- Starring: Britt Robertson, Anna Friel, Rafi Gavron, Yul Vazquez, Cory Lee
- Directed by: Brannon Braga
- Written by: Brannon Braga, Adam Simon, and Clive Barker based on his book
- Runtime: 1 hr 47 minutes
- Rated: None (for language, graphic violence)
- Reviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Patch
Books Of Blood premieres on Hulu October 7, 2020
Clive Barker is an underrated genius in the world of horror. His contributions to the genre are immeasurable. He will probably never be given the credit due him in his lifetime and that’s a bit sad. One of his best pieces of fiction is his anthology series the Books of Blood, which premieres on the streaming service Hulu on October 7th just in time for Halloween.
The film is an anthology-style that features three dark tales with the standard wrap-around segment. The three tales are intertwined in a creative way. The first tale is about a young woman Jenna (Britt Robertson) with mental illness. She has been in-and-out of psychiatric hospitals in the past. She lives at home with her controlling mother (Paige Turco). She exhibits more signs of her next breakdown and her mother wants to put her back in the hospital again. Not wanting to go back to the hospital she flees home and boards a bus bound for Los Angeles. She feels like she’s being followed and gets off the bus mid-route in a quaint little town. Jenna finds a seemingly nice bed and breakfast to stay at which is run by an old man and his wife. Jenna soon learns that things are not what they seem and the nice old innkeepers are keeping a sinister secret.
In the second tale, we’re introduced to a college professor Mary (Anna Friel) who debunks psychic phenomena. She soon meets Simon (Rafi Gavron) who changes her belief system in the phenomenon. He claims to be able to communicate with the dead and draws Mary into his world. She lost her young son to leukemia previously and she desperately would like to speak with him again. They both end up getting more than they bargained for when communing with the dead takes a dark turn.
The third and final tale begins as a brief prologue at the start of the film and features a gun for hire (Yul Vazquez) who is after one more big score and then he’s out of the game. He’s after a priceless artifact called the Book of Blood. But his last score turns out to be like nothing he ever imagined. This tale is by far the weakest of the three stories. This last story conveniently ties all the characters together in the finale by concluding the wraparound.
The film is directed by first time feature director Brannon Braga who previously directed episodic television. I’m not quite sure if Braga was the right person to direct this film. Barker’s source material is very dark and full of surreal grotesqueries that aren’t really on display in the film. I feel he missed the mark with Books of Blood by not incorporating more of Barker’s darkness. The film even lacks most of the bloodshed that is present in Barker’s stories. Barker is tagged as an executive producer on the film but it might have been a ceremonious title.
The acting in the film is solid. Leading the way is Britt Robertson who delivers an admirable performance in the film. Her role as a troubled young woman is as good as she can do given the writing of her character. Anna Friel also is great in her role as Mary, the grieving mother of a deceased son. I feel the greatest misstep is by not giving Yul Vazquez a greater role in the film. I love his past work and feel he was sorely misused in this one.
To sum up, Books of Blood is definitely worth a watch, especially during the spooky season that we’re in now. But the film ultimately misses the mark that Barker set for his source material. Barker’s original Books of Blood is a surreal exercise in mind-altering terror that this film doesn’t quite convey well enough.
Books of Blood is available to stream on Hulu beginning October 7th
2 1/2 out of 5 Pentagrams!