'Books of Blood' Review: Anna Friel shines in well-written horror anthology even if scares are not very potent

The jump-scares are not as economical as one would prefer, but they are good jump-scares nonetheless, unlike ‘Conjuring’ and ‘The Nun’


                            'Books of Blood' Review: Anna Friel shines in well-written horror anthology even if scares are not very potent
Anna Friel and Rafi Gavron (Screengrab/YouTube)
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No spoilers for ‘Books of Blood’

Clive Barker’s '80s horror anthology ‘Books of Blood’ has found itself in cinema on several occasions. ‘Candyman’ and ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ are some of the more prominent examples; and the 2009 Britsh erotic horror ‘Book of Blood’ is mostly a movie everyone should forget (if they remember it at all). And now Hulu has attempted to adapt some of the stories. 

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Directed by Brannon Braga, co-written by Braga and Adam Simon, and executive produced by Seth MacFarlane, ‘Books of Blood’ is a halfway decent attempt at bringing both Barker and horror anthologies back into the mainstream. It’s halfway decent because the film is visually great. The jump-scares are not as economical as one would prefer, but they are good jump-scares, unlike films like ‘Conjuring’ and ‘The Nun’ and other tripe in the genre. More importantly, the stories are well-written, even if they don’t take much from the source material.

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The story takes a certain amount from Barker’s first volume — more specifically, the first story titled ‘The Book of Blood’. But thereafter, the other stories seem to have no basis in the books. And all three stories in the horror anthology film are somewhat interconnected. Now, here’s why the film is only halfway decent. The attempt to connect all three stories was not a necessary one. Why Braga went for this creative choice is uncertain, and entering the film with the notion that the stories are interconnected was a bad idea here considering that the payoff was less than satisfactory.

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Additionally, the first story, ‘Jenna’, or the second one, ‘Miles’, would have gained more had they been feature-length. The last story, ‘Bennet’, was absolutely unnecessary, and more than anything, it underutilizes an actor like Yul Vasquez, who is the titular lead. On the other hand, Rafi Gavron as Simon, Anna Friel as Mary, and Britt Robertson as Jenna provide some great performances in the film, making one wonder, once again, why the third story, that bookends the whole anthology, was even considered worthy of this film.

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‘Books of Blood’, in ‘Jenna’ and ‘Miles’, manages to tell good stories that have elements of both horror and tragedy and that’s why they work. And the film also provides hope that horror anthologies are still a good genre to invest time into. The film may not have scared as much as one would hope for, but it does a more than decent job of it when it happens. At the same time, the film could have been shorter. Even at a little more than one and three-quarters of an hour, the film feels lengthy — a fault that can only be attributed to the prioritization of the stories.

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All in all, however, it was a good attempt, and hopefully, Hulu now has a taste for horror and we might get to see more of these. Barker, after all, has plenty of stories that have never been adapted to film, and a lot of them really should be.

‘Books of Blood’ is available on Hulu.

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