I’ve fucking loved Clive Barker ever since Hellraiser scared the shit out of me when I was seven. His fiction is truly frightening because while he will use gore he does not rely on it. What’s scarier is the unusual and obscure, and anyone who has read Books of Blood (a collection of his early horror stories), will know this.
So you could say I went into these films with high expectations. There’s a few bad things such as the small budget they were working with and general limitations that were put on amateur film makers in the seventies, but he does seem to capture the same eerie and dreadful feeling that made Hellraiser such a great film.
I can imagine the fact that the films are silent would put a lot of people off, but once I was a few minutes in it had captured my attention enough to not even notice.
Salome (18 minutes)
This short film is based on the biblical story of Salome. Salome was the daughter of Herod II and Herodias, and the woman responsible for the decapitation of John the baptist. I honestly didn’t enjoy this film much, it’s a bit too art-faggy for me. It pretty much consists of a woman walking down dark hallways with a candle and dancing and seducing an angel.
There are some good points, such as hints of Barker themes in it, as all his work is steeped in the celestial and the grotesque, and this puts them together seamlessly.
The film does have that feeling of dread, horror and wonder that is found in his work, I think if he had a bigger budget (or any budget) that he could have given something better as it feels too much like an amatuer film. The film has great atmosphere, but if given the chance and more money he could have done so much better.
The Forbidden (34 minutes)
This story is pretty simple and is based on the old story of Faust, which involves a man paying the price for summoning a demon to make a deal with.
Straight away I could tell this film was going to be a lot better, the videography, use of light and acting is much better and it even has some impressive animation of some birds. It also shares many themes (and even cast members) with Hellraiser, to the point where I thought that he had the idea with him for a long time. Since this film was done five years after Salome I think it gave Barker enough time to grow and cement his ideas.
This film starts with the invoking of a demon and the scene was quite impressive enough that you can tell Barker must have done enough research to give it a genuine feeling as most films can’t seem to do black magic that doesn’t feel corny or juvenile.
There is a brilliant skinning scene, and Like Lovecraft fearing the creatures of the ocean and using that in his work, it would seem that Clive Barker has a fear of skinned people (to the point where he wouldn’t go near the “skinned” actor in Hellraiser), and he seems to know how to share that fear in way that you can understand.
In summary I’d say this is worth watching because even though at times it does feel quite “arty” and amateur it does have moments that are quite frightening and wonderful, and if you’re someone who knows what I mean when I say it has that “Clive Barker feeling”, then you should definitely buy it.
Clive Barker’s Origins: Salome And The Forbidden is available on DVD from MVD Visual.