Clive Barker is one of the most creative minds in the business. He fears no territory, and he’s shown that time and again. His novels, novellas and short stories are nightmares waiting to be explored, and his elegant and often poetic writing style borders on bewildering. But Barker’s fame isn’t a result of his novels exclusively (or his gorgeous paintings, for that matter), he’s also extremely well-respected for the films that he’s shot as well as inspired.
We won’t be talking too much about his novels here (you can read a ton of our coverage of Barker’s books here). This place is reserved for the man’s films and the lingering chills they inspire. Once you watch one of Barker’s greatest transfers, it never seems to leave your mind. That’s power.
Here now are a look at the five best films to be inspired Barker’s stellar work.
05 Lord of Illusions
Verdict: There’s a brilliant film noir vibe to this picture, and when coupled with a multi-layered tale of murder and the tanglings of a cult presence, the picture takes on a life of its own. It’s yet to be replicated by anyone, not that anyone could capture the magic that Barker manufactures in this story. Lord of Illusions features a fantastic cast that includes Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O’Connor, Famke Janssen and the late, great Daniel von Bargen (wherever you may be in the next phase of existence, we hope you’re enjoying yourself), and it also boasts a paralyzing finale that simply cannot be shaken.
Synopsis: During a routine case in L.A., NY private investigator Harry D’Amour stumbles over members of a fanatic cult, who are waiting for the resurrection of their leader Nix. 13 years ago, Nix was gunned down by his best trainee Swann. In the meantime Swann is advanced to a popular illusionist like David Copperfield and is married to the charming Dorothea. She hires D’Amour to protect Swann against the evil cult members. A short time later Swann is killed by one of his own tricks and the occurrences are turning over, and it crackles between Dorothea and D’Amour.
04 The Midnight Meat Train
Verdict: Never has borderline voyeurism been so dangerous, which the film’s star photographer, Leon learns quickly. While the man isn’t exactly after sexual gratification as he spies and captures complete strangers on film, he is quite clearly drawn to the darkest regions and acts of a metropolitan area. It is conceivable that that aspect of his work does incite a tingle in his drawers. But that tingle fades quick, replaced by a deep and dark obsession with a burly man (we later learn that he goes by the moniker, Mahogany) that frequently boards the final subway each evening. But why? What occurs within that steel bullet? Murder occurs, and Leon soon discovers what happens to nosy photographers in search of a grotesque still frame to peddle for finances. He also learns the definition of “passing the torch.”
Synopsis: The photographer Leon lives with his girlfriend and waitress Maya waiting for a chance to get in the photo business. When Maya contacts their friend Jurgis, he schedules a meeting for Leon with the successful owner of arts gallery Susan Hoff; she analyzes Leon’s work and asks him to improve the quality of his photos. During the night, the upset Leon decides to wander on the streets taking pictures with his camera, and he follows three punks down to the subway station; when the gang attacks a young woman, Leon defends her and the guys move on. On the next morning, Leon discovers that the woman is missing. He goes to the police station, but Detective Lynn Hadley does not give much attention to him and discredits his statement. Leon becomes obsessed to find what happened with the stranger and he watches the subway station. When he sees the elegant butcher Mahogany in the train, Leon believes he might be a murderer and stalks him everywhere, in the beginning of his journey to the darkness.
Verdict: Nightbreed really has a little bit of everything a genre fan could hope for. The story is loaded with “monsters” (are these the true monsters of the world?), serial killer insanity and an unlikely hero cast in a role he’s both conflicted and frightened by. But as Aaron Boone learns more these beasts, and more of himself, the fear begins to subside, and a new mission slowly takes form. But can he successfully rid the ‘Breed of the twisted Dr. Philip K. Decker? And even if he does, what becomes of the man now that he’s learned of this strange community… and of his own fate? Nightbreed is brilliant, and it’s brilliant not just because Barker is a mastermind of the complex, but because it still remains one of the most original pictures ever shot.
Synopsis: A community of mutant outcasts of varying types and abilities attempts to escape the attention of a psychotic serial killer and redneck vigilantes with the help of a brooding young man who discovers them. Based on the novel “Cabal” by Clive Barker.
Verdict: Hands down one of the most frightening and grotesque films to ever be shot, Hellraiser is equal parts mesmerizing and terrifying. The sadomasochistic overtones of the film will leave the queasy seeing a way out, while those who adore original, jaw-dropping villains will flock toward the pic. There’s a repulsive love story buried in this gorefest, and while the diversity of the story is greatly admired, it’s also a disconcerting angle to an already uncomfortable (in the greatest of ways) tale. If extreme cinema is for you, then you should do everything in your power to get your hands on the cherished and timeless work of art.
Synopsis: Clive Barker’s feature directing debut graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature – the man’s half-brother, who is also the woman’s former lover – hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of S&M demons, the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor. He soon forces his former mistress to bring him his necessary human sacrifices to complete his body… but the Cenobites won’t be happy about this.
Verdict: In my humble opinion, Candyman is one of the few screen villains that not only proves frightening, but also deserves a constant position next to “the big three” (that’s Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger) when contemplating celluloid’s most petrifying villains. Tony Todd played the character to perfection, and while the story itself deviates a bit from Barker’s source material, the film is still three levels beyond shocking. Candyman is, no doubt, one of the greatest horror pictures ever released.
Synopsis: Helen Lyle is a student who decides to write a thesis about local legends and myths. She visits a part of the town, where she learns about the legend of the Candyman, a one-armed man who appears when you say his name five times, in front of a mirror. Of course, Helen doesn’t believe all this stuff, but the people of the area are really afraid. When she ignores their warnings and begins her investigation in the places that he is rumored to appear, a series of horrible murders begins. Could the legend be true?