The Hellbound Heart

ISBN: 0061002828
ISBN 13: 9780061002823
By: Clive Barker

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About this book

From his Books of Blood to The Damnation Game, Weaveworld, and The Great and Secret Show, to scores of short stories, bestselling novels, and now major motion pictures, no one comes close to the vivid imagination and unique terrors provided by Clive Barker.The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, a nerve-shattering novella about the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within its endless domain. It is about greed and love, lovelessness and despair, desire and death, life and captivity, bells and blood. It is one of the most dead-frightening stories you are likely to ever read.

Reader's Thoughts


Morally bankrupt and nihilistic Frank Cotton has found this world and the pleasures it has to offer lacking, boring, and predictable. After hearing about Lemarchand’s Configuration, a puzzle box that if solved opened up a realm of unimaginable pleasure, he finds it and spends hours trying to solve. He succeeds, but instead of hoards of nude women, like he was expecting, the Cenobites emerge instead. They are horribly scarred and mutilated beings that perceive extreme pain as not different from extreme pleasure. They take him to their extradimensional plane to suffer for eternity. Meanwhile, Rory, Frank’s brother, and his wife Julia have moved into the house passed down from their grandparents. When Rory is injured during the moving in process, Frank uses his blood to communicate with our world. He demands more blood from Julia, who has been infatuated with him ever since their affair shortly before her marriage to Rory, to become whole again. She complies and feeds him several men. Kirsty, Rory’s friend, suspects Julia is having an affair and discovers Frank and Julia’s horrible plot. Will she be able to return Frank to the dimension he escaped from or would the Cenobites rather have her instead?I recently saw the film Hellraiser, so I had to read the novella it was based on. There is very little difference in plot and characters between the two works. However, both have their own strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the film is the horrific visuals it provides. The Cenobites look so much more disfigured and fetishistic than I ever would have imagined. The audience is also shown some of the horrors in the other world and I was shocked by how twisted and horrifying the images were, considering it was made in the 80’s. I was riveted to the screen (with my mouth gaping open) and literally couldn’t look away. The book only describes the Cenobites, but not in a great amount of detail. The other world’s sights aren’t described at all, but the novel excels in ways the film did not.The novel is incredibly well written. Even though the character development is a little lacking, I really didn’t notice too much because the writing is so fluid and rich with dark imagery. The relationship between Frank and Julia seemed to happen spontaneously, but their evil tendencies that were exhibited later made them a fitting couple. Their sick relationship is an interesting comparison to the false, empty one between Julia and Rory. However, Frank’s interest in her is only to be restored to human form and nothing more, showing Julia in the role of her husband: adoring and unaware of the others indifference. Both relationships are exposed to be hollow and devoid of anything remotely resembling love. Julia is portrayed as much more malicious than in the film. She has nothing but disdain for her husband and would like nothing more than to kill him. Frank and Julia represent the need for man to seek more and more empty, fruitless sensory experience and where this road will lead if gone to extremes. This view may be depressing, but makes for an entertaining and horrifying read.

mark monday

Please allow me to introduce myself. Actually, let's save the introductions for when I meet up with you later this evening, in the wee hours of the night.First things first, as an inhabitant of the Dimension of Everlasting Pain I am not exactly a disinterested party when it comes to reviewing this novella. But I do feel I am able to provide a relatively unbiased review of this famous work, despite my intimate knowledge of all of the delightful and inspiring torture tableaux on display.The Hellbound Heart is well-written, yes. The Hellbound Heart is a seminal modern horror classic, yes. The Hellbound Heart is thoughtful and charming and full of the types of cozy & tender scenarios that can be regularly found in my home dimension... yes, yes, and yes.But I find that I have fallen prey to an embarrassingly modern predicament: I actually preferred the movie! This is rather shameful to admit. There is so much more potential for ambiguity and cruelty between the pages. However, in this case, I found the movie to be distinctly more visceral, ambiguous, and endearingly disturbing. My Lord and Master Pinhead is also better portrayed in the movie version; on the page he comes across as a quaint deus ex machina. Believe me when i say that in reality he is surely the opposite of both "quaint" and "deus"!THIS PARAGRAPH IS A SPOILER, FOOLISH MORTAL: I did find the idea that Frank the Id is literally putting on the respectable, boring, bourgeois skin of his brother Rory to be lovely and amusing. But to be perfectly honest, this entrancing concept did not actually occur to me while reading The Hellbound Heart - but rather when I read about it here on Goodreads on a group thread. Perhaps I am not as subtle as I imagine myself to be.Overall, despite there being nothing particularly wrong with this novella (and what does "right" and "wrong" mean anyway, in the grand scheme of things?)... I am rather sad to report that I found the writing in Barker's Books of Blood, Vols. 1-3 to be more absorbing, multi-leveled, and intriguing. Ah well, I suppose you can't win 'em all. Unless you are my Lord and Master Pinhead, of course. He always wins.

