Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds–A look inside the darker edge of horror

Review by C.J. Bunce

With his Hellraiser creation now a Hulu streaming series, director Clive Barker is getting a closer look for the Halloween season.  Next week Abrams Books’ Cernunnos imprint is releasing Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds, a look at the British writer’s career from its beginnings to becoming director of some of horror’s most terrifying slasher movies.  Not for the faint of heart, Barker’s creations often leave the likes of Stephen King, Wes Craven, Neil Gaiman, and John Carpenter behind as he puts onto the big and small screen shadowy corners of darkness and blood-curdling gore they won’t.

“Shock, “terrify,” “grisly,” “stomach-turner,” “sick,” “taboo,” “disturbing,” “grotesque”… all of these have described his works. Barker said he believes there are no limits to what he can put on the screen, and in the foreword he notes this book is not for everyone.  In interviews Barker seems to like to throw into the faces of everyone not like him the negative reviews he revels in, including negative reviews from the likes of the late Roger Ebert, who called his Hellraiser “a movie without wit, style, or reason.”

The most graphic of Barker’s creations don’t make it into this account–the photographs are mostly his surreal sketches, paintings, and even scribbled thoughts on paper, along with book covers and marketing visuals.  It does include some behind-the-scenes images from his films.  But it’s mostly aimed at getting behind the mind of this major voice in his own brand–almost his own niche–of horror.

From the descriptions and details, Barker seems definitely to be someone stuck in his own head, and his early films and writings reflect the kinds of statements made by those called shock jocks in another medium.  The self-described “weird kid” from Liverpool showed signs of imagination early on, but even his mother realized he was different.  The biggest surprise to readers may be his intention of sharing meaning with his stories, which on their surface seem to be haphazardly smeared in blood like a Pollack painting with all the emptiness of a Jeff Koons sculpture of a postcard.

As the book reveals, Barker isn’t only about making movies.  His comics stories have found him partnered with the likes of P. Craig Russell.  His novels take up the most coverage here, but his name remains synonymous with his movies–his Candyman the latest to be remade into a film by Jordan Peele, before the adaptation of his Hellraiser characters arrived on Hulu this month.

Readers will find the approach of this book, written by Barker collaborators Phil and Sarah Stokes, similar to James Cameron’s chronicle of his influences and ideas, Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron (reviewed here).  By way of content, the creepy, more over the top subject matter shares much with the documentary on H.R. Giger, Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (reviewed here).

For fans of this popular fringe horror auteur, Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds is available for pre-order now here at Amazon.  It arrives in bookstores October 18, 2022.

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