Revisiting Clive Barker’s ‘The Scarlet Gospels’ and the End of Pinhead

Paul AloisioEditorials2 Comments

Cliver Barker hates the name Pinhead.

In fact, it was never his intention for his creation to be called such a silly name; one that Barker has called “undignified”. Truth be told, he hasn’t really been happy with his Hell Priests onscreen representation for some time. Though numerous sequels have depicted the demon, he’s only ever appeared in one piece of the horror author’s writings.

That changed in 2015 when Barker set out to reclaim and subsequently kill his creation in The Scarlet Gospels, a novel detailing Pinhead – er, the Hell Priest’s final days. And don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything the author himself wouldn’t want you to know. All things considered, it would be nothing short of anticlimactic if Barker decided to let his iconic cenobite return for even more after promising his demise for so long.

The book is nothing short of fascinating due to Barker’s less-than-stellar outlook on the Hellraiser franchise. Truth be told, most of them haven’t been the greatest. The original 1987 and its sequel are classics. The rest? Well, some are pretty good. Some are unwatchable – especially the most recent offering. But I don’t want to talk about that, and you probably don’t either.

Not all of the reviews upon the book’s release have been favorable, but years later, it’s had some time to digest, guts and all. The prose is very straight to the point and doesn’t contain much of Barker’s usual poetic acrobatics, but there are times when his genius really shines through the blood and the exposed brain. There are also times when it’s necessary to look away from the pages and take a breather; passages containing extreme gore here dictate a moment of watching puppy videos on YouTube and a cold shower.

The Scarlet Gospels finally gives Barker and outlet for his depictions of Hell, the cenobite’s dwelling place, and this is really where the book shines. You can tell the author has been clamoring to accomplish such a feat for years – decades even – and it is completely apparent throughout the bloodsoaked pages of the book. Interestingly enough, it even shows a side of the Hell Priest the audience has never seen before. There’s true weakness and anger, desperation and grief. Who would have thought?

Clive Barker, that’s who, and that’s also the only person who should have ever been able to pilot who we have come to know and love as Pinhead. The Scarlet Gospels is an incredible look into not only the future of Barker’s hellish creation but the relationship the creator has with his monster. That alone is worth the price of admission.

With the release date of the newest Hellraiser still up in the air, now is a better time than ever to read what is intended by Barker to be the end of the Hell Priest. And please, for the love of both pleasure and pain, stop calling him Pinhead, okay? It’s demeaning. Shame on you.