Book of Blood (2008)

director: John Harrison
release-year: 2008
genres: horror
countries: United Kingdom
languages: English

Based on Clive Barker's Books of Blood, and directed by the guy who directed Tales from the Darkside, some Tales from the Crypt episodes, and the new Creepshow series (2019). Plenty of horror royalty involved here.

Book of Blood.

It looks all professional at the beginning, with small credits in the corner of a black screen while an echoing voice tells us about the souls sometimes leaking into our world from intersections of the highways of the dead. Then the video starts, and all hints of quality vanish. I'm not sure how much of this is my encoding, but certainly not all of it. Strange color cast, heavily towards green, lighting like a soap opera, and that weird motion that you get on TVs that do digital "smoothing." The shadows are particularly low quality. It looks like it was filmed on a mid-range SLR. Then the camera takes off into the sky, so now I'm convinced it's an SLR mounted on a drone.

Eggs are important.

A guy picks up a kid with his skin melting off of his face in a roadside diner, and takes him to a cabin where he nonchalantly informs him that his skin is to be the newest item in some collector's collection of knickknacks.

Collectible skin.

The kid brings up the highways of the dead that the voice-over in the credits talked about, saying that you should listen to the dead because they have stories to tell, and we suddenly jump to an entirely different story where a teenage girl's flesh is being ripped off of her face by unseen terrors. "Don't mock us" is painted on her wall in blood.

Don't mock us.

Then I think we teleport back to the origin story of the skin-melting kid, but I'm uncertain. He's the new student in a university course on "the paranormal." My university didn't offer any paranormality courses.

First day of paranormal activity class.

Mere seconds of that flashback before jumping to another different scene; a realtor showing a haunted house that was owned by some guy who could talk to the dead. Ah, no, she's explaining to a some guy that "Don't mock us" was also written on his wall when he died. And there's blood on a door hinge and some walls are shaking ominously. Ah, it's not a realtor, it's the professor.

Haunted house.

Flash! Another scene! A flashback within a flashback of the kid with the drooping skin? This is some spastic, wildly unfocused storytelling.

Dead children.

The professor thinks the new student has paranormal predictive powers. She tells him this, and he says yep. They decide to team up to solve the murder of the girl whose face was torn off. His name is apparently Simon.

Paranormal pub.

Each scene feels like it's hesitant to actually be a part of the story, but usually gets there out of some mild sense of duty. Each one feels like a bullet point taken from an unfinished outline of a horror story, reluctantly connected to the others by the thinnest thread of plot. There isn't even a shred of character development, nor any real sense of purpose. Some people had their skin forcibly removed, now there are spooky voices in dark rooms, and that should be enough to keep you interested. Maybe that would be true if it were beautifully filmed, but I'm afraid it is not.

Unnecessary side plot.

They go to that house with a bunch of recording equipment to try to get ghosts on video. Simon gets beaten up by ghosts, it's quite uneventful, and the video doesn't capture it. They would have known that ghosts don't show up on video if they had ever watched any horror films before going to a haunted house.

Ghosts don't film.

Simon gets beaten up by ghosts again. It's not that much different from the first time. They also don't get it on video. They scribble a lot more on the walls, though. If it's not clear, this house is supposed to be one of those intersections of dead highways or whatever.

I serve hell.

The professor doesn't care that her student is covered in serious wounds and bleeding. She demands that he continue living in the ghost house, and makes professionally inappropriate sexual advances. Unfortunately, she gets sleepy after sex, so she's in the room for the next ghost visit. Also, she didn't turn off the camera so her friend downstairs has a film of her seducing her student. This isn't relevant to the plot, just bad form.

Caught on camera.

It does that weird thing that movies do where they partially explain something – something that doesn't really need much explanation – but then thirty minutes later they over-explain that same thing to death. This time, with passion. In this case, it's the backstory for why the professor keeps seeing and hearing small girls playing, but I don't see how explaining it helps the story in any way.

Fountain of blood.

It turns out Simon is a scam artist and he's been faking some of the ghost sightings. This upsets the ghost-hunting trio, but guess what: there are still ghosts. As she is kicking him out of the house for faking stuff, she doesn't even bother to pause and wonder how he faked her own hallucinations and the time her face was literally compressed by ghost hands.

Ghost hand.

They all see some ghosts.


The ghosts carve messages in Simon's flesh with glass shards.

Flesh notebook.

The professor tells the ghosts that she will listen to their stories, and they seemed satisfied with that, so they… walk away. The ghosts carved their stories into Simon's skin for the next few years, and she transcribed them into books. The scenes of the writing forming on his skin are quite nice.

Simon is the Book of Blood.

The flashback ends, Simon gets murdered and flayed by the guy from the diner, who drifts off to sleep for a nice post-skinning nap and awakens in a sea of blood, in which he drowns. All the blood vanishes without a trace – fine – and the collector shows up to claim the skin. It's the professor, obviously.

Another side-plot dies.