Today our featured monster is Pinhead from Hellraiser, a series of movies Clive Barker wrote and directed based on his spooky little novella The Hellbound Heart.
Pinhead is a member of a race of otherworldy beings called Cenobites. These beings are summoned by humans who have solved a puzzle cube formed of interlocking geometric shapes. The cube, generally purchased at an obscure Moroccan bazaar, makes sounds like a music box as it unfolds, opening a gateway into the Cenobites' dimension. If you ever come into possession of such a cube, DO NOT OPEN IT.
The Cenobites are seekers of peak experience, and the kind of people who summon them are jaded hedonists who are tired with all the sensations this world has to offer. Cenobites aren't evil per se (Pinhead says they are "angels to some and demons to others") but are amoral, concerned only about their sadomasochistic experiments. In their quest for greater and greater intensity of experience, they pretty much torture to death anyone who is dumb enough to summon them by opening the puzzle box (see above re. not opening box).
The structure of the Hellraiser story is instructive for a writer, because it has two separate antagonists, depraved Uncle Jack, who once summoned the Cenobites and is now trying to free himself from them and the Cenobites themselves, whom the ingenue Kristy mistakenly summons while trying to free herself from Uncle Jack. Two antagonists are better than one, and it makes for a gripping plot.
I was inspired to check out Pinhead and his friends after seeing the incredible Francis Bacon retrospective at the Met. Bacon's figures of popes and businessmen imprisoned by thin, glimmering lines and eaten up from within by their own power and appetite evoked Barker's world quite strongly.
Here's Pope Innocent X:
- F. Bacon
Bacon was gay, as is Clive Barker, a fact that seems important to both men's aesthetics somehow. One of the prime sources of horror in Barker's world (and I'm thinking also of the stories in Books of Blood) is women's sexual power, an insight I doubt any straight male writer would have, at least not in the same way. The NYT critic touches on the importance of Bacon's sexuality to his work in her review.
Bacon seems like he would have been a cool dude to hang out with. He was a drinking buddy of Tom Baker of Dr. Who fame.
Champagne for my real friends; Real pain for my sham friends.
- F. Bacon (attributed)
He lived a bon vivant lifestyle, surrounded by a close circle of friends and lovers. His longtime companion George Dyer was a petty thief -- the two met when Bacon caught Dyer robbing his apartment. The most moving piece in the exhibition to me was a triptych depicting the hotel where Dyer killed himself (incredibly, on the night before Bacon's first major solo retrospective).