Before he was interviewing movie stars or producing podcasts, horror fandom stalwart Tom Elliot was sharing his thoughts on the genre with the GeekPlanetOnline community. From grim 1970s slashers to modern CGI murder, if you need the opinion of a gorehound then Tom is your man...
Okay yes, I know, I’m back in Clive Barker territory again, but believe me, I have good reason to be.
As the Hellraiser remake seems to be in a permanent state of development hell, the universe of its literary inspiration, Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart is poised to take over the reigns of bringing us new Hellraiser material. A new book entitled Hellbound Hearts, to be released on the 29th of September will expand the mythology of the literary Hellraiser universe with twenty one stories inspired by The Hellbound Heart, written by a number of contributors.
While this alone is cause for celebration, there’s an interesting detail that makes this an even more desirable prospect for Hellraiser fans. The Hellbound Heart gave life to the Hellraiser films, but now some integral members of the film world are returning the favour.
One of the contributors will be well known to fans of the second film in the series Hellraiser II: Hellbound as the Cenobite known simply as “The Female Cenobite”. I’ve always had a soft spot for the female; she has the regal presence of Pinhead, but while he rarely gets his hands dirty, the Female would quite happily slice some flesh with those blades of hers.
The woman beneath the makeup is Barbie Wilde, and while she may be best known to horror fans for her role in Hellraiser II, it’s only one part of a varied career that includes not only acting, but mime, television presenting, singing, film reviewing and now writing. Thankfully though she’s still justifiably proud to be part of Hellraiser history, and also happy to return to the fold, and help to create its future.
Barbie was kind enough to answer some questions for me.
Tom: At the beginning of the Hellraiser documentary on the DVD release, Clive Barker’s (perhaps tongue in cheek) words are along the lines of “this is the last time I’m going to talk about that fucking movie”. I love hearing him talk about Hellraiser, but I can see his point. He’s done so much other work since, but he’s forever expected to talk about Hellraiser. It’s a similar situation with you; playing the Female Cenobite was one job you did twenty years ago and you’ve done a lot of other varied things. Do you ever have similar “that fucking movie” moments?
Barbie Wilde: I haven’t watched that interview yet, but I can certainly understand Clive’s feelings, as his output is so prolific. However, I’m very pleased to be asked about anything that I’ve done in my rather eclectic career. It’s strange to think now that I wasn’t really interested in being in Hellbound: Hellraiser II in the first place, because Hellraiser had such a disturbing effect on me when I first saw it at the cinema. However, working on the movie was a great experience and I think that attending conventions twenty years later and meeting so many Hellraiser fans is fantastic. Sure, I get asked the same questions sometimes, but I’m very happy that I was given the chance to participate in a work of art that ended up having such a powerful cult following.
TL: I think Hellraiser II is an excellent successor to the first film, but unfortunately following that, the series never maintained that level of quality. Have you kept up with the series yourself since?
BW: I’ve only watched the first two films, so I can’t really judge the rest of the series. My personal favourite is the first Hellraiser film.
TL: The first Hellraiser is due to be remade (if it ever gets out of development hell). As a writer yourself, if you were tasked with either continuing the series in its current form or writing the remake, what direction would you take it in?
BW: Well, I think that I’d give a bigger role to the rather intriguing character of the Female Cenobite! But seriously, it’s the Cenobites that I find the most interesting, so I’d probably want to provide more insight into their world. As far as the remake is concerned, I have a hard time imagining who would play Julia today, because Clare Higgins did such a great job of portraying Julia’s sexual obsession. And I find it hard to believe that someone could top Doug Bradley’s or Ashley Laurence’s performances either. However, these things are inevitable in Hollywood and although Hellraiser fans all say that they think the idea of a remake is terrible, they also confess that they’d line up to see it! A remake is just part of the process that continues the mythology, so that’s a good thing.
TL: I read on your site that you prefer presenting to acting and you spent some time as a music presenter on the show Hold Tight. Were there any celebrity meetings that are particularly memorable for you?
