The Hellbound Heart is a horror novella by Clive Barker that was the basis for the 1987 movie Hellraiser. It was originally published in November 1986 by Dark Harvest in the third volume of their Night Visions anthology series, but was re-released as a stand-alone title by Harper Collins in 1988 after the success of the movie, along with an audiobook recorded by Clive Barker and published by Audioworks. It retains the gory, visceral style that Barker introduced in his series of collected short stories The Books of Blood. The story focuses on a mystical Puzzle Box (Lemarchand Configuration) and the horror it wreaks on a family which is unfortunate enough to come across it.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
Frank is a nihilist and selfish moral degenerate who has participated in every hedonistic pleasure, extreme experience and sexual perversion known to man, each time seeking a greater pleasure higher than the last. Jaded, Frank hears rumor of a mysterious puzzle box (the Lament Configuration) which opens the gateway to a realm of unfathomable carnal pleasures. Frank tracks down the current owner of the box in Düsseldorf and obtains it through performing "small favors". Frank manages to solve the puzzle while squatting in the attic of his grandparents' house, where he has set up an elaborate display of flowers and a jug of his own urine. A gateway opens and appearing from it are the Cenobites, a race of distorted creatures who practice an extreme form of sadomasochism centered around agonizing torture and mutilation. They see little difference between extreme pleasure and extreme pain and drag Frank, willingly at first, into their extradimensional realm, where Frank begins what he realizes too late will be an eternity of torture.
Frank's brother, Rory, moves his family into the house inherited by him and Frank after their grandparents' death. Rory is married to Julia, who had an affair with Frank a week before her wedding and has ever since lusted for him while staying married to Rory for the financial support he provides. Due to an accident, several drops of Rory's blood land on the spot where Frank had ejaculated prior to being snatched into the Cenobites' realm. This allows Frank to contact the physical world, at first only as a whisper, then as an emaciated corpse. Julia, hoping to rekindle their affair, promises to help him.
While Rory is at work, Julia begins picking up men whom she lures into the attic and sacrifices them to Frank, whose body becomes more substantial and whose consciousness more stable with every sacrifice. Kirsty, a friend of Rory, suspects that Julia is having a series of affairs and begins to trail her. After sneaking into the house, Kirsty has an altercation with Frank and ends up stealing his puzzle box, knowing only that Frank has some form of extreme attachment to it. After the fight, she collapses on the street. Upon awakening in hospital, she solves the puzzle box and the Cenobites come. She makes a deal with them, offering to deliver Frank back into their control to spare her. The Cenobites reluctantly accept, warning that if Kirsty tricks them they will "tear her soul apart".
Kirsty leads the Cenobites to Frank, now wearing recently slain Rory's skin. Another altercation ensues, in which Julia is killed by Frank. The Cenobites wait until Frank reveals his true identity, then re-capture him and return with him to their own realm. The lead cenobite, the Engineer, bumps into an escaping Kirsty, handing her the box, presumably for her to keep it until the Cenobites' next victim seeks it. Kirsty imagines that she sees Julia and Frank's faces reflected in the lacquer of the box, but not Rory's. She wonders if there are other puzzles, that might find a way to where Rory resides by unlocking the doors to paradise instead of hell.