The Best of Clive Barker

Clive Barker is a very prolific storyteller both in literature and film.  For a lot of people, Mr. Barker has an incredible imagination, albeit a very dark one.  Yet, that dark imagination has led to some of the most unique and diverse stories ever told.  Clive Barker is responsible for many books including The Hellbound Heart novella as well as the Books of Blood series.  There is no mistaking that this man has a lot of creative energy.  In horror circles, Mr. Barker is an extremely respected and sought after author and film-maker.  Stephen King himself once said, “I have seen the future of horror, his name is Clive Barker.”  When you’ve got the master horror novelist himself respecting you like that, you’re doing something right.  For this list, I’m going to discuss the best movies that were directed, written and/or produced by Clive Barker.  Be aware that a lot of these films that I’m going to go over are based on his novellas or short stories.  So, with that in mind, let’s delve into the dark and twisted mind of Clive Barker.


The directorial debut of Clive Barker is both one of his best and most shocking movies ever made.  Hellraiser is regarded by most as the movie that introduced us to the demonic character of Pinhead, played brilliantly by Doug Bradley.  However, at its core, Hellraiser is a love story, albeit a very twisted and bloody one.  It’s also a family drama that happens to involve the supernatural and demonic entities brought forth by a mysterious puzzle box.  Not only is Hellraiser one of my favorite horror movies of all time, it’s also one of the most visually distinctive films I’ve ever seen.  It’s gothic, gross and disturbing all at the same time.  The characters are very interesting, including Frank and Julia as well as Kirsty Cotton, played by Ashley Laurence.  Andrew Robinson plays Larry Cotton, the wife of Julia and father of Kirsty.  Hellraiser was released in 1987, a time in which the horror genre was kind of stagnating with all these slasher movies and their sequels.  Hellraiser injected new life into the genre and took it to another level.  If you’re a fan of horror movies, Hellraiser is a must-see.


The second feature-length film directed by Clive Barker, Nightbreed was as much a fantasy film as it was a horror movie.  Unfortunately, the movie studios felt that the focus of the film was too much on the monsters being the good guys and the humans being the bad guys, which was the original intent.  So, they chopped it up and marketed it as a slasher film, which is what Clive Barker had not intended.  Thankfully, the recent release of the director’s cut of the film rectifies a lot of the problems that the original release had and is more in tune with Mr. Barker’s novella, Cabal.  This is an absolutely bizarre movie.  It’s visually very interesting with amazing costume, creature and set designs.  The underground lair of the Nightbreed is amazing to look at.  The creature designs are simply put, some of the most unique I’ve ever seen.  This, I think, is Mr. Barker at his most imaginative.  It is violent, but it is not gory like Hellraiser.  There are a lot of themes at play here, including prejudice.  This one comes recommended, as it is one of the most original movies I’ve ever seen.

Lord of Illusions

While I would consider Lord of Illusions to be Clive Barker’s weakest directorial effort, it is by no means a bad movie.  Far from it.  This is a film that takes the idea of magic in the real world and approaches it in a very different and visceral way.  While some of the CGI effects in the film are flimsy even by 1995’s standards, a lot of the practical effects and costume designs still stand up.  The story is very interesting about a detective, Harry D’Amour, as he investigates the mysterious death of a famous magician.  Peeling away the layers of the mystery, D’Amour begins to suspect that much darker forces are at play that could threaten the entire world.  You want to know something really funny?  In some of Mr. Barker’s books, the character of Harry D’Amour goes up against Pinhead, which would place Lord of Illusions in the same universe as Hellraiser.  It’s an interesting thought that I would love to see on the big screen.  Scott Bakula is fantastic as D’Amour, with Kevin J. O’Connor and Famke Janssen in supporting roles.  I definitely recommend it.

The Midnight Meat Train

Based on Clive Barker’s short story of the same name, The Midnight Meat Train follows an amateur photographer as he unwittingly witnesses an act of absolute brutality by a mysterious figure played by Vinnie Jones.  Attempting to solve the mystery, the photographer decides to follow the killer to the end of the line.  This is a particularly gruesome film that features some really stark and dreary imagery.  Vinnie Jones as the silent villain is an intimidating presence.  It’s a riveting film from beginning to end and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Clive Barker’s stories.

