Book of Blood (Blu-ray / DVD)



Book of Blood on Blu-ray and DVDReviewed by Evil Andy

Starring Jonas Armstrong, Sophie Ward, Paul Blair

Directed by John Harrison

Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment


Critics of the film adaptation of Clive Barker’s Book of Blood will likely fall into two camps: those that have read the story, and those that haven’t. If you’ve read the first, wrap-around short to the six-volume Books of Blood, you’ll realize that director John Harrison has crafted a faithful and reverential film that interprets the original story almost to perfection. If you haven’t read the story, then you may be disappointed to find that the tale is fair to middling when placed against the rest of Barker’s canon and that a movie based on it could really only be as good as the source material.

It’s understandable that Harrison, best known for directing Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (and, less famously, as the "screwdriver zombie" in Romero's Dawn of the Dead!), would be compelled to choose the framing stories for the Books of Blood series. The film Book of Blood actually adapts two stories from the six volumes, the first being "Book of Blood" and the last, which completes the wrap-around story, "On Jerusalem Street". If Tales from the Darkside is nothing more than a lengthened, larger scope version of the television show, then the same could be said of how the film adaptation of Book of Blood compares to the short stories.

Book of Blood on Blu-ray and DVDHowever, this sells the movie short. In Harrison’s defense, it must be incredibly difficult to subsume your ego to the point where you tell exactly the story that is on the page, without modifying it to fit your own personal tastes. In fact, even where Harrison is forced to interpret due to the brevity of the source material, he does so in a way that is wholly faithful to the original stories. Fans will certainly recognize Barker’s work, as this isn’t the kind of literary adaptation where you find yourself complaining that it deviates from the book; it is the book.

It’s all there: the simmering sexual tension between the paranormal investigator and her fraudulent young protégé, the reversal of power, the unlucky research assistant, and the cursed house at the intersection of the highways of the dead. Most importantly, when the film culminates with the agonizing authoring of the book of blood, the panoramic Hellscape and its vacant-eyed scribblers are truly awe-inspiring.

He left the work to someone else for Book of Blood, but Harrison is also known as a composer (Day of the Dead, Creepshow), and while the sound design and score are decidedly in the “boo scare” camp, they’re also both very effective. It’s not all that easy to get jaded horror fans to jump, and I can guarantee you’ll be grabbing your armrests more than once during the running time.

Book of Blood on Blu-ray and DVDBook of Blood is filled to the brim with excessive gore, uncensored sex, and plenty of other crazy moments. That said, even at 100 minutes, the film felt too long.

Ultimately, "Book of Blood" was never intended to be a stand-alone story and may not have been the best choice for a feature film. The scraped and scabby runes carved into the flesh of the living book were meant to frame the rest of Barker’s tales, to ensure that the reader always had in mind that these stories were transcribed and translated from letters born in blood. This was a formidable way to start a six-volume horror compendium, but on their own "Book of Blood" and "On Jerusalem Street" are not particularly complete narratives. They have the feel of Barker and nicely wrap a series focused primarily on lust and violence, but they’re more butcher's paper than meat.

In terms of differences between the Blu-ray and the DVD versions of this movie, it should go without saying by now that the Blu-ray both looks and sounds better. In terms of extras both are sporting the same stuff, a few trailers and a nineteen-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that covers all the bases that it should but not a single thing more. Pretty skimpy.

Maybe in the future, if the complete Books of Blood are adapted, Harrison’s story will finally find its place as the first film in a box-set. Here’s hoping this happens because in the context of other films in the series, Book of Blood may very well turn out to be remembered as one of the few faithful Barker adaptations not executed by the author himself.

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Trailers

    Film:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1 1/2 out of 5

    Discuss Book of Blood in our Dread Central forums!




  • -->



    Cash Bailey's picture

    I just hope they do an incredible version of PIGS BLOOD BLUES.

    In fact, why don't they just let ME direct that and I'm sure I will do it justice.


    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Mon, 09/21/2009 - 9:09pm.
    moderator Agree 100% with this review
    Debi Moore's picture

    Agree 100% with this review (and I fall in the category of those who haven't read the stories). Book of Blood, while not exactly on my top five list this year, did its thing pretty well and kept my attention throughout. The two leads were excellent, especially Armstrong, who has a kind of 70s-ish vibe that lent itself perfectly to the story.


    Submitted by Debi Moore on Mon, 09/21/2009 - 8:40pm.

    Comment viewing options

    Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.