The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

“All is death, woman. All is pain. Love breeds loss. Isolation breeds resentment. No matter which way we turn, we are beaten. Our only true inheritance is death. And our only legacy, dust.”

Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I’d read something a bit scarier than normal. I tend to shy away from Clive Barker (after having read some disturbing materials earlier on) and I thought to myself – how bad can it be, especially now, in the month of spooks!


The result of the 8h uninterrupted reading was the realization that Clive Barker is a freaking Goth genius. His work is dark, goes all the way to the most unbelievable aspects of fantasy and the horror is made even stronger by the use of Pinhead. This was a scary ride and I totally recommend it to any horror fans out there.

The Story

Pinhead – the Hell Priest is back in action! If you’ve seen the movies, you would definitely remember his very peculiar face:

His flesh was virtually white, his hairless head ritualistically scarred with deep grooves that ran both horizontally and vertically, at every intersection of which a nail had been hammered through the bloodless flesh and into his bone. Perhaps, at one time, the nails had gleamed, but the years had tarnished them.

He looked like a creature that had lived too long, his eyes set in bruised pools, his gait steady but slow. But the tools that hung from his belt—an amputation saw, a trepanning drill, a small chisel, and three silver syringes—were, like the abattoir worker’s chain-mail apron he wore, wet with blood..[..] He brought flies with him too, fat, blue-black flies in their thousands. Many buzzed around his waist, alighting on the instruments to take their share of wet human meat. They were four or five times the size of terrestrial flies, and their busy noise echoed around the mausoleum.

The book starts with Pinhead killing an entire gathering of magicians in order to find their secrets (and he makes them do some sick stuff to each other before he brutally kills them). If, after the first chapter you’re still considering whether you would like to continue and see what happens to the Hell Priest, stick around as things are about to get a lot bloodier and gorier and there will be loads of references to private sexual body parts (either ripped off or burned off) and at least one sexually aroused clay man.

The story then jumps to Harry D’Amour, a detective who has been involved with the supernatural before and who recently lost his partner in a terrible fire (burned alive by something I would identify as a clay golem with a hard on).

He is duped by a ghost into touching one of Lemarchand’s Boxes which opens up a gate into Hell and which allows Pinhead’s most trusted slave to come through and nearly kill D’Amour with the chains and hooks that are well known for their sentient state as well as their blood thirst.

To solve the puzzle box was to open a door to Hell, or so the stories said. The fact that most of the people who solved the puzzles were innocents who’d chanced upon them was apparently a matter of indifference to Hell and its infernal agents. A soul, it would seem, was a soul.


D’Amour also manages to have a quick chit-chat with the Hell Priest and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the exchange. This is a man who is not afraid of death or what Hell can bring him (which is important later on)

“Sounds to me like those nails are touching too much gray matter.”

“You are a magnificent cliché . And yet, you have sown hope in too much undeserving dirt. Against all expectations it grew and spread and, wherever the chance of its survival was slimmest, it prospered, your gift to the damned and despairing. A gift I shall now extinguish.”

After his run-in with the Hell Priest, he is badly hurt and in mortal danger. He gets lucky when he gets picked up by Solomon and Dale – two very special people who just happen to be at the right time in the right spot.

“Most of the people I used to trust aren’t around anymore.”

“Oh, honey,” Dale said. “I’ll be your friend.” “I’m sorry,” Solomon said.

“It’s fine,” Harry said. “Some die too soon. Most live too long.”

The camp exchange quickly shows Dale’s inclinations when it comes to sex and while D’Amour is safe, his friend Cab will definitely be available later on.

D’Amour manages to return to Norma (who reminded me of the all-knowing black lady from The Stand) but finds that she had gone into hiding and was defended in her blindness by all the ghosts she helped in their after life.

Felixon (the Hell Priest’s slave/sidekick) goes after Norma and in a very close battle, manages to drag the old woman to Hell after him.

It was only now, as a slave to a demon, that Felixson was again free to begin the long journey of self-within-self, the journey from which the getting of magic had distracted him. Living in Hell kept him aware of the possibility of Heaven, and he’d never felt more alive.

976551.jpgHe trusted his master and immediately did as he was instructed, moving out of the thicket. Still crouched over, he stepped through the wall of flaming brush. It was quick, but it wasn’t pleasant. The hair on his head and body was instantly seared off. The clothes he had made himself in a pitiful attempt at propriety burned to gray ash in a second, adding fire to cleanse his groin. He now looked like a child down there, he thought, his manhood reduced to a nub, his balls tight against his body. But he was safe inside the still-expanding sphere, and close to his master.