While Clive Barker may have only directed a handful of movies, he’s more than made his mark on the horror genre with his movies and his writing.  This is a guy that truly has a finger on the pulse of the genre.  While people may have tried to imitate Mr. Barker, nobody crafts a tale quite like he does.  These are some of the best films that he’s been a part of, in my opinion and I think fans of the genre should check them out.



Hellraiser: Judgment

Released: February 2018

Director: Gary J. Tunnicliffe

Run Time: 81 Minutes

Not Rated

Distributor: Lionsgate Studios/Dimension Films

Genre: Horror

Damon Carney: Sean Carter
Randy Wayne: David Carter
Gary J. Tunnicliffe: The Auditor
Rheagan Wallace: Alison Carter
Helena Grace McDonald: Jophiel
John Gulager: The Assessor
Paul T. Taylor: Pinhead

When Clive Barker’s Hellraiser was released by New World Pictures back in 1987, it took the horror genre by storm.  A journey into the dark side of human nature and desire, Hellraiser was a shocking and visually disturbing film that surprised and disgusted movie-goers.  The film had a huge influence on the genre that birthed it and Clive Barker became a household name, essentially.  Probably the most popular aspect of the film was the character of Pinhead, played by Doug Bradley.  While the character was only on screen for maybe about 10 minutes out of the entire movie, his presence was felt throughout and has since become an iconic character alongside Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees.  The follow-up film, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, expanded on the mythology of the first film by exploring the origins of Pinhead and giving us a more detailed look into the world of the Cenobites.  Visually, it was just as shocking and grotesque as the original film, but it took the story to another level.  Hellraiser III is where things started going downhill from there with one final theatrical release in Hellraiser: Bloodline.  The following sequels went straight to home video and focuses less on what made Hellraiser so memorable in the first place.  They weren’t necessarily awful, but they just weren’t the same.  Now, in 2018, we have a new Hellraiser film.  How does it stack up with the others?

Hellraiser: Judgment follows three detectives as they try to track down a serial killer using the Ten Commandments as his inspiration.  As they continue to track the killer, they get drawn into a very dark and otherworldly situation from which there may be no escape.  I have to admit, the simplicity of the story is quite surprising and quite engaging.  While there are definitely moments where the film gets very twisted, it’s not convoluted.  I should mention that this is definitely not Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.  While it does carry the name and themes of Mr. Barker’s film, Hellraiser Judgment is a different kind of Hellraiser.  Whether or not you actually like the film may depend on whether or not you’re willing to set aside certain expectations.  It’s different and it’s new.  It introduces new ideas into the franchise that I find to be very interesting.  Bringing angels into the mix(yes, the Heavenly ones)not only spices things up a bit, but it also gives us a bit of a glimpse into where a future installment could go.  I find that absolutely fascinating.  I’m glad that Gary J. Tunnicliffe decided to change things up a bit.  THIS is the movie that Hellraiser: Revelations should have been.

Now, the first thing you are going to notice about Hellraiser: Judgment is the fact that Pinhead is played by someone other than Doug Bradley.  Revelations was the first film to cast someone else, but the film was an unmitigated dumpster fire.  For the tenth installment, Paul T. Taylor was cast as the Hell Priest.  You wanna know something funny?  Mr. Taylor does a pretty good job as the man with the pins in his head.  Don’t get me wrong, nobody can truly replace Doug Bradley as Pinhead, but Mr. Taylor brings his own unique performance to the role and it works.  The make-up effects and costume design for the character are outstanding.  Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who wrote and directed this film, also stars as the Auditor, a new Cenobite that “interviews” people before sending them to be cleansed and judged.  He’s particularly creepy.  The new Cenobites in this film are something to behold.  We have the classic “Chatterer,” while we get new characters like the Assessor and the Butcher.  The other actors do a decent job.  Damon Carney and Randy Wayne play officers who happen to be brothers working on the same case.  Alexandra Harris plays Christine Egerton, who is assigned to the same case as the Carter brothers, but she has another reason for being there.  Overall, the acting is really not bad here.