Palindrome Mordnilap

I've been a fan of the Hellraiser films for years, and decided it was about time I got around to reading the book to which the grisly franchise owed its origin.First off, this is a novella, so the development of characters - including the chilling Cenobites - is minimal. Saying that, Barker's use of electrifying prose really propels the story forward. The pages where he describes Frank Cotton's initial experience of the Cenobites' world, for example, are so lucid and visceral that I found it difficult to breathe. I literally exhaled with relief in sync with the character, and that is something very few books have achieved.As has been noted by other reviewers, Barker could have developed the Cenobites a lot more and fleshed out (!) their notion that exquisite pain can, in some sense, be pleasurable. Instead, he presents this as a given that we must simply accept. Overall this is a good story, provided you swallow the premise of the Cenobites and don't question who they are, where they come from or why they are motivated in the way that they are.


'The Hellbound Heart' was Clive Barker’s forth full length novel since the ‘Books Of Blood’ series. First published back in 1988, the novel formed a dark mix of horror and S&M, bringing a seductive trip into the erotic world of pleasure and pain. Barker rewrites the laws of humanity as we know it, with his ideas of there being no good or evil, only flesh. The novel draws you quickly into its bizarre and twisted storyline, taking you into a world of dark fantasy and horror. The characters are extremely well described, allowing the reader to sympathise with them and drawing you into the plot. Questions are brought forward throughout the novel, as Barker carefully reveals his dark concepts on life, with a terrifying reality to it all. The novel was later to be adapted (with some differences) into the 1987 film ‘Hellraiser’ which was to be Clive Barker’s debut at directing. The film has been dubbed a modern day horror classic and has formed a huge cult following worldwide, with many sequels to follow. The Hellraiser success also spawned a large collection of comics, models, memorabilia and other such items. The novel runs for 128 pages in total, of which the storyline never slows from the fast pace you are thrown into. The book is a true masterpiece of horror fiction that will open your eyes to the horrific and divine.


It’s a long while since I’ve read this, but what really struck me this time is the insular creepiness of it. There are only really four characters and all roads lead to the house on Lodovico Street. The gore is intense even now, but I think it’s the sense of dread throughout that stays with me. All Lemarchand’s box needs is the right turn and Hell will break loose.The film is probably the better known version and the image of Pinhead remains incredibly strong in popular culture, but the book more than holds its own.(A quick Google search has led me to the disturbing fact that they’re actually remaking the film. Do they really need to do that? I say if the kids today are too lazy to get hold of a DVD of the original, then sod ‘em! Let them make their own entertainment.)

Matt Garcia

An absolute gory, grotesque, and masochistic masterpiece. The Hellbound Heart shows the incredible and disturbing imagination of Clive Barker. This book is everything a horror fan could want. Don't let the length fool you, this book more than packs a wallop. The brutality and lack of sympathy shown by the characters is gut-wrenching yet satisfying. Barker is like a literary mad scientist, piecing together all the atrocities and inner desires of the human soul. A horror fan's dream. Highly recommended

Michelle {Book Hangovers}

Take two people, Frank and Julia:Now imagine a box that you think if opened you'll find a sexual experience that will blow your mind, kindof like a Genie's lamp and your wishing for pure pleasure. Instead you open the box and get an eternity of torture. That's what Frank did...Now imagine being so in love it become obsessive. That you'll do anything to bring a loved one back to you, even if that someone is disfigured, mangled and mutilated beyond belief causing a group of extra dimensional beings to appear, determined to bring back what belongs to them no matter what it takes. Well that's what Julia did for Frank....Personally, I'm going to stay away from any kind of puzzle boxes. The crazy obsessed lovers is up in the air....


This one is the most goriest of Barker's stories I have read so far I am sure the books of blood will be just as bad. The murderous characters in this story Have the most gruesome ways of killing and are most evilest you will come across. They feed on their prey. I have yet to see Hellraiser movie as I don't like to watch gore movies but after reading this it must be bloodier than I thought. Barker is very creative writer and he likes to dig up characters from the darkest and evilest depths of the world.

