I’m not the ideal person to speak to the quality of Clive Barker adaptations because I’m not a fan of his writing, so I’m just going to look at these two on their merits as movies. I’ll say from the start that I do generally like the concept. But do I prefer it singular or plural? Let’s find out.
BOOK OF BLOOD (2009)
The director of Tales from the Darkside movie and numerous anthology TV shows over the decades gives us a movie that’s weird, gory, sexual…and in the end feels mostly like the myriad of haunted house films that have plagued us since The Conjuring hit pay dirt, with more blood.
Not unlike Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man, the movie Book of Blood is about a man whose body is a canvas of images depicting various stories. However, in this case that shit is carved into the guy’s skin.
After the horrific death of a young woman in her bedroom, two paranormal researchers move in to the house investigate, believing the location to be an intersection where the dead pause to tell their stories.
One investigator becomes enthralled by a young male believed to be psychic and convinces him to come live with them to help out. It not only makes his life miserable, it also causes her to become sexually attracted to him.
Meanwhile, there aren’t any fully fleshed out individual stories, but there are creepy children ghosts, spooky occurrences, more ghosts, an appearance by Doug Bradley of Barker’s Hellraiser fame, and more ghosts. Plus, the eroticism between the student and teacher intensifies. Simultaneously, he begins to experience painful attacks on his body, and the last one is as Barker as it gets. Eek!
Like most of Barker’s work, there are some nightmarish situations, but as always, I wasn’t disturbed or scared because his otherworldly approach is too removed from reality for my tastes.
BOOKS OF BLOOD (2020)
The structure is a bit different in the new adaptation. We learn that two criminals are on the hunt for a special book, but things quickly segue out of this “wraparound” and into the first of two stories.
1st story – a young woman with a condition that causes sounds to be unbearable moves into a boardinghouse…at which point this becomes somewhat reminiscent of People Under the Stairs, with someone or something living behind the walls. I loved the totally unexpected ending of this one.
2nd story – this is a new take on the story from the first movie, again featuring a pretty boy (and his ass).
A woman becomes involved with a young man with psychic powers, hoping he’ll be able to help her better understand the loss of her son. It’s a more succinct narrative with another freaky scene in which the young man becomes covered in the stories, albeit with a slightly different execution. I can’t say I liked one movie’s version of the scene better than the other, because they’re both cool as, well, hell.
The two tales here get tightly woven into the conclusion of the wraparound story. Yet just like the first film, while this one has its moments, for me it was just okay for some visual thrills. And speaking of thrills I sure do love that the Barker movies objectify males instead of females.