The effects for this film are really quite good for a film that’s very low-budget.  The make-up and costume designs are on par with some of the previous films if not more so.  Pinhead looks amazing  the way he’s designed.  He looks more like a priest than a sado-masochistic demon.  The other Cenobites are extremely detailed to the point of revulsion, as it should be.  Most of the effects in Hellraiser: Judgment are practical, especially in terms of the gore and violence, and that is generally not something you see in a low-budget horror film these days.  The first few Hellraiser films have always been fairly liberal with the gruesome visuals, and they don’t skimp out on the nasty stuff here.  It’s not gory every second of the film, but when the blood flows, it flows.

So far, so good, right?  It’s nothing like Hellraiser: Revelations, right?  No, but that’s not a particularly high bar to beat.  Thankfully, Judgment comes out swinging and connects more than it misses, in my opinion.  However, there are a number of issues which will most likely keep the film from legendary status.  First of all, people expecting a film like say Hellbound: Hellraiser II need to check their expectations at the door.  This is a very different film than what’s come before, so for some, that could be a huge negative.  Another problem is that some of the pacing is kind of…off despite the 81 minute run-time.  When you’re not actually dealing with the Cenobites, the movie does slow down a bit.  It also borrows elements from movies like Saw and Seven.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but the whole police procedural aspect of the film felt a little underwhelming to me.  There is also a twist in the film that I saw coming a mile away.  The film’s budget is estimated to be at 350,000 bucks, and it kinda shows at times.  There are some sets that don’t look like they were completed in time.  However, it is something that I can forgive because of the low-budget nature of the film.

Overall, I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised by how good Hellraiser: Judgment ended up being.  Does this film erase the stench of Revelations?  Not really, but it is a huge step in the right direction, and with some new ideas being introduced into the franchise, I’m actually curious about where Pinhead goes from here.  If Lionsgate/Dimension Studios can put the same amount of effort into the next film as they did with Judgment, we may see a turnaround for Hellraiser.  Hopefully, we can get the franchise back on track.  This movie makes me hopeful for that.  Yeah, I would say, if you are a fan of Hellraiser, check this one out.  It may surprise you.

My Final Judgment: Tears are a waste of good suffering. 8.5/10

Accident Man


Released: February 2018

Director: Jesse V. Johnson

Run Time: 105 Minutes

Rated R

Distributor: Sony Pictures

Genre: Action/Thriller

Scott Adkins: Mike Fallon
Ray Stevenson: Big Ray
Ashley Greene: Charlie Adams
David Paymer: Milton
Michael Jai White: Mick
Ray Park: Mac
Amy Johnston: Jane The Ripper

The independent action film scene has been around for decades, but some of the films have only come out in the past 15 years.  A huge part of that is due to the efforts of one British martial arts actor/stuntman Scott Adkins.  While the man has had small roles working with folks like Jackie Chan, it wasn’t really until Undisputed II: Last Man Standing that Scott really exploded on to the scene.  The man has had a steady line of work ever since working in films like The Shepard, Ninja, Expendables 2, Wolf Warrior, Hard Target 2, Doctor Strange, and Savage Dog.  Not everything that he’s made has been at the very least entertaining if not fantastic.  The man has put so much effort into everything that he does, that it was about time that he started having more of a direct involvement in the movies that he’s been making.  Enter Accident Man, a personal project for Scott Adkins that ends up being better than most “personal projects” by other actors.

Scott Adkins pays Mike Fallon, an assassin whose specialty is making hits look like accidents.  After each target is eliminated, Mike either takes out his stress on either a punching bag or groups of random dirtbags in local pubs.  Everything goes according to plan until he finds out that his ex-girlfriend was murdered and that the killer may be a member of the organization that Mike is a part of.  His quest for vengeance and the truth ends up leading him to turn against his fellow assassins.  I love movies like this.  The story doesn’t waste time with overly complicated twists and shock endings.  The story here is surprisingly well thought out and engaging.  Again, it’s not overly complicated and can be predictable at times, but when it hooks you, it doesn’t let go.  A lot of that is the result of some pretty strong writing.  Some of the strongest writing and lines here come from Scott Adkins who shares the writing credit with Stu Small.  While the film certainly has an edge, it’s smart enough to know to not take itself super-serious.  While that can work for certain films, the writing here is genuinely funny at times with plenty of dirty jokes and more off-color humor.  I would love to see Scott do some more writing in the future, because his wit is as accurate as his fighting.