Anna Anthropy

clive barker writes like he's trying to impress someone, choosing words for grandiosity over clarity. early in the book he describes a sound as being "no louder than the din of a cockroach running behind the skirting boards." that's some loud fucking cockroach! we figured this was just a case of barker having a run-in with a thesaurus that ended badly for the reader, but no! as we read on (i read the book aloud to my partner, because it's the sort of book that seems close to the author's vision when read in as pompous a voice as you can manage), we kept finding the word "din," over and over, almost once per chapter. it became clear that clive barker just ranked the word "din" higher than the word "sound," and made the substitution every time the word came up.grandiosity over clarity. there are passages where the actions of the characters are just incomprehensible. one gets the sense that maybe he was imagining the scene visually, as a film. "cut to a shot of birds flapping their wings on black. then, a shot of the room, with a yellow light strobing." it would certainly explain a few things: the book is about as incomprehensible as the movie. (that's "CLIVE BARKER'S HELLRAISER," more a special effects reel than a film.)ultimately, the only way to read the book that made any sense was as a screed on how dumb heterosexual coupling is. the characters are all trapped in unreciprocated or abusive relationships: one character pines for another over a single encounter that "had in every regard but the matter of her acquiescence, all the agression and the joylessness of rape." SOUNDS LIKE A REAL CATCH. later, during an actual rape scene, a man's penis is described as "a boastful plum," like he's scared to say the actual words. why not just put the sex scenes behind asterisks like the victorians do?to present any character enjoying mutual or joyful sex would, i suppose, undermine the "horror" of the book, which is that sex is scary. a cheap trick, but probably a lucrative one if you're writing to a straight middle-class audience trapped in loveless marriages. it must be, since barker's spun the book into an entire film career. clive barker has said, "i want to be remembered as an imaginer," which is fair. i'm certainly not going to remember him as a writer.


After becoming a fan of Barker's novels upon reading The Great and Secret Show some years ago, this has been a novel (or novella) that's been on my reading list. I finally got around to reading it and even though I liked it, I wasn't blown away by it. I guess the years of praise this book has gotten, along with the Hellraiser adaptation, have caused it to be a bit over-rated. Still, it's a darned good read, so don't think "over-rated" is me trashing this book. I would heartily recommend it to any horror reader who hasn't checked it out yet, but be ready for a more classic turn at the haunted house story mixed in with some very macabre--and I dare say Lovecraftian--influences.

Barks & Bites

“No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.” My boyfriend made the mistake of allowing me to pick out the movie on one of our earliest dates way back in the late 80’s. I chose Hellraiser which was based upon this novella. I didn’t know he had never seen a horror movie and couldn’t figure out why he was so pale and quiet when we left the theater. The poor boy married me and his movie going experiences have never been the same and I’ll always have fond feelings for Hellraiser. Recently I realized I had never read the novella it was based upon and decided to check it out.When Frank solves a puzzle box revealing a door to another world promising great pleasure he gets more than he bargained for. He thought he had prepared well, observing every ritual to welcome the Cenobites, experimenters in the higher reaches of pleasure. He was expecting oiled up women, eager for him to use as he wished to slake his lust but instead four scarred beings arrive and alter him in unimaginable ways.Meanwhile Frank’s brother Rory and his wife Julia are moving into a decrepit old house. The house was willed to both Rory and Frank but since Frank is missing Rory assumes possession. Julia and Frank had something going on way back when, if you know what I mean, and Rory ignores her misgivings about the house and remains blissfully ignorant while reveling in Julia’s beauty. Kirsty, a friend of Rory’s who appears desperately in love with the man, drops by to help with the move and annoy Julia. I see a big, bloody love triangle in the making. I’ve also seen Hellraiser so I think know where some of this is going. Though I don’t remember Kirsty being a love interest, I thought she was the husband’s kid?Julia starts to settle in but there’s one room with sealed blinds that unnerves but attracts her. She begins to spend time in the room alone. The room seems to demand it. One day Rory has an accident and bleeds on the rooms floorboards and soon after Julia is reunited with Frank and the blood bath begins. This book is pretty cold and brutal, especially in its portrayal of super-bitch Julia, but there’s a very dark thread of humor running through it too. Imagine a slim beautiful woman chasing a flabby naked man around an empty room, sticking him with a knife as he flails away, refusing to keel over quickly. I don’t know about you but this image struck me as ridiculously humorous. Kirsty, who is a home-wrecker sort in this book, stumbles upon Julia and Frank doing bad things (that’s what you get Miss Nosey-pants) and takes off running with The Box in her hands. Of course, she can’t leave well enough alone and has to fiddle with it. Now they’re all going to experience their fair share of suffering.The cenobites are only in the story briefly early on and again at the end. Most of the grisly horror happens at the hands of Julia and Frank which makes all uglier. I vaguely remember the cenobites being a larger part of the movie but I prefer this version of the story better.

