Friday, 11 March 2011

Book of Blood

Year: 2008
Director: John Harrison
Screenplay: John Harrison and Darin Silverman, based on the short stories "The Book of Blood" and "On Jerusalem Street" by Clive Barker
Starring: Jonas Armstrong, Sophie Ward, Paul Blair, Clive Russell
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Horror, supernatural, drama

Summary: Mary Florescu (Ward) is an American parapsychology professor who is teaching in Edinburgh, Scotland. A highly successful author of non-fiction books on the paranormal, her great ambition is to uncover evidence for the existence of the supernatural. She learns about a house which has a history of violent, and apparently supernatural, deaths, with the worst disturbances happening in an upstairs bedroom. Mary enlists the help of a mysterious student, Simon McNeal (Armstrong), who claims to be psychic and who Mary believes has genuine psychic ability, added to that is the fact that she is instantly attracted to him. With the help of her pragmatic assistant, Reg Fuller (Blair), Mary installs Simon in the upstairs bedroom and sets up a battery of monitoring equipment in the rest of the house. While Mary believes in Simon, Reg is convinced that he is a fraud. However it soon becomes obvious that there is something very powerful in the house, a place where the highways of the dead have an intersection, and they do not take kindly to being mocked. Before long the experiment spirals violently out of control.

Opinions: The two stories which were adapted for this low-budget film make up a framing narrative for the Books of Blood, a six volume short story collection by Clive Barker, which were published between 1984 and 1986. This is the sixth of seven films to date to be based on stories from Books of Blood (the others being Rawhead Rex (1986), Candyman (1992), Lord of Illusions (1995), Quicksilver Highway (1997), The Midnight Meat Train (2008) and Dread (2009)). The movie, which is also known as Clive Barker's Book of Blood, follows the plot of the stories fairly closely. The problem is that while the two stories work well on the page and make for a fine frame narrative for an anthology, there is not enough to them to work as a self-contained feature. The film adds a lot to the plot, most notably a romance between Mary and Simon, but it still feels stretched out. Another problem is a prologue which pretty much reveals key details about the end of the film.
Shot in muted colour, the film makes good use of it's gloomy, atmospheric locations (it was filmed in Edinburgh and Glasgow). Even if in a couple of places it's so murky it's hard to see whats happening. The acting is at best enthusiastic, with English actress Sophie Ward (best known for her role in Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)) playing an American character whose accent keeps drifting back and forth across the Atlantic. Jonas Armstrong (best known as the lead in the BBC television series Robin Hood (2006-2009)) tries hard with an underwritten role, but doesn't manage to make Simon either a likeable or sympathetic character. However Clive Russell makes the most of a small role.
The special effects, which are mostly computer-generated, range from the good to the truly terrible. Although there are some good make-up effects, and gore fans should be satisfied with the amount of blood in the film.
The film has a few really effective moments, and a few good shocks, but not enough and it never manages to be particularly scary. The film is very slow-moving, again the problem of trying to pad out two slim short stories to a feature length film. Clive Barker fans are likely to be disappointed.

Sophie Ward in Book of Blood

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