BW: Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols (or John Lydon of Public Image Ltd., as he wanted to be known then) was very funny, totally mad and completely professional. I remember him bursting into the make-up room at 7 AM in an enormous, lemon-yellow linen suit, full of beans, yelling: “Go on, girls, make me beautiful!” He was up for anything we asked him to do. The director wanted me to interview him with both of us lying in a giant net for some bizarre reason, so we ended up looking like a couple of beached tuna. You can see a bit of this interview on YouTube:
Cliff Richard was adorable. He’s a bit of a Star Trek fan, as I am, so we had a great time chatting about our favourite episodes of the original series. Iggy Pop was such a character and the B52s were a hoot. I had a lot of fun doing that series. I can’t think of one star that was “starry”, for lack of a better word.
TL: Can you tell us what the status is of your novel The Venus Complex? I understand it’s been a struggle getting it published due to some of its dark sexual content.
BW: Well, there can be drawbacks to writing a book about a serial killer in the first person. All the other characters get filtered through his perceptions and that makes people uncomfortable. They want a hero or heroine to root for, and all they have in my book is Michael and his twisted mind. Some people dislike him, but I think he’s funny and charming in his own distorted way, although obviously he has “issues” and leaving a trial of dead girls in his wake isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
The editor of Hellbound Hearts, Paul Kane, very kindly wrote a review of my book:
After purposefully killing his wife in a car accident, art professor Michael Friday finds his perspective on things has become a little… warped. Via his personal journal, we’re allowed into his mind to slowly watch the disintegration of it, bearing witness to his unnerving sexual cravings and ideas about killing: intertwined with the paintings he loves so much. As Michael writes, he’s “turning into something dead”; but at the same time he wants to be somebody, not a nobody.
Using his diary to rant against the world in general – including everything from banks to popular culture, from national holidays like Christmas to politics – he reveals more about the big, gaping hole in his own life. But as the novel goes on the first person narrative tensely builds up, displaying his dark dreams and innermost thoughts; his way of filling that void and presenting his grisly “works of art” to the world. As intelligent and cultured as Hannibal, easily as disturbing as American Psycho and infinitely less ‘reassuring’ than Dexter, this is a sexually-charged real life horror story that will definitely stay with you.’
By Multiple British Fantasy Award-Nominee Paul Kane – Author of Touching the Flame, The Lazarus Condition, Arrowhead, Peripheral Visions and Dead Time, adapted for Lionsgate/NBC’s Fear Itself by Steve ‘30 Days of Night’ Niles as New Year’s Day and directed by Darren Lynne Bousman (SAW II-IV & Repo: The Genetic Opera).
TL: On the You Tube pitch video, you said that you’d put it in the same genre as Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. That’s an extremely explicit book in terms of both sex and violence. Would you say The Venus Complex is as explicit?
BW: In terms of the erotic content, yes. My goal in writing the book was to explore the sexual fantasies of a man who feels driven to become a serial killer. However, violence is not Michael Friday’s turn-on.
TL: You describe the killer’s crimes as “elegant and almost beautiful”. Can you elaborate on that?
BW: Michael is obsessed by art and he sees his crimes as works of art. He poses his victims in ways that reflect his favourite paintings of Venus, hence the name of the book.
TL: You did a lot of extensive research for the book included interviewing forensic psychologists and lawmakers. Does immersing yourself in such dark material have any affect on you during research, and did you find when you heard some of the stories these people told you, that they were even more horrific than you had imagined?
BW: I’ve always found the criminal mind absolutely fascinating, because it is so different from my own. I’m basically a very empathic person and most serial killers are psychopaths who have a complete lack of empathy. The most profound effect my research had on me was reflected in some very strange dreams. This was a positive result though, because I realized that many of my dreams helped me to work out plot points in the book. I would often dream an episode that would become a scene in The Venus Complex.
TL: I was delighted to learn that there’s a new anthology book Hellbound Hearts being released in September that you’ve contributed a story to, how did you get involved in that project?
BW: I got to know the editor of Hellbound Hearts, Paul Kane, through the interviews I did with him for The Hellraiser Films and their Legacy (2006). I’ve also met up with him and his wife & co-editor, Marie O’Regan, at a few British Fantasy Society gatherings. At the end of July 2008, Paul asked me if I wanted to contribute to the Anthology. I wasn’t sure that I could write a horror story, since my primary interest is crime, but I surprised myself. Once I came up with the idea for Sister Cilice and did the research, I was able to write the story in a week.