Joseph Rodgers

I love this book, I am sure that many people are familiar with the fantastic film "Hellraiser" that was based off of this novella. For those who have not read the book, but have seen "Hellraiser" you will find that "the Hellbound Heart" performs the seemingly impossible task of being scarier than the movie. For those of you who are not familiar with the cenobites or Clive Barker at all, I would still highly recommend this book. "The Hellbound Heart" does something that very few violent and sinister stories accomplish, it manages to be both horrifying and dramatically complex. Clive Barker was an accomplished playwright before he branched into the worlds of Hollywood and popular fiction. While reading "the Hellbound Heart" the narrative arc suggests that Barker was familiar with Lajos Egri's "the Art of Dramatic Writing". A premise that can be described as "pleasure seeking leads to suffering" is backed by complex characters who conflict with each other in a way that provides near perfect dramatic unity. The events that occur during "the Hellbound Heart" begin with pleasure seeker Frank committing the tragic deed of solving a puzzle box that is supposed to summon other-worldly beings who offer sensation like no other. The creatures, mutilated humanoid abominations called Cenobites whisk Frank away to a strange world where they perform tortures on him that have fetishistic overtones. The story then moves on to Frank's brother Rory and his wife Julia moving into the family house. This is the same house in which Frank had solved the puzzle box in the attic. Julia had an affair with Frank, and one day while she is the attic daydreaming of Frank, Rory has an accident in which he cuts his hand. Rory who is squeamish approaches Julia in the attic so that she will bandage his hand, while he is in the attic some of Rory's blood splashes onto the floor boards. Frank's essence absorbs the blood from the floor and gives Frank enough energy to contact Julia in the attic later on. Julia seduces and kills a man in the attic so that the blood brings Frank back to our world, but as a skinless monstrosity. Desperate to have her lover back Julia starts finding more victims so that she can further revive Frank. Meanwhile Rory's friend Kirsty begins to suspect that Julia is cheating on Rory, little does she know the true extent of what is going on in the house. This books is really short, only slightly more than a hundred pages. I have read it four or five times over the years and it never ceases to be a source of entertainment and inspiration for me. "The Hellbound Heart" is one hell of a scary story, it is filled monsters, violence, and S&M, and Gothic undertones. Barker provides a lot of realistic grounding over a short number of pages, so the reader does not disbelief some of the morbid surrealistic images presented throughout. All of the characters are well fleshed out, and have personality, yet at the same time Barker does not bombard us with senseless detail. We know everything that drives the characters, but we don't know whether they like grilled cheese or not. The horror starts off with a heavy theatrical hook in the beginning of the story, but then the normal world is instituted again. The normalcy has a crack in it though, and the terror leaks through this crack as the narrative continues building suspense up to incredible new heights. As a writer "the Hellbound Heart" deserves critical observation. I have mentioned time and again the dramatic unity of the book so I will not mention it again. However Clive Barker's writing is outstanding, I believe that he is one of the modern greats. His imagery is simple and not bogged down with adjectives and this makes it extremely effective. This use of imagery makes outlandish events such as the summoning of the cenobites believable. There are no whir-pools of shrieking black energy appearing from nowhere as doorways for the cenobites. No the approach of inter-dimensional beings... the sweet smell of vanilla... the sound of bells ringing with no apparent source. Barker also is very economic with his words, and that makes "the Hellbound Heart". The cenobites themselves are also very inspirational, they reach right into the core of what revolts humanity and have become a horror icon by doing so. In conclusion I would recommend "the Hellbound Heart" to anyone who enjoys sophisticated story and can stomach the profuse gore.


