Review 'Books of Blood' fails to uphold the Clive Barker standard
Courtesy of HULU
Practically “Goosebumbs” for adults, Hulu’s new adaptation “Books of Blood” presents a handful of jolts and spooks across its three-story arch, but fails to uphold the standards of Clive Barker's twisted mind.
Barker’s 1984 six-volume short story collection: “Books of Blood” launched the horror writers’ career with his tales having amassed a sizable following. From 1992’s “Candyman,” which was turned into a giant horror franchise with a remake on the way, to 2008’s underrated “The Midnight Meat Train,” his work and inspiration speaks for itself. Instead of producing a series, Hulu enlisted Brannon Braga to direct a singular feature based on Barker’s works, and the results are a weird hodgepodge of content, thinly spliced together to make vague connections that are hardly noticeable or interesting.
Braga and co-writer Adam Simon, in cooperation with Barker – though the length of his contributions remain unclear – take liberties with the source material, delivering an awkward collection of three vignettes, broken up and told over the course of the films nearly two-hour runtime. Eventually the stories are woven into one cohesive vision, which helps solidify “Books of Blood” as a feature film, but makes you wonder why Hulu didn’t make a series instead.
A solid portion of the running time is eaten up by the story of runaway college student Jenna (Britt Robertson) who decides to flee the homestead when her mother pushes her to the brink. She doesn’t have a plan but is hopping on a bus with a backpack full of cash and seeing where the road takes her. When she arrives in a quaint little town, Jenna shacks up with an older couple Airbnb-style. What begins as a quiet retreat away from troubles, quickly turns deadly once the friendly older couple start unspooling their hidden motives. It’s a segment that runs about 25 minutes longer than it should and fakes the audience out with a cheap anticlimax.
The next sequence stars Anna Friel as a college professor whose specialty is debunking clairvoyants. She meets a worthy advisory in the form of Simon (Rafi Gavron) who convinces her that he can speak to the other side. Mary and Simon’s relationship was the foundation of past “Books of Blood” iterations, and in this remake is hurried in an effort to reveal one big twist that doesn’t amount to much other than a nifty special effects sequence meant to showcase Hulu’s financial backing.
The third and final narrative of the bunch starts in the opening prologue and tries to put a tidy bow on all the proceedings, as a hitman played by Yul Vazquez is on the hunt for the elusive Book of Blood, hoping its content can fetch a hefty price on the black market. Braga’s approach to this section of the film is never whole, instead presented like an extended prologue where the brief connections to the other two narratives feel obligatory at best.
At least the film is acted halfway decent, with Robertson left to carry most of the film, despite her character only getting a third of the story. The TV quality production values do minimal to enhance the surroundings, coming across as a low-budget episode of “The Twilight Zone” than a Clive Barker joint. Everything in “Books of Blood” is rushed to completion, and the audience is left to pick up the pieces of all the nonsense in between. Any hope of jump starting a “Books of Blood” interconnected cinematic universe should be put to rest.
BOOKS OF BLOOD drops on Hulu October 7th