Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Scarlet Gospels

Harry D'Amour is an ex-cop turned private investigator for people with problems with the paranormal. He's seen a lot of weird stuff in his day and has destroyed a lot of demons until he meets Pinhead, the Cenobite Hell priest. Pinhead sics a minion on him and promises a reward if it's defeated. Harry survives and then dismisses the encounter. Pinhead returns to him after amassing tons of powerful magic and killing all of the others in his order and demands that Harry witness and eventually record his attempt to find Lucifer and change Hell forever. Harry predictably refuses, so Pinhead takes Norma, a blind woman who talks to the dead, as assurance that Harry will follow. Harry and his group of friends descend into Hell to rescue their friend. Pinhead has such sights to show them.

Hellraiser is one of my favorite horror films, so I was eager to read The Scarlet Gospels. Pinhead is such an weird, enigmatic character and it was awesome to read a book partly from his point of view. However, this Pinhead is much different than the film version. Film version Pinhead is distant and well spoken when he chooses to speak. He is violent, but he stands impassively as he causes the violence instead of inflicting it with his own hands. This Pinhead is a religious zealot who will beat, rape, and torture much more personally. I don't find this version to be as interesting and I found much of his actions to be out of character compared to his previous incarnations. I still liked the general story, but something was missing. The first scene of the book features Pinhead finding the last of a powerful circle of sorcerers while he steals the last of their power and graphically tortures them. The scene is lengthy and very descriptive, which I usually don't mind. However, this is really the only lovingly described disgusting scene in the whole novel and it doesn't even figure largely in the bigger story. It smacks of a Human Centipede type of mentality to gross out the viewer with no further goal.

On the other hand, I had no idea who Harry D'Amour was going into the novel. He is kind of a hard boiled detective who transitioned from regular police work to fighting demons and solving supernatural problems. He's likeable, but the story really would have happened if he weren't even there. The description touts the story as Pinhead vs. Harry, but in actuality, it's Pinhead wants Harry to record his conquests and strings him along. Harry is of no threat to Pinhead at all. The only reason he survived any of their encounters was because Pinhead simply wasn't interested in killing him. He could have been anyone or no one with his effectiveness on the story.

The action and settings of the story are what made me read it in only a couple of days. The story is very plot driven and doesn't do much character development at all. I enjoyed Harry's past adventures and his descent into Hell as he follows Pinhead around. Hell itself is the most interesting part of the story. The demons, the hellscape, the hierarchy, and the history all kept my interest. Then Pinhead came in and changed everything. I'm on his side for most of the book. Being immortal and constantly torturing hapless mortals gets boring, so why not shake things up? He succeeds in pissing off everyone in hell and the ensuing battles are quite exciting. I love where the story went and it's definitely left open for a sequel. I would read the next book, but would probably wait to check it out from the library.

My rating: 3/4 fishmuffins

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