Hot on the hellish heels of their classy adaptation of Tigon’s 1971 picture The Blood on Satan’s Claw, Bafflegab Productions now bring us their version of Clive Barker’s 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart, famously adapted on film in 1987 as Hellraiser.
This pacy, punchy adaptation starts with a lovely, pounding, 80s-feeling theme, before launching straight into the familiar tale of lifelong ne’er-do-well Frank Cotton getting in way over his head with a gang of otherworldly pleasure-seekers (the order of the gash, or Cenobites) who have some serious sadomasochism issues, disappearing into their world of sensations beyond imagining. His brother Rory and Rory’s wife Julia move into the house where he disappeared, and an accident brings Frank back as a monstrous half-man in need of blood to regrow his body. Julia has a history with Frank and agrees to bring him victims.
Audio is a great medium for Barker’s story, allowing the squelchy sound effects to construct the nasty visuals in your head. Hissing, ‘half-made’ Frank begging for blood is nicely traumatic, as is his recounting of his torture at the hands and hooks of the Cenobites and murder of one of Julia’s unlucky conquests. The pleasantly subdued angelic/devilish voices of the Cenobites are also creepily effective.
Admittedly, it is difficult to forget the film entirely (can anybody ever really outdo Doug Bradley?), but the cast here do a sterling job. Tom Meeten (The Ghoul) is great in a dual role, playing both mild cuckold Rory and the superbly nasty Frank, while Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) believably transitions from unsatisfied spouse to scary seductress as she procures more lives to feed Frank back into fleshliness. Alice Lowe (Prevenge) does well in the slightly thankless role of Kirsty, convincingly mooning after Rory and then righteously indignant once she uncovers Julia and Frank’s awful deeds.
This is a short, creepy listen which will bring a shiver to a sunny commute or perfectly complement a dark, stormy night in.