Tuesday, August 11, 2009
BOOK OF BLOOD
“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 by acts of cruelty, violence, and depravity.
“They have signposts, these highways, and crossroads, and intersections, and it is at these intersections where the dead mingle, and sometimes, spill over into our world.”
For Clive Barker fans, the opening words which echo out from the black will be familiar, and for those diehards, I am extremely pleased to report that following Ryuhei Kitamura’s The Midnight Meat Train, John Harrison’s Book of Blood is another solid Barker film adaptation.
Based on the Books of Blood framing stories “The Book of Blood” and “On Jerusalem Street: A Postscript,” Harrison’s take follows visiting American professor and noted author, Mary Florescu (Heartbeat’s Sophie Ward), who investigates a purportedly haunted house in Great Britain, in the interests of her next book.
But when she asks for the help of one of her students, Simon McNeal (Jonas Armstrong, BBC’s Robin Hood), she sets off a chain of events that will bring her the long-sought after proof of the existence of the paranormal which she has been chasing after for the past decade.
And it won’t be a pretty sight.
Not at all.
Harrison and co-screenwriter Darin Silverman expand nicely on the pair of short stories, altering some motivations and personal histories in such a way as to enhance and reinforce the material for the purposes of this adaptation.
There’s much to be noted here, and Armstrong’s sad-eyed portrayal of the apparently “gifted” McNeal is one of the film’s central strengths, thankfully making up for whatever lack we may find in Ward’s Florescu.
Though her bravery in going starkers matches Armstrong’s commitment to his own role by freely dropping trou whenever called for, there’s still something seemingly tired and non-committal in Ward’s performance, which is quite probably the key drawback to Book of Blood; her iffy line delivery also slightly hobbles what could have been a stupendous opening. (Barker’s prose most definitely carries the day in that initial voice-over.)
Then again, Ashley Laurence wasn’t exactly Meryl Streep either, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the first two Hellraisers, eh?
And if you still need a little convincing, Pinhead and Butterball* are in here too…
Though this is getting a theatrical release in other parts of the globe, that may very well not be the case in the USA. Sadly, even as Kitamura’s Midnight Meat Train got a bum American theatrical deal, Book of Blood (by virtue of it’s having been completed just as the global recession hit) is also looking like it’s going to have a major US cable launch this September, with a DVD release thereafter. There also could be a US theatrical release, though in late 2009 or even early 2010, via Lightning Media. (Whether wide or limited is still up for grabs.)
One can only hope that Anthony Diblasi’s upcoming Dread will have better luck in American theatres…
Till then though, this, along with Kitamura’s Midnight Meat Train now make for a nice double feature to celebrate the resurgence of Barker on the big screen.
* Well, Doug Bradley and Simon Bamford, to be more precise.
And, having mentioned Simon Bamford, it’s rather appropriate that he has a role in the film adaptation, as Barker reportedly based the character of Simon McNeal on Bamford himself.
Parting shot: A review of The Midnight Meat Train can be found in the Archive.
(Book of Blood DVD cover art and images courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)