Films, began to hunt down the extra footage. It was clear from the get-go the heads at Morgan Creek weren’t eager to help. When they finally relented, he was left with a box full of VHS tapes. All the film they’d shot, according to Morgan Creek bigwigs, had vanished.

After a lucky group of fans saw the extra footage at something called the "Mad Monster Party" in 2010, the “Occupy Midian” campaign was born. That was the last I'd heard of it, from Clive Barker’s Lost Souls website, aside from the occasional brief this-is-what-you’re-missing review from someone who’d seen the cut with the VHS footage inserted.

Then in 2012, Morgan Creek officials miraculously “found” the original filmed footage, after seeing the potential audience (ie. dollar signs). From there, Shout! Factory put together the Blu-ray and DVD version with new interviews and featurettes, and released it in 2014. 

Fans asked for it, and we got it.

I bought the Blu-ray the second I heard it was released, and popped it in the PS3 as soon as it arrived. For the most part, the additions work. It’s definitely closer thematically to what Clive Barker—and all of us diehard Cabal fans—had envisioned. There’s no doubt the monsters are the good guys here, and there’s a massive amount of sympathy generated for them throughout, despite the few "lawbreakers" like Peloquin, who just wants to eat the “Naturals” (humans).

The main villain, as in the original cut, is Dr. Decker (aka Button Face), played with typical eerie cool by David Cronenberg. He’s a maniac on par with some of the best, though he gets precious little screen time. I’d love to see a prequel movie about him and his murders, his adoption of the mask—which is pretty goddamned creepy—and if he’d blamed any of his previous murders on other patients. It doesn’t feel as though his part was beefed up at all from the Theatrical cut, but neither does it feel chopped.

Many of the additions focus on the relationship between Boone and Lori; some work and some don’t. The scene in which Dr. Decker has drugged Boone, and Boone is hallucinating in his apartment, watching himself from outside his body having sex with Lori (who for some reason wears white lingerie, likely to symbolize her purity), works much better in the original cut. He takes the pills and suddenly he’s tripping balls, walking down the highway. We see all we need to. What they've added here doesn’t work, does little for the story, and harms the film’s pace, front-loading it.

This sequence also features Lori singing to a sold-out crowd in a country bar. The song is “Johnny Get Angry,” whose lyrics suggest she wants a “real man,” but also that Boone might be a little abusive. The song itself works fine, and has a very ‘90s feel, reminding me of those scenes in Twin Peaks with Julee Cruise—but it’s overlong. The entire song is played. During it, Boone, still tripping, wanders in and becomes confused and frightened. He stumbles off, and that’s when we rejoin the original cut, where he's about to be hit by a truck. I think it works well to establish Lori as a character, but it should have been pared down.


The biggest changes are in the big final battle, which is more of a bloodbath than anything, since the Nightbreed barely get any shots in. This is The ATF Storms the Koresh Compound times a thousand. The police here act like paramilitary, lock-and-loading a plethora of automatic weapons (a Twitter friend remarked on the inordinate amount of guns in Canada, since it’s meant to take place in Alberta). The scene in which the cops beat Ohnaka to death, a little man with his little dog, seems just about as traumatizing as in the original film.

Shot in slow-motion, this Rodney King-style beating during which the victim, dragged out into the sun and beaten, turns to dust, sets the stage for the slaughter to follow.

As Midian explodes, it actually seems like a BIG thing, unlike in the original cut, which felt and sounded like a Hollywood soundstage. We hear babies screaming, mothers crying. The earth cracks underfoot with huge, surround-sound rumbles. By the time Boone finally unleashes the Berserkers (giant, slimy monsters with football player padding), we’re rooting for them to take out the human invaders—and they do, in classic monster-rampage style. Another good addition is adding clarity to the scene where Boone inherits the spirit of Baphomet, the Nightbreed’s version of God, and becomes the living god “Cabal.”

In the end, when Lori asks Boone to bite him so she can become Nightbreed and stay with Boone, the decision makes much more sense, as their relationship is solidly established. Boone refuses, still the good guy even now he's a full-on monster, and in her desperation Lori stabs herself, forcing him to bite her so she’ll live forever. The surviving Nightbreed, hidden in a barn, speak of Boone/Cabal returning “on the next wind.”  “Johnny Get Angry” plays us out into the credits.

