Sadomasochistic cenobites, cannibalism, hooks in flesh, skin-stealing... "We've got sights to show you," grinned Pinhead in seminal horror flick Hellraiser - and didn't he just? However, Clive Barker himself has shown us so much more - in his books, his films, his soft toy range and in his games. Well, in Clive Barker's Undying anyway - the others haven't been very good. But now he's back with Clive Barker's Jericho, a project he's steering all the way from conception - rather than being invited on-board as he was with the character and story-work he performed on Undying back in 2001.
Originally from Liverpool and now a happy resident of Los Angeles, there's no argument that Barker is the perennial king of horror - and the merchant of tales about a million times more disturbing than that King chap could come up with in his darkest moments. From the Books Of Blood to Candyman and Nightbreed, the man's a legend. Hello Clive!
Can you tell us why you're excited about the Jericho game?
"I'm excited about the game because the story's fresh, and because with it we have a greater chance of scaring the shit out of players around the world. I'd been carrying the idea of Jericho around in my head before I'd even talked to anyone about the project, so I feel very close to it. I'd love people to think of Jericho the way I thought of - let's say Alien - when that movie was about to come out. Teased with glimpses but never given the whole monstrous truth until the story was told on the screen. Jericho should be the same - unique and terrifying."
Do your games tie in with your books? Is there an overall coherent universe to your writing that gamers should be made aware of?
"No, my games don't tie up with my books - at least, so far. Jericho is the first games project I've been connected with which I really feel might be explored in novels and comic-books - I have a huge passion for comic-books! I've liked the Jericho idea since it first came into my head because it marries up two of my passions: history and horror. Our protagonists' journey through slices of other times in the game, their progress bringing them steadily closer to the Great Adversary who sits at the centre of this Labyrinth of Time."
Your books can end with apocalyptic drama; the unravelling of reality and the bleeding of worlds into each other - how will the climax of Jericho compare?
"The climaxes of my books do indeed end with apocalyptic events and unravelling realities. There should be a taste of that same sublime destructiveness in Jericho. Of course, the ending depends entirely on how you play the game, but one way or the other you'll get to see fire and blood."
There's some pretty horrific stuff in Jericho - is there anything you'd consider too violent to go into the game?
"There is some intense and gory material in Jericho, but I've always believed that one of the tasks a maker of horror stories in any medium has is to take his or her audience into areas of taboo; places where they wouldn't have dared to venture had the game not obliged them to trespass on treacherous ground. And in so trespassing, inviting the wrath of some creature that they've never encountered before."
How are the Jericho squads formed and bound together? Are you trying to say anything by setting it in the modern-day Middle East?
"There's no doubt that if Jericho is liked by players, we'll take our psychic squad out on other adventures (assuming, of course, any of them survive.) The human appetite for mystery and terror has never waned even when, as now, the world is filled with very real terrors. Maybe that's the connection. Maybe we seek out games and stories that allow us a measure of control over the horrors of the invented world: a control which we do not have, regrettably, in the real world."
Do you miss the UK at all now that you're based in sunny LA?
"I miss many of the friends I made in my home city of Liverpool, and later the colleagues I worked with making the first Hellraiser in London. I miss rain. I miss autumn (but not winter). I miss thunderstorms, which are incredibly rare in Los Angeles. But I'm sitting here, towards the end of January, with a clear blue sky outside and the palm trees swaying as the balmy Santa Ana winds blow. What's not to like?"
Dogs or cats?
"Both cats and dogs. And white rats, huge koi and geckos that we buy from the pet store and set free in the house so that they can make homes in the drapery. Plus my parrots, Malingo and Smokey, and my beloved Gonzo, the cockatiel I hand-raised. I could go on. Animals are blissful evidence that the creator wants us to have fun."