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Clive Barker: The Art of Horror (1992)

Explores the art and mind of horror icon Clive Barker.
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Explores the art and mind of horror icon Clive Barker.

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1992 (USA)  »

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Had been available only for purchase or rental with Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992). See more »

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Spoofs Siskel & Ebert (1986) See more »

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An intriguing brief documentary but only for the true Barker fans
17 January 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Influential people exist all over the world and they affect different people in their own specific ways. There are the people who workout, comic book lovers, novelists, computer scientists; the list goes on. For each group there was at least one person who is treated as a household name that influenced the interest. For horror fanatics, Clive Barker (although not the only one i.e. Stephen King) is frequently mentioned at the top of people's lists. Now, when it comes to understand that particular individual, it's very important to digest and comprehend all the factors that played in that person's life; that made them what they are now. For Clive Barker, knowing a documentary would be made about him at some point was obvious after the release of his franchise starter Hellraiser (1987) and its sequel Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988).

The thing is for this documentary; the title would infer more that it's about Clive Barker explaining the art of horror. For that premise alone, its interesting enough to find out because only Barker and a few other writers would actually know what makes good horror. Unfortunately, this documentary somewhat accomplishes this task but not as efficiently as it should have. Here's what Barker does talk about. First and foremost, Barker quotes the first horrific thing he ever encountered was the childbirth his mother went through to have him brought into this world. "We come out kicking and screaming, or we get the screams smacked into us"; it is a view that probably not many even thought about. Childbirth can be violent and can be horrific at times. I don't know if this is what inspired him because it would be hard to say whether he remembered that from such an early age, but I'm sure it did inspire him when he wrote.

Barker also explains how he got to starting Hellraiser (1987), after two initial failures to try and write for Hollywood Studios. Along with that he includes what particular elements he finds interesting and arousing when it comes to writing and how they relate to him. The thing is, these components that he mentions can be disturbing or are things that are normally spoken in hushed terms because of how gratuitously macabre they can sound. Plus like many other celebrities, he gives a small amount of advice for anyone who's attempting to follow what they're good at. One of the more stimulating conversations that Barker has said pertains more to how people's culture view society. Now of course, this is for 1992 back then when it was filmed, but it shows that even by today's standards, the attitudes for various activities haven't changed.

An example of this is Barker explaining how he sees people at the gym working out and getting tans all just to be beautiful and attractive. Barker sees this as a trance these individuals are in, so focused on their goal that it becomes routine to a point of being robotic. When in fact there's more to life than just "the flesh" which is what Barker emphasizes a lot in his written works. These particular aspects of what Barker has to say are enlightening indeed, but that doesn't exactly bring to light everything the title suggests. Other than this, running in only a half-hour this documentary is extremely brief on information for what makes horror an art. It's very condensed. Also the amount of material given is heavily based on some of Barker's written works and for those who are only fans of his movies won't exactly understand every reference Barker makes.

On a technical standpoint as a documentary everything else is for the most part acceptable. The music composed by Christopher Young nicely matches whatever is put on screen. This goes for the horrific pictures edited in between dialog or even the comedy bits that mock critics Siskel & Ebert or just building a model of Pinhead. Surprisingly, the crew that made this documentary are barely in film at all now. The only person to keep moving on other than Christopher Young and Clive Barker was producer Mark Terry. Everyone else just disappeared; even Robert Russell who sounded decent as the narrator only did this job. What happened? The camera-work is the last thing and its possibly the only other issue to this film and that it's just not that interesting other than it panning over a number of grisly images that pertain to Barker. The only other thing worth mentioning is that there are a few shots that give audiences an idea of the hairstyles back then,...yikes.

As a documentary it does have Clive Barker giving some deeply enthralling thematic material related to himself and the products he's worked on. But for a title describing that Clive Barker will explain the art of horror; it isn't done in the clearest of fashions. Plus with its 30-minute running time, viewers will only get a very condensed understanding of what it takes to truly make something horrific so beautiful.


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