If you’re a fan of the original cut, you owe it to yourself to watch Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut. If you’re a horror fan who's never seen it, it's worth a look. Alejandro Jodorosky called Nightbreed "the first truly gay horror fantasy epic." This is the movie that inspired Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, and it’s a far better film. For creature fans, the Director’s Cut has many more monsters to satisfy your deviant pleasure. All-in-all, the new cut is a more cohesive story with a lot more focus on Boone and Lori's relationship, and much more sympathy for the Nightbreed themselves. If it had been released this way originally, it might have spawned its planned sequel instead of just a cult following and a terrible video game.

Have you seen the Director's Cut yet? Let me know what you thought of it below, or via Twitter @userbits.

Duncan Ralston is the author of Gristle & Bone, a collection of short and not-so-short horror, and the upcoming novel, Salvage. He lives in Toronto with his girlfriend and their dog.
<![CDATA[THE SCARLET GOSPELS : A REVIEW BY JIM MCLEOD ]]>Mon, 18 May 2015 10:16:57 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/the-scarlet-gospels-a-review-by-jim-mcleodRead my review of The Scarlet Gospels here 
And stay tuned for other reviews of the Scarlet Gospels from other members of the Ginger Nuts of Horror team. 
<![CDATA[THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW : THE PATH TO THE SCARLET GOSPELS PART 4]]>Mon, 18 May 2015 08:54:50 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/the-great-and-secret-show-the-path-to-the-scarlet-gospels-part-4WARNING: This series contains HUGE spoilers, and is designed as a discussion for people familiar with the source text. I do not wish to spoil your enjoyment of The Great And Secret Show, so please read it before reading this. Thanks.
Well, were to start?

Actually, let's start at the start – turns out, I had read this one before. Or at least, most of it. The dead letter office in Omaha is surely one of Barker's great opening gambits, the man who works there one of Barker's classic characters – a man full of ambition turned bitter, with no sense of how to get from his lowly surroundings to the level he aspires to, and with the desperate feeling that the last of his youth is draining away. That time is running out.

And then the letters start to speak to him.

As he opens and reads thousands upon thousands of undelivered records, he starts to uncover America's secret life, hints of a world either underneath or adjacent to ours, and a mysterious method of manipulation that might allow passage between the realms, known only as The Art.

I mean, come ON, people. For some reason, I'd incorrectly ascribed this sequence to Imajica, and some of his later journey to Cabal, but it's surely testament to the writing that at the best part of 20 years distance I could still recall this concept with such clarity. It's a superb idea, and a brilliant opening to this story.

The writing seems to have taken a quantum leap since The Hellbound Heart. While Barker still has a gift for sketching a character with admirable succinctness, this time out there seem to be less of the archetypes of that novella. The characters here – all of them, from bit players to lead characters - have inner lives that are rich and detailed, with contradictions, hopes, dreams, prejudices. It's so well done that you barely notice at the time – only reflecting back on the novel did it occur to me how vivid these people were to me.

Similarly, the prose style here is ridiculously readable. This is a hefty tome, but I found myself devouring it in large chunks. Part of that was the pace of the narrative driving me forward, to be sure, but I think too a lot of it was just the sheer line-by-line readability of the prose.

Though, what a narrative! I'm struck again by the pacing – it's a big old book, but the pages fly by, decades covered in the first part alone. A story that a lesser author might have made part 1 of a protracted novel series is told economically in the first 100 pages or so – effectively as a long prologue to the events of the then-modern era that make up the bulk of the tale. The notion of two godlike entities, one evil, one good, in a deadlock conflict... man, I'm falling asleep just typing it. But what Barker does with these concepts makes it not just interesting but vibrant. Having the evil one be not a cackling villain, but rather someone bitter, with insatiable ambition, who lusts for power and loves the darkness. Having the good entity forged from a junkie scientist who just wants to be left alone to become one with the sky, but reluctantly recognises his responsibility to prevent his counterpart from using The Art. I mean to say, in this novel,

 Barker casts a junkie scientist as the messiah. And makes                         him not even want the gig.