The action sequences in this film are second-to-none, thanks to Tim Man, a frequent collaborator with Scott Adkins.  The fight choreography is sharp and hard-hitting.  One of my favorite fight scenes is when Scott’s character takes on Michael Jai White’s and Ray Park’s characters in a dojo.  Tim Man has a real gift for 1-on-2 fights.  All the fight scenes are incredible.  The finale when Scott takes on Amy Johnston’s character is one of the coolest fight sequences I’ve seen in a long time.  Even though the fight scenes are pretty brutal, there’s still an element of humor thrown into the mix which makes them all the more entertaining.  Again, it comes back to some pretty sharp writing.

I’ve been throwing around the whole “Expendables” comparison thing over the past couple of reviews here, but Accident Man is another one.  Not only do we have Scott Adkins at the helm, we’ve also got Ray Stevenson.  Michael Jai White third time starring with Scott Adkins and seeing these two fight each other is something to behold.  Darth Maul himself, Ray Park, is also here and he’s actually really good.  He and Michael Jai White form this duo of ex-special forces characters known as Mick and Mac.  We also have an up-and-coming martial arts superstar in Amy Johnston who more than holds her own against the boys.  There’s a lot of strange characters in this film, but each of them is fairly memorable.  One of them is this character called Poison Pete whose specialty is…well…poison.  He’s a very squirrely and anti-social character that’s pretty creepy.

For an indie film, Accident Man has a very professional, big-budget look throughout the entire movie.  We can thank director Jesse V. Johnson for helping give the film its look.  It’s incredibly well-shot with wide exteriors and proper lighting so we can see what’s going on.  The camera-work is also fantastic as the director doesn’t rely on the weak-ass “shaky-cam” technique that a lot of big-budget action films tend to use.  The soundtrack for the film is equally amazing.  It’s a combination of punk rock, heavy metal, and classic rock-style music.  This should not work at all in a movie like this, but it does.  It definitely gives the film a mid-80s, early 90s vibe that is absolutely fantastic.

If there’s really one nitpick that I have with this movie is that we aren’t really given more insight into Mike Fallon’s relationship with his girlfriend.  Also, I would have loved to see how Big Ray got his crew together.  However, those are just some minor nitpicks in an other-wise bad-ass action flick that should be on the radar for anyone looking for a good time.  It’s a movie with an edge and a sense of humor that does have a bit of heart.  It’s well-written, in no small part due to Scott Adkins and his passion for the project.  Scott’s got a lot of interesting stuff coming up this year including a film called Triple Threat.  If you haven’t been paying attention to this guy’s work, I would start paying attention right now.

My Final Recommendation:   Beware of defenestration.  9.5/10

Everyone Fights, No One Quits: Starship Troopers Re-Visited

I must admit, I feel a bit ashamed for not bringing this up a couple months ago when it WAS the 20th anniversary of Paul Verhoeven’s live-action “adaptation” of Starship Troopers.  I remember when my dad took my brother and I to go see the film back in 1997.  I remember being totally enthralled by what I had seen.  Guns, bugs, blood and gore and gigantic space-ships.  What more could you want?  It was one of the most spectacular movies that I had seen that year.  I was 15 years old at the time, so I wasn’t keenly aware of the subtext of what I was seeing and I certainly wasn’t entirely aware of the book that the film was LOOSELY based on.  Even so, the movie had grabbed my attention and over the 2 decades since, Starship Troopers has become one of my favorite science fiction movies of all-time.  I personally put it up there with Star Wars and Alien.  I bring this up because I want to re-visit a film that’s known to be controversial due to its level of violence and sexuality.  This is not a new review.  I gave the film a 9/10 if you ignore the fact that it’s not a great adaptation.  I have read the book.  Many times since I saw the film, and I can tell you the two are nothing alike.  But that does not make the film bad or dumb.  Not remotely.

