“Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.”
With these words, the world was introduced to one of horror’s most popular authors, Clive Barker. The creator of iconic horror franchises such as “Hellraiser” and “Candyman,” Barker initially broke into the world of horror fiction with his “Books of Blood” series. Hulu’s new film of the same title takes a disappointingly standard approach to adapting this iconic series.
While the original anthological horror short stories explored the darkest elements of subjects like sexuality and violence, the film unfortunately does not represent their depth or power.
“Books of Blood,” a new Hulu original film, takes the name of Barker’s famous series and tells three new tales while retaining the framing device of the original stories. These stories introduce a troubled young runaway who discovers something sinister about the place she is staying, a self-professed psychic who may or may not be speaking to the dead and a hitman who takes a wrong turn in the wrong neighborhood.
While each of these three segments tells their own individual story, they are weaved together by intersecting characters and shared locations. This narrative structure is perhaps the strongest aspect of the movie. By intertwining characters from each story, each of whom is dealing with their own set of terrifying circumstances, the film creates a world where there is evil lurking around every corner. In this way, it is extremely faithful to Barker’s original stories.
However, the film unfortunately lacks the rawness of its source material. The series from which the film draws its name, features extremely creative and gruesome tales of the macabre. A terrifying subway encounter with a demented serial killer, a school with a disturbing secret and an undead troupe of actors are just some of the stories in which Barker explores our darkest fears. The detailed depictions of sex and violence introduce readers to a demented world where pain and pleasure are sometimes more closely related than we’d like to think.
The film, however, is a very sanitized and audience-friendly horror film. Aside from one particularly gruesome sequence involving the titular “book of blood,” these stories are devoid of the literary extremities that Barker often takes his work to.
This feels like a film that was designed to appeal to the widest possible audience, which is the entirely wrong approach when adapting an author like Barker. The very nature of the horror genre is that it is divisive; it is meant to take the audience to places we might not want to go. You can’t adapt the work of the author who created “Hellraiser” and make it palatable to the general audience unless you were to excise most of what makes his work so unique. Unfortunately, that is precisely what the filmmakers have done.
“Books of Blood” does not contain enough of its source material’s grisliness or uniqueness to justify using the legendary name. Viewers unfamiliar with Barker’s work would be much better served being introduced to him through films like “Hellraiser” or “Candyman,” while fans of his work will understand the cinematic potential of his stories that the film does not tap into.
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