I have no words for how cool I find that, honestly.

Those smarts resonate throughout the book, in ways large and small. The fact that the 'son' of the good entity later effectively rejects his father's overtures in large part because he wants no part of that conflict does a great job of showing how The Good Man Fletcher has passed on his traits, without ever making that link explicit in the text. Similarly, the romance between one of the 'good' and 'bad' siblings is exciting not because of the fact that it happened, but just how far Barker runs with the idea, and how well he succeeds in confounding expectation at every plot turn.

And again, the characters! The two lovers are great, but one of my favourites is the mother of the 'bad' twins. She's vulnerable, weak, damaged by her experiences, but that weakness  doesn't prevent her loving her children as best as she is able. Nor does it prevent her from threatening their lives rather than let them be taken by their father. It's this kind of deep, layered characterisation that helps the whole novel sing – it's complex but entirely internally consistent with who she is, and injects incredible tension at points.

And the hits just keep on coming. There really is virtually no aspect of this novel, from the master narrative to the smallest detail, that I didn't find compelling. The notion of the successful comedian whose house on the hill is filled with 'rescued' carnival art from the 30's – it's just note perfect, IMO. The notion of Quiddity, and the idea that it's existence as the ocean of dreams is what fuels all humanities ambition and activity, for good and ill, all driven by our subconscious desire to recreate the feeling of bathing in it's waters. The note perfect platonic-yet-deeply-loving relationship between the awesomely named Tesla and Grillo. And the notion of the lovecraftian horror that lurks on the other side of the sea, desperate for a way to enter and consume our world. A force that promises despair and endless suffering without mercy.

Then there are the twin threats - Kissoon, and the lad. Kissoon is a wonderful creation; fiercely bright, intelligent, repulsive and very, very dangerous. His menace is immediately apparent, though he is also manipulative enough that I found myself, alongside Tesla, constantly questioning that assessment, at least at first.

                        'The Devil mixes lies with truth', 

and all that, but very smartly executed.

The lad, on the other hand, are nightmare made flesh – a lovecraftian, nameless horror that seeks total control and uniformity through brutality and despair. The not-quite descriptions of this force from the other side of the dream sea are just superb, conveying the nightmare of the fever dream, where all is frantic chaos and fear and misery the only constants. It's fitting that they are viewed only from a distance, for me – their nature means to get too close is to succumb to madness, after all.

And just on a sentence level... I put in some bookmarks as I went through, and here's a few that leapt out:

“His eye glinted. The Knife glinted. Glints collided...”

“It would not be the first time he had gone seeking knowledge with a weapon in his pocket. It was sometimes necessary.”

Having discussed fears of earthquakes brought on by a good grasp of geology, and the notion that the town could be swallowed by one: “She kept her anxieties at bay with swallowings of her own: a sort of sympathetic magic. She was fat because the earth's crust was thin; an irrefutable excuse for gluttony.”

“Since his princess had lost his mind, he had all the conversational skill of a ticking bomb.”

Zip! Zing!

I loved every damn moment of reading this book. It's up there with my favourite Barker works, which also means it's up there with my favourite books of all time. The scope of the story is enormous, and the way all the elements tie together at the end is so elegant as to be staggering.

In the context of The Scarlet Gospels, Harry D'Amour has only a fleeing appearance, towards the end. Even there, Barker's increased skills as a writer makes him seem at his most rounded, at least for me – less of a noir trope, more of a functioning being – and yet again his blind clairvoyant friend is evoked, suggesting her importance to him is higher than her brief mention in Lost Souls indicated. And of course, we know that this means Harry D'Amour and Pinhead both occupy the same fictional universe as The Art, Quiddity, the lad, and all the associated mythos, which I find fascinating and exiting as prospects.

And  on that note, Everville beckons – Second Book Of The Art, and the final part of my Path to The Scarlet Gospels. Join me back here soon, won't you? I'm very curious to see how this all plays out...

