Clive Barker is a powerhouse of imagination. He is the author of over twenty novels, he has directed three films and produced many more. From comic books to video games to action figures, he’s created them all. This leads to an incredible body of work, most of it ripe for adaptation. Barker has had much success with film adaptations already, of course. Both Hellraiser and Candyman spawned their own franchises. Nightbreed has finally found an audience due to the new Director’s Cut blu-ray from Scream Factory. And even more recent adaptations like The Midnight Meat Train have proven to be successful.
However, there are still many great stories in Barker’s catalogue that are perfect for adaptation. With all the movies that have already been made, none of Barker’s full-length novels have made it to the screen. And there are still plenty of fantastic stories left in The Books of Blood. One of the best, Jacqueline Ess, will be coming soon from indie director Jovanka Vunkovick. Here, we’ll take a look at five Clive Barker stories that need to be adapted for the screen, now!
In the Hills, the Cities
One of the stories in The Books of Blood, “In the Hills, the Cities” is incredibly ambitious and would admittedly be hard to develop for film. It’s about two lovers on a trip through Yugoslavia who find a field where two entire cities go to war with each other. It’s the nature of the combat that for interesting spectacle: The two cities bind their citizens together to create massive creatures walking and moving in unison, controlled by the will of 40,000 people. The amazing visual of these city-giants is of course too expensive to perhaps ever be realized in live-action on the screen. But Barker did have plans at one point to produce an animated feature film based on the story, which would definitely be a great way to overcome the budgetary issues. Nothing much about this project has been said for a few years, but the story is being adapted as a motion comic along with some other stories in The Books of Blood.
Clive Barker’s first full-length novel is also his one and only pure horror novel. This one is an update on the traditional Faust legend. In typical Barker fashion, it is far less cut and dried than even Marlowe’s or Goethe’s versions of Faust. Here, the Devil figure Mamoulian has an intricate sense of humanity about him. The man tricked into making the pact, Whitehead, has a monstrous side to his nature in kind. Like any good story about a deal with the Devil, it comes down to a battle of wills; not only between Whitehead and Mamoulian, but for the people caught in the middle of their decades-long feud. Naturally, there is much bloodshed, cannibalism and even a few reanimated corpses to be found within its pages, which only makes it more perfect for a cinematic adaptation. Of all of Barker’s full-blown novels this would be the easiest to adapt as well as the most accessible for the widespread horror audience to digest.
Written just after Hellraiser and his bitter experience filming Nightbreed, The Great and Secret Show is a book about the ugly side of Hollywood. Years later, Barker would revisit this theme in his novel Coldheart Canyon. This book is a large-scale fusion of horror and fantasy. It is about a secret magic know as the Art, known only in whispers around the corners of the world. A man working in the dead-letter office in the emptiness of the midwest named Randolph Jaffe stumbles onto the secret and seeks to learn and master this magic for himself. He comes to clash with a man named Fletcher, who is convinced Jaffe will only use this magic for malicious purposes. The two fight for years until their weariness leads them each to create a child solely for the purpose that their war can continue for years to come. But the two children, Jo-Beth Maguire and Howie Katz, come to find each other as teenagers and instead of killing one another, they fall in love. This is pure, imaginative dark fantasy and one of Barker’s best. Its quick pace would make for a great feature, as would its sequel novel, Everville. The only recent announcement of any kind on this front came from a Facebook question from Barker to his fans, in which he asked if they would rather see a TV series based on Nightbreed, Weaveworld or this.
This story from the Books of Blood is about a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that is doomed in every since of the word. The lead actress is dreadful, but she’s a soap opera star so the audience is larger just by having her in the show. A man comes to the director suggesting his wife as a replacement. The only catch is that the man’s wife is dead. This man himself is also dead. After he pays a visit to the current star, she dies too. What we’re left with is a whole production manned by ghosts and reanimated corpses. They put on the show and people love it, until one of the newly undead theatre trustees burns down the building. After that, the remaining dead, including the director and former star, decide to take their show on the road and become an undead repertory company. It would not need a ton of money to succeed as a movie and the jet-black humor would surely make for an interesting feature.
More than anything else it seems, this is the one fans have been clamoring for, although that might change with the publication of Barker’s upcoming novel The Scarlet Gospels. As for right now, it’s Tortured Souls that remains the number one project that could have been, in the eyes of the fans; probably due to its similarities with Hellraiser. Tortured Souls has a weird inception. It was designed as a macabre action figure series. Each character was packaged with a short story focused on that character and when one purchased all of the figures they would be able to assemble the complete novella. While fans have known about the characters and their stories for some time, the novella was not published on its own until earlier this month, fourteen years after the figures first hit shelves. An eBook version is available for purchase with the fully-illustrated print version coming in February. Now that the novella is finally, officially published maybe this will bring some momentum back to the film adaptation—which, at one point, looked as though it could happen at any moment.