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DVD Review

DVD cover

Clive Barker's Book of Blood


Starring: Jonas Armstrong, Sophie Ward, Doug Bradley, Simon Bamford and Paul Blair
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
RRP: £13.99
Certificate: 18
Available 26 October 2009

An expert in parapsychology decides to investigate an empty house in which, a few years before, a teenage girl, apparently intrigued by black magic, was violently slaughtered at the 'hands' of a supernatural entity. Whilst lecturing students she comes into contact with Simon McNeal, who appears to be a genuinely gifted medium. She persuades him to help make contact with whatever remains at the house, but he is soon uncovered as a charlatan. He begins by faking his visions, but is soon assaulted by a series of ghosts who carve words into his skin. The house is at a crossroads where the dead move across to the afterlife - and there are countless stories which must be told...

The film actually begins with Simon (played by Jonas Armstrong of the BBC series Robin Hood) being abducted for his unique skin. An undisclosed buyer has paid handsomely for the skin to be removed in one piece. Simon's back story (the main piece) is told, before we return to a conclusion with the two men and discover the identity of the buyer.

The script is based on the two Clive Barker short stories The Book of Blood, and On Jerusalem Street. In fact, this film's source material goes right to Barker's literary origins. He was still scripting and appearing in a series of macabre student stage plays, when a friend showed one of his stories to a publisher who asked him for more. That was the beginnings of what eventually materialised into six collections of long short stories called the Books of Blood. Some of these segments have already been adapted for the screen - including Rawhead Rex, and The Midnight Meat Train (starring Vinnie Jones). The Book of Blood is intended to be one of a handful of intended adaptations under the supervision of Barker himself.

The film has its moments. The ghostly apparitions are impressive, and the acting pretty solid. However, a couple of scenes have the characters repeat actions or notions, as if to hammer home the effectiveness of certain situations. As an example of this, Simon inexplicably returns twice more to the room where he was severely injured - only to be carved up again. Anyone sensible wouldn't go anywhere near the house after that, let alone the specific room in question. I don't think this is the best choice from the stories available from Barker. It works well as a mini psychic investigation story, but feels dragged-out to feature length when I'm certain it would more comfortably fit an hour slot.

I used to be very keen on the written works of our home-grown Clive Barker when his output was much more prolific, and seemed to be the only one at the time who enjoyed the film Nightbreed. So it will be interesting to see what can be done with further adaptations. After all, most people who have heard the name Clive Barker can only connect him with Hellraiser, and specifically Pinhead.


Ty Power

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