The “harrowers” decide to go into Hell to rescue Norma and this is where the fun starts. Hell is depicted like a more desolate Earth – like Detroit if you’d like – where tortured souls and Hell Priests live in relative peace. The tortured souls know they are forever damned and will always be slaves to the greater powers.
The Hell Priests and associated arch-bishops are like the wardens of this place and what’s interesting – their ruler, Lucifer, is missing.


Harry D’Amour and his friends go through a portal to Hell and follow Norma’s blood trace through forests and past noxious clouds.
There is even enough time to meditate on the nature of soul and what happens after death (if you’d been evil)

They knew a lot, the dead. How many times had she said to Harry they were the world’s greatest untapped resource? It was true. All they’d seen, all they’d suffered, all they’d triumphed over—lost to a world in need of wisdom. And why? Because at a certain point in the evolution of the species a profound superstition was sewn into the human heart that the dead were to be considered sources of terror rather than enlightenment. Angelic work, she guessed; some spiritual army, instructed by one commander or another to keep the human population in a state of passive stupefaction while the war raged on behind the curtain of reality. The order had been carried out, and instead of being allowed to comfort humanity’s collective soul, the dead became the source of countless tales of terror, while the phantoms that were their spirits made manifest found themselves shunned and abominated until, over the generations, mankind simply taught itself a willful blindness.

The “harrowers” get attacked by demons and not only that, the demons themselves are suffering from an internal attack initiated by the Hell Priest. His ultimate goal was to become the lord of hell and the ruler of the underworld. It’s total war!

A female demon charged toward Dale. He was waiting for her, cane in hand. The silver tip pricked a cluster of sapling breasts, and her dozen eyes bulged from their loose-hanging sockets. She unleashed a howl and her skin too quickly became a maze of poisoned flesh.


As the Hell Priest drags Norma to his last stop, we find out what happened to the Original Lord of Hell. Lucifer had built this immense cathedral where his immortal soul could find some rest from the agony of being cast off from God’s glory.

The Hell Priest was finally here, at the end of his journey, with so many betrayals and bloodlettings marking his path, and he actually found himself assailed with doubts. Suppose all his hopes of revelation were confounded? Suppose the Archfiend’s majesty had not left any mark on this place for the Cenobite to draw power and understanding from? The sole reason the Hell Priest had come here was to stand in the last testament to Lucifer’s genius. He had expected to feel Lucifer’s presence in him, filling up the void in him and, in so doing, showing him the secret shape of his soul. But as it stood, he felt nothing.

And all the time—slaughtering, and consuming, and moving on—he’d nurtured the vision of what it would be like when he had learned all there was to learn and was ready to meet the Fallen One, offering himself to the service of greatness. Here he was, ready as he could be, brimming with knowledge and door would not open.

Harry D’Amour and his gang are close on his heels and he can now act as a witness to the fall of the Prince of Darkness and the climb to fame of Pinhead as the latter strips off Lucifer’s armor and puts it on his body. 

There the Hell Priest stood in front of him, and in front of the Hell Priest, seated on a marble throne, sat the Lord of Hell himself. His robes were white, his skin a mass of purple blotches and yellow stains. His eyes were open, but they saw nothing.

“Dead,” the Hell Priest said. “The Lord of Hell is dead.”

As he claims the throne, Pinhead is so close to his pinnacle of his existence that we think all is lost. But then – the most epic battles since Season 5 of Supernatural ensues. Lucifer was not dead but only sleeping and as he awakes to find his naked body defiled and stripped of his protective armor, he is enraged as the small Hell Priest and rains down his divine justice. Pinhead is not weak though – he’s been researching magic and his chains and armor are a good defense. It looks like neither would win as the powers seem evenly distributed. Magic vs Angelic power. The humans decide to disappear before they get obliterated in the battle of Evil vs Evil. 

As they get out of Hell, they find themselves in the desert and even though they didn’t think they’d be picked up by anyone,

“Please,” Dale said. “I’d like to meet the driver who’d stop to pick up a dandy, a dyke, a blind man covered in blood, and a nearly seven-foot-tall queen carrying a dead black woman.”

there is a preacher who stops to help and lives to regret it as he is carjacked.

I shall spoil you the ending now: Pinhead dies. Lucifer wins. Hell is blown to pieces. Lucifer moves to New York with a woman.
Loved it!

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