TL: Was there anything in particular that inspired the idea or was it just a case of literally waiting for the idea to come?
BW: Paul Kane suggested that I might want to explore things from the perspective of a female cenobite, although not necessarily The Female Cenobite, if you know what I mean. I was also inspired by Gary J Tunnicliffe's idea that the female cenobite was originally a decadent nun. (Gary was on the makeup effects crew on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and was the Special Makeup Designer on Hellraiser: Bloodline, Hellraiser: Deader, Hellraiser: Hellseeker and Hellraiser: Hellworld.)
TL: The publicity for the book says that the stories are inspired by Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart. Does this mean the stories take place in the universe of the novella rather than the film series, or is it irrelevant to have to tie it to either?
BW: The stories are all firmly rooted in the mythology of the novella, rather than the films.
TL: Can you give us a teaser as to what Sister Cilice is about?
BW: A woman, who is placed in a convent against her will, fantasizes about power, domination, sensuality and freedom -- all the things that are forbidden to her. She finds a key to the Schism that can bring forth the Order of the Gash and she fearlessly summons the Cenobites, who are astounded at her willingness to trade her humanity for infernal eternal sensation.
TL: People who have only seen the films and not read the novella may not be aware of some of the differences between the two universes. The lead Cenobite (or Pinhead) for example is quite a different being from what he is in the films. I’ve always thought that the novella counterpart to the female Cenobite of the films, is the Cenobite that greets Frank when he wakes from his first “experience” with the Cenobites. Clive Barker writes:
“Where, two moments before, there had been an empty space, there was now a figure. It was the fourth Cenobite, the one that had never spoken, nor shown its face…..The hood it had worn had been discarded, as had the robes. The woman beneath was grey yet gleaming, her lips bloody, her legs parted so that the elaborate scarification of her pubis was displayed. She sat on a pile of rotting human heads, and smiled in welcome.”
TL: Considering your connection to the character of the female Cenobite, were you ever tempted to perhaps make your story a back story for the novella universe female?
BW: Yes! I found it quite wonderful, after reading the story again after all these years, to rediscover that the lead Cenobite was female. It was very satisfying indeed.
TL: I think that now the film series in its current form has ended, it’s great that things have come full circle and the universe of the novella is being expanded upon. People seem to be far more accepting of Hellraiser stories in print that don't actually use Pinhead, as the excellent comic series proved. Do you agree, and if so do you have any thoughts on why this might be?
BW: Well, I wouldn't say that the film series has ended for good. Going back to the novella has only sparked off more stories that may end up being turned into movies. And there is the new Hellraiser remake knocking around in development hell, as you mentioned previously. As for Pinhead, he is the sexiest, most powerful character of the franchise and I'm sure that there will be more opportunities to use him. In my story, there is a lead male Cenobite who is significantly different to Pinhead, yet shares many of his characteristics, except that he is more "hands on" and much more cruel
TL: The potential for future instalments of Hellbound Hearts is huge if this one is successful; it's such a rich mythology. Now that the doors have been opened, do you have any more seeds of ideas in your mind should you be invited back for another instalment?
BW: To be honest, as mentioned before, I never thought that I could write in this genre, but I must admit, there are ideas percolating! My story about Sister Cilice was quite brief and I'd love to expand her journey. She's a wonderful character: frustrated, angry, beautiful, powerful, intelligent, and really quite nasty.
TL: What’s next for Barbie Wilde?
BW: At the moment, I’m working on an erotic vampire novel – one that deals with a completely different species. I’ve always loved vampires and one has to follow one’s passions. Although there does seem to be a glut of vampire films, TV series and books at the moment, I think that I’ve managed to come up with a different angle on the subject.
Sincerest thanks to Barbie Wilde for taking the time to answer some questions. Barbie’s story Sister Cilice will be available as part of the Hellbound Hearts anthology, released in all major book retailers on the 29th September.
Sincerest thanks to Barbie Wilde for taking the time to answer some questions.
Barbie’s story Sister Cilice will be available as part of the Hellbound Hearts anthology, released in all major book retailers on the 29th September.