Where was my head. I spent the Halloween season searching for the ghostly and gruesome without ever once considering the work of Clive Barker. Then, one night, we landed on the Sy/Fy Channel in time to catch a deliciously gross movie based on one of his short stories. Eyeballs popped out of heads. A meat hook blow was delivered to a crotch. Bodies were hung and bled like sides of beef. I cackled and gagged. Sometimes simultaneously. And then cracked into Barker's "The Hellbound Heart," the novella behind the Hellraiser series.Good Golly.The story starts with Frank, an adventure seeker and pleasure addict. He comes to own this puzzle box, and when he finally solves it and gets it open, he unleashes the Cenobites, these devilish sadomasochists who amp up his senses to the extreme. It's all briefly good, then torturous. He, to put it in Barker-ian terms, spills his seed on the floor of the bedroom in his grandparent's house where he has performed this ritual -- which includes a urine sample on an altar.Frank's brother Rory and his wife Julie move into the old place. Julie has residual hot pants for Frank after a sexy encounter involving her wedding dress that happened just before her big day. When Rory gets a gusher in the room where Frank disappeared, blood spills in the spot where Frank's seed landed. Through some sort of lusty instincts, Julie figures out that a malformed Frank is hidden in some alternate realm, present in this room, and needs blood to regain his human form. So she helps a playa out with the use of liquor and seductive glances at lonely businessmen.First of all: This book is so hokey and it is written in this kind of archaic way that is heavy and embarrassing. But damned if I didn't have a snicker about to burst for the duration of the story. This is also delicious horror-flavored candy. It's like ODing at the Junior Mints-Lick 'em Aid-Nerds buffet.Exhibit A:"The proximity of this harem aroused him, despite circumstances. He opened his trousers and caressed his cock, more eager to have the seed spilled and so be freed of these creatures than for the pleasure of it."He was dimly aware, as he worked his inches, that he must make a pitiful sight: A blind man in an empty room, arousef roa dream's sake. But the wracking, joyless orgasm failed to even slow the relentless display. His knees bucked and his body collapsed to the boards where his spunk had fallen."Exhibit B:"Not if it suits you," he said and clamped his mouth over hers, his tongue frisking her teeth for cavities.This shortie falls in the maybe not necessarily good-good, but wholly entertaining. There is a cleverness to this style of story, where demons are built from scratch, and your next-door neighbors could be carving up pasty white dudes in the master bedroom. I like the ease with which the characters sign on to the idea that certainly the problem is one of a paranormal nature. I believe there will be more Clive Barker in my little life.

Dan Schwent

** spoiler alert ** Frank Cotton activated the Lemarchand Configuration and was whisked away by the Cenobites to experience "pleasure" no mortal has ever felt. Now, Frank's brother Rory and his wife Julie live in the house where his experiment occurred. Frank's looking to return to the fields we know and the price is blood...As part of my continuing horror education, I had to give Clive Barker a shot, thus The Hellbound Heart.This novella is pretty memorable but I wouldn't say I was scared by it. More creeped out than anything. Clive Barker has a pretty twisted imagination. The Cenobites and their idea of pleasure was pretty horrible. I really liked the idea of a wooden puzzle box that opens a gateway to another dimension.Julie gradually falling under the spell of what was left of Frank was pretty cool. I had a pretty good idea of where the story would go and how it would end after she made contact with Frank but it was a fun, gore-strewn ride. Aside from the short length, my only gripe with the book would be that Clive Barker's style seemed overly ornate at times. Three things I learned from The Hellbound Heart:1. If you find a wooden puzzle box, don't mess with it.2. If there's a chance you'll encounter extradimensional beings, be sure you masturbate on the floor. It'll help you rebuild your body later.3. If you go home with a woman you meet in a bar and she wants to have sex in a room devoid of furniture, make sure she doesn't have a knife.3.5 out of 5 stars.

Newton Falkner

The problem I have with Barker is that he always wants us to root for morally corrupt characters. For that reason I can never really feel anything other than distaste when reading his books. Okay he has a great prose style, sophisticated at times, and his plots are ingenious (sometimes), but I hate all of his characters.For example, in too many of those stories from Books of Blood he wants us to sympathise with demons - nothing wrong in that for a horror story, and it's been done before he did it- but in one story these demons have gang raped a young woman. Barker then tries to convince us that these beasts are loving, caring, gentle souls.He also seems phallically obsessed. His characters get hard-ons at the least unexpected moments is plain ridiculous and purile. He is also another of those horror writers who equates sexual abuse with horror and thinks all women wander about all the time having constant periods. His morality is definitely suspect.

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