Paul Verhoeven, when he makes a film, has a purpose to everything that he does.  One could call the man a “mad genius.”  I mean that in the most respectable way, of course.  Most of the man’s films are controversial to a certain degree.  They’ve always pissed people off and Mr. Verhoeven knew it.  But that didn’t stop him from making the movies that he wanted to make.  Whether it’s Total Recall, RoboCop, or Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven always gives his movies an edge.  Yet, at the same time he manages to keep his movies from taking themselves far too seriously.  Starship Troopers is no different.  The level of violence in Verhoeven’s films are so over the top that they are ridiculous.  What most people don’t realize is that was EXACTLY the point.  Most folks who have read Robert Heinlein’s novel before the movie came out tend to have a rather negative view of the film.  I’m not necessarily saying that they’re wrong, but I think that they might be missing the point.  I think a lot of people did 20 years ago.  Starship Troopers has a great deal of subversive ideas that are cleverly disguised as over-the-top visuals.  It’s not just the visuals, though.  It’s also in the script and in the dialogue.

There are a couple of scenes that I noticed over the course of watching the film again that stood out to me.  Take the shower scene for example.  Most people would accuse the film of using this scene just to show some naked dudes and ladies for the hell of it.  However, this scene is significant for a number of reasons.  The first thing you will notice is probably the most obvious: Men and women showering together during training.  Here’s the thing.  You’ve got men and women training for combat in the same platoon and same battalion.  Basically, the film’s military is treating men and women as equals.  The other thing I would ask you to pay attention to during this scene is the dialogue.  You hear one character wanting to have children, but she needs a license and it’s easier to get that license through serving in the military.  Another character wants to be a writer, but he has to go through the military to do so.  Those moments of dialogue highlight what kind of government that these people are living under.  Population control and propaganda?  Seems pretty heavy-handed to me and these people are okay with it.  Another character wants to become a politician, but serving is the only way.

The government in the film as well as the book is set up in such a way that only a certain class of people can vote:  The people that serve in the military.  These people are Citizens while civilians are not.  It’s a military-style dictatorship, essentially.  You know what they say:  “The devil’s in the details.”  You look at not only some of the visuals throughout the film, but take a look at the sets and costumes as well.  The officer uniforms are very Nazi-like in terms of design.  When the Sky Marshalls speak, they stand above everyone else in the room.  Look at the way the camera is used in those scenes.  It’s pointed up and towards the Sky Marshall when they do close-ups.  Does that remind you of somebody?  There are a lot of details that seem “in your face,” but when you start peeling back the layers, you begin to see and understand why Paul Verhoeven chose to make the movie the way he did.  There are a lot of moments that seem stupid, but are actually really clever if you’re willing to read between the lines.

Even if you don’t bother to dig beneath the visuals to find the subtext of what Paul Verhoeven was going for, Starship Troopers remains a very entertaining action flick.  20 years later, a lot of the visual effects and CGI still hold up very, very well.  The sequence with the “tanker” bug is one of the biggest highlights of the film.  This is a movie that perfectly melded practical effects with CGI.  The space sequences are still among the best that I’ve ever seen since Return of the Jedi.  They are that good.  The battle at Whiskey Outpost on Planet P is one of the most epic battle sequences put to screen in the late 90’s.  Again, this is where the CGI is very strong.  The music by Basil Poledouris still gets your blood pumping.  The landing on Klendathu is one of the most striking sequences I’ve ever seen.

This would all be for nothing if the cast and crew weren’t up for the task.  Thankfully, everybody does a fantastic job.  Starship Troopers is Casper Van Dien’s breakout role, and I thought he was absolutely fantastic.  His character of Johnny Rico goes from a fresh-faced high school graduate to a battle-hardened combat soldier by the end of the film and you can see the transformation.  The supporting cast was extraordinary as well.  This isn’t the first time Michael Ironside appeared in a Paul Verhoeven film.  Mr. Ironside also starred in Total Recall as a character named Richter.  Michael Ironside is always fun to watch.  He chews the scenery better than almost anybody.  I say almost, because Clancy Brown is also in the movie as Drill Instructor Zim.  His turn as the drill instructor is probably one of my favorite roles that he’s ever been in, aside from being the main villain in Highlander.  Dina Meyer, who plays Dizzy, has had a pretty strong career since Starship Troopers.  I think her character of Dizzy is a better match for Johnny Rico than Denise Richards’ Carmen.  There’s more legitimate chemistry between Rico and Dizzy than there is between Rico and Carmen.  I think that’s just the way the characters were written.

