SEPTEMBER 26, 2009
I think there should be a law that states if you spend more than 10 million on a movie, it A. has one interesting lead character and B. plays in theaters. Book Of Blood (based on Clive Barker material) can claim neither, and while the latter is more the fault of the distributing studio (anyone want to guess which one?), the former is one of the main problems with the film - the characters (and the actors playing them) are simply boring.
As it is based on a short story (which is really just a wrap-around “story” for the entire 6 volume “Books of Blood” series), I can forgive some of (keyword: SOME) the padding, but not the fact that there are really only three people in the main part of the movie and they’re all dull as dirt. Jonas Armstrong is the poor man’s Jim Sturgess, and Sophie Ward is too matronly to come across as a believable object of lust (or eventual villain). Then there’s another guy who is sort of a schlub. He’s fine.
Worse, writer/director John Harrison failed to make either of these characters very compelling. By their original design, they are simply a means to tell the other stories, so to draw them a little thin in the source material is perfectly acceptable - they’re not really IN the narrative. But if you’re going to make a whole movie about them, then we need something a little more interesting to keep our attention, and tired haunted house gags don’t count.
And it’s simply not a feature-worthy story. A Masters Of Horror episode would be pushing it, so giving it a full 100 minutes should be a punishable offense. Didn’t anyone realize that an entire movie about a guy whose body becomes living paper for the dead to tell their stories wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting as those actual stories? Hell, even if you don’t know the source material (those “stories” include the original tales for Candyman, Midnight Meat Train, etc), you might wish to hear at least ONE of the stories that are being written on this poor sod’s skin, but the film never offers any such thing. Why the film wasn’t an anthology, with some of the shorter "Books of Blood" stories (ones that couldn’t be easily expanded into a feature) making the bulk of the film with this stuff as a wraparound (you know, like it ACTUALLY IS) is beyond me.
Making matters more baffling, the film has its own wraparound, based on Barker’s story On Jerusalem Street, which was the sort of epilogue/finale to the “Books of Blood” print series (you still with me? I’m not). These parts are actually a bit more interesting, so it’s a shame they are confined to the first ten and final five minutes of the film. Not only does it feature the closest thing to an interesting character that the film offers (Wyburd,, played by Ray Winstone lookalike Clive Russell), but it also has the most upsetting part of the film, which is Armstrong’s character trying to eat as he bleeds into his food.
There are a few isolated moments to enjoy, however. One scene finds Ward’s character being pushed around by a ghostly force, and the visual effects of a hand pressing hard against her mouth and back are quite good/eerie. And as someone with a fear of any insect larger than a baby ant, the occasional dragonflies grossed me out a tad. And Hellraiser fans should enjoy the little homage to the first film, with two moving men carrying a bed up a flight of stairs. But, moments do not make a movie worthwhile, and this one is simply too long and too un-involving to warrant a look to anyone but the most die-hardiest of die-hard Barker fans.
And the DVD certainly doesn’t help matters, offering only a textbook generic 20 minute behind the scenes piece that limits Barker’s thoughts to about 30 seconds. A pair of trailers are also included, one of which is slightly interesting due to the fact that it focuses more on the framing sequence than the film proper (not that I blame them). Then again, not counting some of the Hellraiser and Candyman sequels, this is the weakest film version of Barker material I can recall, so maybe it’s for the best that they tossed it under the rug rather than provide commentaries and extra scenes and such to try to defend it. Let it be.
What say you?