|My Lament Configuration - obtained from a dealer in rare antiquities |
(actually purchased from a film prop distributor)
Clive Barker is one of my favourite horror writers. I'd rank him second behind the great HPL himself.
Sadly I got about two-thirds of the way through the book before I lost the will to read on.
This is not classic Barker. This is not a new Books Of Blood.
As part of a larger scheme, 'Pinhead' steals away one of Harry's closest confidantes to Hell and Harry, and a small contingent of friends, embark on a rescue mission.
But the Hell Priest simply comes across as a thug in a Pinhead costume. His physicality and verbosity undermines the magic and mystery of the character.
He's not so much the creature from the first Hellraiser movie (or the Hellbound Heart novella) but the iteration that appears in the increasingly campier sequels.
The Scarlet Gospels is not the creepy horror story I wanted but a pulp action adventure, with moments of beautifully vivid splatterpunk gore to remind us of the Barker of old.
Even when Harry's party head to Hell (a scenario I've long talked about as a "dream Dungeons & Dragons" adventure), they do so with a flaccid, blasé attitude that renders their journey through the home of ultimate evil into - for want of a better description - a description of a group of teenagers playing Dungeons & Dragons (yeah, I know!)
For me, 'Pinhead' and his Cenobite brethren are the the greatest, enduring, cinematic creations since the classics (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy etc).
But what added that extra little twist for me was the introduction of the Lament Configuration into their mythology - the antique puzzle box that you had to solve to summon these "explorers... in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others."
Thanks to my friend Stacey Lemmon (aka Dr Theda) over at Dr Theda's Crypt for these marvelous, faux 'blueprints' for the Lament Configuration (also known as Lemarchand's box - after the fictitious 18th Century French toymaker Philip Lemarchand, who made the Lament Configuration for black magic-obsessed aristocrat Duc de L'Isle).
I'm sure I'll return to The Scarlet Gospels soon enough (I only have just over 100 pages to go), but my initial excitement has gone and it's now simply a sense of duty, just to find out what happens to Harry and 'Pinhead' in those final pages.