Going back to view the film has been an absolute blast.  I loved it when I was 15, but I love it even more as an adult.  It’s one of those movies that sticks with me.  A lot of people still don’t like the movie, but I’m guessing that these folks read the book before seeing the movie.  I’m not going to say that they are wrong for not liking it.  The movie was not what they were expecting.  I get it, I really do.  I’ve read the book, but only after seeing the movie, so both have a special place in my heart.

It would be remiss of me to not bring up the sequels to Starship Troopers, despite the fact that I would rather not.  The first sequel: Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation would be released direct to video in 2004.  This was Phil Tippett’s first feature film as a director.  Phil Tippett is a visual effects wizard known for a lot of great films including Willow and Star Wars.  Let’s just say, that he hasn’t really directed a whole lot since Hero of the Federation.  There’s a reason for that.  This movie sucks.  While the original film was made for a hundred million dollars, this little sebaceous cyst of a film managed only a paltry 7 million.  Let me tell you, it is very clear that no real time was spent trying to make this movie good.  The visual effects are generally not good, and the guns don’t even fire blanks.  Nope, they couldn’t even afford blanks.  Instead, they used blinking lights on the end of the rifles.  It is no surprise to me that Casper Van Dien didn’t come back for this one.  It’s horrendous on so many levels.  The acting is atrocious, the story is little more than a horror movie and all the subtext and political satire that made the first movie so unique is absent.  Skip this crap.

Of the two live-action sequels, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder is the better one.  It’s better not only because Casper Van Dien returns, but so does the political satire.  However, the satire strikes me as very heavy-handed and is not handled as well as Paul Verhoeven did in the first movie.  Still, film number 3 manages to not actually piss me off like the second film did.  While the original film was Casper’s breakout role, it’s very clear that Casper really likes this character and is very comfortable in the role, despite how cheesy the movie gets.  In fact, I think Casper Van Dien kinda rolls with it and that makes it kind of fun.  Does that make it a good movie?  No.  The film suffers from an anorexic budget which gives us some really poor CGI and some lame effects in certain parts.  Overall, I personally think Starship Troopers 3 is worth a look.

Starship Troopers: Invasion is the first film in the franchise to go fully CGI.  Does it actually work?  Yes, in a lot of ways, I think it does.  This film properly features the power suits that were featured so prominently in Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, but conspicuously absent during the first two live-action films.  The suits in the third film don’t really qualify in my opinion.  While the film is visually spectacular, it kind of misses the mark a bit as far as being a Starship Troopers film goes.  For one, the subtle jabs and political satire from the original film are missing entirely.  Two:  The main characters of Johnny Rico, Carmen Ibanez, and Carl Jenkins are not voiced by their original actors, and it is painfully obvious that the new voices just don’t cut it.  This one is a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I’d still say check it out, because it’s still fun to watch.


Traitor of Mars is the kind of film where you wonder whether or not you want to continue investing your time into the franchise.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s awesome to have Casper Van Dien play Johnny Rico again.  He’s made that role his own and I can’t really imagine anyone else playing that role.  Sadly, the film is dragged down by some questionable writing and some very irritating side-characters.  Some of these characters are so irritating that you just want them to die.  Bringing the character of Dizzy back leads to one of the creepiest moments in the entire franchise and not in a good way.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really have a whole lot to say, and that’s unfortunate.  Stay for Casper Van Dien’s performance and the action, but nothing else.

In conclusion, Starship Troopers is a film that I can watch over and over again, not get bored, and pick something new up each time I watch it.  It’s a film that has picked up a cult following after it’s release back in 1997.  It stands as one of the most visually spectacular and engaging science fiction films of that decade.  As far as the sequels go, I wouldn’t blame anybody for skipping them.  They really don’t hold a candle to the original film.  Now, there’s been talk about a reboot of the franchise going around for a couple of years now, but it’s hard to say whether or not it’s gaining any traction.  At the end of the day, it’s Paul Verhoeven’s original Starship Troopers that’s worth watching.  It’s an incredible film in so many different ways.  It’s the one that deserves to be seen and believed.