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The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

For those of you gore fanatics and horror junkies like myself, Clive Barker should be familiar to you, especially this particular tale. The Hellbound Heart is one of Barker's masterpiece works and the basis of the cult classic movie series Hellraiser, which spans from 1987 all the way to today.

For those of you familiar with the movie franchise, The Hellbound Heart stays true to the plot of the original Hellraiser movie. A greedy, lustful man named Frank is drawn into another dimension via the puzzle of Lemarchand's box--the key to the door to Hell--where he experiences a death full of pleasure and pain past the farthest extremes anyone could ever conceive at the hands of the Cenobites. Realizing his fatal mistake, Frank is desperate to escape his prison, but it isn't possible until his brother Rory's family moves back into the old house. Julia--Frank's lover and Rory's wife--has discovered a way to bring Frank back, and secretly nurses him in their attic, where the affair began and where the box was solved. But, Rory is suspicious, the Cenobites aren't letting Frank go that easily, and Frank is hungry... There's hell to pay.

Most people see this--as well as other Clive Barker books and horror movies--as "gore porn" or media that is horrific and gory just for the sake of it. Sometimes it's true, but in the case of The Hellbound Heart, I disagree. There's no doubt in my mind that this is not for everyone, and that it is absolutely cringeworthy in many respects, but the underlying commentary about greed and love, forbidden desire, resurrection, pain and please, it's fascinating and unique. It truly is a masterwork that has dramatically (and traumatically) influenced the literary and cinema worlds.

The sick and twisted monster inside me loves the beginning of the book, when Frank first solves the Lemarchand's box and meets the Cenobites. It is disgusting and enthralling at the same time, blurring the line between pain and pleasure in a horrific, bizarre, addicting way. It's unlike any other horror I've ever read.

This book series-- especially the second installment Scarlet Gospels--is strictly adult. It is NOT for the faint of heart. I would even be wary about young adult readers. But for horror fans that have a strong stomach, this is an absolute must-read.

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