Editor’s Note: Review of uncut version, can you imagine how bad the Sci-Fi Channel version will be?
Just how important is BOOK OF BLOOD? While it’s not a sequel, or a prequel for that matter, the Clive Barker short story is the tale of where all of Barker’s shorts originated from (and where it ends). So, without a shadow of a doubt, this feature film adaptation should have been treated with such loving care that a mother with a new child would be jealous. BOOK OF BLOOD is the equivalent to Jason Voorhees getting his mask or Leatherface wielding a chainsaw, and yet, John Harrison found a way to completely crap all over it.
While studying a college student, Simon McNeal (Jonas Armstrong), who appears to be channeling messages from the dead, paranormal researcher Mary Florescu’s (Sophie Ward) discovers a house that is at the intersection of so-called “highways” transporting souls in the afterlife (as repeated several times during the duration of the film). While the pic begins on the right foot (taking cues from ENTITY by having a girl raped and skinned by an unseen spirit), it quickly falls into the “one of the worst movies in recent memory” category by the 60-minute marker.
Based on Clive Barker’s short stories “The Book of Blood” and “On Jerusalem Street”, John Harrison and Darin Silverman turn in a screenplay that’s embarrassingly bad. Claiming that it’s true to the story is no escape when you have the task of making a film “enjoyable” and even logical for that matter. BOOK OF BLOOD ignores solid story structure and instead dives into “it was all a dream” territory. The first hour, while loaded with exposition, still carries some solid moments ranging from ghostly sighting to our paranormal researcher waking up to witness a blood fountain covering ghost kids hanging out in the water. While you might watch the film and say, “hey, that was cool,” at the 60-minute mark it’s revealed that Simon has been creating all of these ghostly encounters. Not only has he tricked our paranormal investigators, but also he tricks the viewers. It’s insulting to the viewer as Harrison basically exclaims, “it was all fake, got you!” There’s nothing more infuriating that sticking with a movie just to have it pull a rug out from under you and tell you nothing really happened.
At this point BOOK OF BLOOD takes a nosedive, in record fashion. Mary discovers that Simon has been playing her for a fool, immediately following her own hallucination involving ghosts and a bloody fountain. Somehow Simon “faked” that whole scenario, along with other ridiculous feats like climbing on the ceiling to write creepy cryptic words. What’s even more baffling is why the ghosts of this haunted location decide to wait until just after his big reveal to start doing some hardcore “real” haunting.
By the time anything actually happens, the audience will be so far removed from the film that there’s no bringing them back. Instead of sticking to the task at hand, the shoddy script is so appalling that it attempts to be clever by giving the viewer a completely unnecessary and predictable prologue and epilogue (courtesy of Clive Barker’s “On Jerusalem Street”, the rare postscript included in UK editions of the sixth volume) where a man is hired to “collect” his skin of stories for the paranormal researcher/author. While this may give nice closure to the six volumes of short stories, it doesn’t work for the film and only drags out the (unbearably long) finale.
Sure BOOK OF BLOOD carries some astounding digital effects (an invisible hands pressing down on a girl’s mouth, an unseen hand on another’s back, cuts appearing out of nowhere, not to mention the astounding face-skinning sequence), but this isn’t a slasher film redeemable by how cool the kills are. This is the story that is supposed to get you excited to see films like DREAD, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, CANDYMAN and numerous of other forthcoming Clive Barker adaptations, instead it makes you want to cut yourself as a reminder to never sit through it again.