Follow the links below for Kit's other entries in this fabulous series 




<![CDATA[TAPPING INTO CLIVE BARKER]]>Sun, 17 May 2015 15:11:21 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/the-scarlet-gospels/tapping-into-clive-barker
A non-superhero film jolt the world of comic books? Never....but it happened. In 1987, a mind blowing film called 'Hellraiser' was released and led to an explosive rebirth of horror comics. As a comic book fan since 1977, apart from ‘Batman’ and some really cheesy stuff that I used to save up for which always disappointed my deviant little mind, this was huge for me and was well worth the wait.  A new level with gripping, wild storytelling and artwork of which the like had not been experienced in the genre thanks to Eclipse Books in 1989 and early 1990s.
 'Tapping the Vein' was monumental; Clive has always been a comic book fan and that was apparent with the finished product.  I had the Books of Blood and every other Clive Barker story out at the time so to have these tales brought to life visually by the likes of P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, Klaus Janson, John Bolton, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, Bo Hampton, Steven Johnson, Alan Okamoto, Jim Pearson, Stan Woch, Mark Farmer, Fred Von Tobel, Hector Gomez and Tim Conrad with the stories adapted for the medium by P. Craig Russell, Chuck Wagner, Fred Burke, Bo Hampton and one of my favorite talents to this day, Steve Niles, was brilliance.  Every rendition was rendered, to me, as it was written.  The varying art styles only drew it all together.

There were also stories from the ‘Books of Blood’ following ‘Tapping the Vein’ such as ‘Dread’, ‘The Yattering and Jack’, ‘Son of Celluloid’, ‘Life of Death’, ‘Rawhead Rex’ and ‘Revelations’.  As a woman, ‘Life of Death’ has always strongly resonated with me and years later when I was digging for the Museum of London at a plague pit and cemetery, I have to say that this story kept popping up all of the time in my mind. 

This wasn't just a ploy to make money; these editions were collaborations of love.   I remember buying the first issue and the man in the shop asking if I was buying for my boyfriend to which I said "No, for me." and getting a very strange look.  The early 90s were still a bit of a male dominated area for comic book shops, not outright rudeness but stares and disbelief so I’m so happy how things have turned around. 

Also, the 'Hellraiser' comic line which had others introducing their own sojourns into Hell along with some very interesting variations of the Cenobites. It is always fascinating to me how these nameless soul collectors took such a prominence which lasts to this day.  Another good one was ‘Primal’ by Dark Horse Comics, excellent stuff.

Marvel/Epic comics also gave us ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Nightbreed’, ‘Pinhead’ and loads more titles from Barker which were his original creations that went beyond the Marvel Universe, ‘Ectokid’, ‘Hokum and Hex’, ‘Hyper Kind’ and ‘Saint Sinner’, ’Book of the Damned’, ‘The Harrowers’, ‘Nightbreed/Hellrasier: Jihad’ respectively,  and ‘Weaveworld’.  Some were created by other artists but Barker was a presence as consultant.  I do have some of the ‘Hellraiser’, Nightbreed’ and ‘Pinhead’ but not the later ones so I can’t really comment on them. The issues that I do have from Epic Comics were amazing.  IDW produced ‘The Thief of Always’ and ‘The Great and Secret Show’. Please forgive me if I have missed any.

Another store responded very rudely to me when I was searching for 'Hellraiser' issues that I'd missed, "They didn't sell things like that; it was a respectable family store." Bit mad, right? Needless to say that I never entered that establishment again and actually felt a bit sorry for their limited scope because they were missing out on some superb comic book action. 

I've held onto these original books and they've survived four transatlantic moves and a few local ones. I am forever grateful for those small miracles. Rereading these after all these years has been a fabulous trip. These are tales which never get tired or dated and the illustrations further the journey.

Recently, Boom! Studios have begun a 'Hellraiser' story line featuring our friends, Pinhead and Kirsty. They are doing a bang up job with story and with the art.  I can't wait to see what else Leviathan has in store for us. Apart from Barker’s writing, art and film work, I have to say he’s created such a crew of devotees of his work and every single one that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or engaging with has been amazing.  One Artist, One Man created all of this wonderful mythology and the power of this draws us all here now.  In Clive We Trust.