Clive Barker's 'Book of Blood' Blu-ray Review

The problem in trying to adapt a short story is that the source material is ... short. Brief. Compact. One could say a short story could even gloss over the three-act structure that the movie junkies love so much, and still succeed with flying colors. Or you could simply grab a second short story and use that piece as material for filling in the cracks. Such is the case with John Harrison's Book of Blood, a Cliver Barker adaptation based (mostly) on the authors short story of the same name and (partially) on a little tale called On Jerusalem Street. But the experiment only works so well, because the best of what's found in these stories ... would still have a tough time filling 95 minutes of screen time.

As presented in the original chapter of The Books of Blood, this story is an introduction, of sorts: We're told that a certain young psychic locked himself up in a room that's allegedly all sorts of haunted, but he harbors a dark secret, and it turns out that the dead don't like their "crossroads" cluttered up with gloomy non-dead people. As the creatures take to scrawling thousands of torturous words into the psychic's flesh, we realize that he is the book, and the stories we're about to read come from his own oozing flesh. Icky but quite effective.

As one might expect from a feature-length film that's based on a glorified prologue, Book of Blood suffers from a one-note plot, very little in the way of misdirection or deviation, and a structure that offers a fine set-up and a satisfying resolution -- but really sags in the middle, which is where most of the wheel-spinning takes place. It's essentially a haunted house film, with the death-obsessed Dr. Florescu (Sophie Ward) doing all she can to keep self-proclaimed psychic Simon McNeil (Jonas Armstrong) in touch with his ethereal "crossroads," but her assistant Reg (Paul Blair) smells something fishy, and (of course) thoughts of a lustful nature crop up to ruin all the devilish research.

Although undeniably slow for long stretches and essentially a pretty familiar tale of hauntings and possession, the film is in no way a total loss. Harrison does a fine job of creating a domineering edifice for his three characters to wander around within, and the performances of all three leads keep this austere affair from ever becoming downright boring, but it just feels like too little material stretched over too wide a frame. Book of Blood is certainly not without merit, but it's a one-timer all the way, and even then I'd only recommend it to the most ravenous and thorough of horror aficionados.

The only supplemental feature (standard DVD or blu-ray) is a 21-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that offers the standard on-set cast & crew material, but there are some cool insights to be found, as well as a look at the gore effects and thoughts on the Clive Barker source material.

So it's not the flashiest, splattiest, or speediest Clive Barker flick to hit the scene. Despite a few slow spots and a general air of familiarity, it's still worthy of a horror fan's 90 minutes. Especially if that horror fan has already seen Rawhead Rex, Hellraiser, Candyman, Nightbreed, Midnight Meat Train, and Dread.