Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Book of Blood

Everybody is a book of blood; Wherever we’re opened, we’re red.

With those words, Clive Barker in 1984 opened his landmark six volume Books of Blood, collections of short stories that changed the face of horror. Wild flights of imagination, an unflinching look at the dark corners of sexuality, and a never before seen focus on body horror burned like fire through the field, a fire that still hasn’t gone out. Over the years, many of the stories from the books have been the basis for films, the best known being the Hellraiser and Candyman series, but also the films Rawhead Rex, Nightbreed, and the recent The Midnight Meat Train. In 2009, with Barker acting as producer, a movie was made from the title story (combined with the additional story “On Jerusalem Street”) “The Book of Blood”.

Mary Florescu (Sophie Ward), a paranormal investigator, along with her cameraman Reg (Paul Blair) and a psychic named Simon McNeal (Jonas Armstrong) move into an old house with a tortured history, to look for supernatural phenomena. They ultimately find the house is an intersection on the highways of the dead, a place where the dead can tell their stories. This knowledge brings death for one of the three, wealth and fame for one, and a life of unimaginable torture for the third.

The story owes a lot, or at least has certain surface similarities to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, itself filmed twice, once successfully. Its biggest problem is the work it is based on is among Barker’s slightest (the original story was just a little more than an introduction to the original work), and there’s just not enough on which to hang 100 minutes of movie. The beginning and ending are satisfying enough, but the middle tends to meander along. There are one too many scenes where the characters have to react to unexplained thumps and crashes, and much of the time the plot is just keeping time until the climax can start.

All in all, not a terrible movie, but one which would probably have worked better at half the length. There are ongoing plans to film other stories from Barker’s collection, and many of them should offer a more substantial basis for a movie.

1 comment:

Rabid Fox said...

It's so hard to get a truly great Barker adaptation. I heard Dread was very disappointing, while Meat Train is supposed to be quite good. I forgot about this movie, so thanks for the reminder.