I’m currently making my way through Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Barker’s a king of horror, though he’s moved onto different fare since his horror hey days of the 80’s. His is the mind that created Pinhead, and Hell Raiser is his brain child.

These past few months, if not years, I’ve been reading a huge amount of sophisticated psychological horror. It’s what’s fascinated me, despite my penchant for low grade zombie movies and the occasional Stephen King novel where the gloves come off and the good times roll. Splatterfest gore porn has never appealed to me; the whole approach where the human is but so much meat, and this basic revelation is used as the source of the terror has never really worked for me. Unsophisticated, I thought, “Look Ma, I’m made of meat and blood and bones.” So?

Well, Barker is deliciously good at what he does. I’ve seen parts and pieces of Hell Raiser (something I plan to ammend quickly), and what I remember is being transfixed by horror and curiousity, knowing that skin will become unzipped, that blood will flow, that danger and death is everywhere and just waiting to step in uninvited.

You know the scene where the heroine is walking slowly through the darkened room, calling out softly for the boyfriend who lies cooling beneath the bed? And in the closet is the murderer, knife in hand, watching and waiting? And you, the watcher, know that it’s going to go down any second. Any moment now that closet door is going to open, and the screaming will begin, the chase, and the cutting, and the killing. But until it does you sit and writhe and wriggle in your seat, transfixed, mesmerized by the promise of pain and horror.

That’s what Barker delivers. That’s what keeps you turning the page. Knowing that its going to get bad, real bad, knowing that the guillotine is hanging above the hero’s neck by just a thread, and could come shrieking down with but the slightest provocation.

In his introduction, Barker doesn’t quite distance himself from his horror work in the 80’s, but rather puts it in perspective, categorizes it as a kind of fiction he reveled in during one phase of his life, but makes it clear that it’s a phase that he’s transcended to a degree, and this his interests have changed. Matured, perhaps. But during an escapade into the L.A. Halloween parade, he saw and experienced once more the fascination and delight that people take in horror, with gazing into the shadows between the closet door slats and trying to make out the murderer. He remembered the reason he wrote his short stories and directed his movies, and it is with fondness and pleasure that he invites us to read his work. I’m glad he hasn’t distanced himself from his stories. And I’m glad to report that I’m having a lot of pleasure leaning in close to that closet door, listening in the aching silence for the low sound of a depraved man’s breath, trying to espy the shadowy outline within, and the long, cold gleam of his knife.