book of bloodLions Gate

“The dead have highways, running through the wasteland behind our lives, bearing an endless traffic of departed souls. They can be heard in the broken places of our world, through cracks made out of cruelty, violence, and depravity. They have sign posts, these highways, and crossroads and intersections. And it is at these intersections where the dead mingle, and sometimes spill over into our world.”

A psychic researcher, Mary Florescu, has employs medium Simon McNeal to investigate a haunted house. McNeal, at first, begins to fake his visions, but then real ghosts present themselves. They attack him and carve words in his flesh, and these words, claims the narrator, form the rest of the stories, stories written on a literal, living Book of Blood.

Clive Barker – fantastic storyteller, dark visionary, British. Well, more of a transplant, really, as he’s lived in Los Angeles for quite some time now. Irregardless, Barker stands as one of my favorite authors in the horror and dark fantasy genre for those very reasons. He’s got an eye for the dark, disturbing, and truly horrifying that very few others can express. His (in)famous Books Of Blood series collect some raw and imaginative short stories to come out of his young festering mind back in the day (the omnibus that collects the first three of the series? Well worth the price, there). Though, as most horror movie fans can attest, you don’t really have to be a fan of Barker’s literary fiction to like the movies that are based on them. If it doesn’t suck, it doesn’t suck, am I right?

Book Of Blood, this latest Barker adaptation, is curious. The story it’s based on, “Book Of Blood”, is a brief introductory story that is a wrap-around of the entire Books Of Blood collection. Obviously, when one is going about adapting something like that, certain measures of artistic license are made to stretch things out to at least 90 minutes. You know what I’m talking about. Fortunately, director John Harrison (whose previous credits include Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, and playing the “screwdriver zombie” in the original Dawn of The Dead) makes a great story-driven and spooky ghost story while staying rather true and faithful to the source material. Which is kind of hard, really, without succumbing to making changes to suit your personal tastes. But I digress.

The movie itself actually draws from the stories “Book Of Blood”, and “On Jerusalem Street”, which tell the story of Simon McNeal, would-be fake psychic who has a sudden encounter with actual spirits of the dead, who don’t take too kindly with his flippant attitude. What we have here is a movie that is very atmospheric, very creepy and very effective. How effective? It’s a very rare thing to get this old, grizzled and jaded horror movie veteran to get that fun sense of creepy and cause me to squirm, but this movie did it. And I can assure you, this is one of Barker’s more subdued tales of the macabre.

So, long story short, it took a while — even with the recommendation of a few friends of mine — to get up enough gumption to finally renting this to watch (the $1 rental price helped out a lot). Not because of fear, but because I’ve been burned before with short story adaptations that fall way far off the mark. Book Of Blood didn’t. Recommended watching, my wonderful freaks…