Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Clive Barker's Book of Blood (2009) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski ]

Starring: Jonas Armstrong, Sophie Ward, Paul Blair
Directed By: John Harrison
Written By: John Harrison, Darin Silverman, Clive Barker (novel)
Grade: B+

Book of Blood is the latest Clive Barker adaptation, coming from the book compiled of short horror stories that he wrote of the same title. Specifically, the film focuses on two of the stories, “Book of Blood” and “On Jerusalem Street.” I haven’t read the Clive Barker short stories myself, but from my understanding the adaptation follows the original material very closely. Fans of the original Book of Blood should be very happy with what the film has to offer. Book of Blood also does a very good job of communicating the story to a fresh audience. It focuses on development, intriguing the viewer and increasing the suspense. By the time it’s over, we are escalated from the interesting and effective, but overall fairly typical ghost story, to something much more terrifying and brutal.

Mary Florescu (Ward) is a paranormal researcher and college professor. She is a famous published author, but fears that most of her fans are more fascinated from a fiction standpoint than truly believing in what they are reading. Mary has been studying and searching for proof that ghosts are indeed among the living. She hasn’t found anything solid in the past 10 years though, just circumstantial evidence based on a hunch. She experienced hauntings as a child, which made her so determined to make the best of this experience despite how it disturbed her. Eager to finally find something substancial, Mary gets to work with her friend, Reg Fuller (Blair), even though he is a bit of a skeptic.

In one of her classes, Mary spots Simon McNeal (Armstrong), who she immediately has a connection with. She knows that he’s the one that can help her. Simon is suffering from the traumatic experience of losing his brother. He thinks he can help Mary though since he used to have paranormal experiences as a kid. Once they enter the old gothic house and spend their time together investigating the spirits it might hold, Simon’s eye for the dead suddenly comes back. Mary is so thrilled with every horrific occurrence that happens that she puts these discoveries before her own life. In time, she does a bit more investigating that leads her to believe that some of the occurrences might have been falsified. This only puts the crew off their guard for when the dead come through the highway to the world of the living, demanding to be heard through a human “book of blood.”

I really enjoyed Jonas Armstrong as Simon. He brought forth an intelligent, sly, and intriguing man, but one that also was no stranger to darkness. He went through an incredible transition and becomes a very tragic and tormented individual. Sophie Ward also did pretty well as the author and professor, Mary Florescu. She goes from being a lost woman looking for hard proof and a profound spiritual experience to someone who gets that very thing, but might be changed for the worse because of it. The two had pretty good chemistry with one another both through their supernatural plight and their forbidden intimate bond.

The film really ends with a bang, completely turning the story and one very important character upside down. It’s twisted, sadistic, and cold. There’s an interesting point about how the dead need their stories to be told. This is a common theme in ghost stories; the ghost haunts the innocent because they had a tragic or unjust death and need someone to know what happened; to set things right to an extent. Usually they scare and threaten the person a bit, but here a much more brutal and literal method of forcing their stories on a human is taken. It’s physically vicious, taking a constant toll on the body; a form of everlasting torture. Even worse, they’re permanent mental scars; stories of death and destruction forever overpowering his mind.

I also really liked the theme of those haunted by ghost in a young age being the ones who chase this paranormal insight. They want firsthand encounters even though this is the very thing that once terrified them so. Simon states that he hasn’t had this feeling since he saw the ghost when he was 13 years old and now that he has it back again he refuses to let go of that. The absence of it made him crave it more than ever. Mary made this her entire career and life rather than moving on from the past. Perhaps this is their way of dealing, running right towards their past fears. They serve as two different possible outcomes; one receives all of the understanding and personal gain she could imagine and the other is victimized with eternal torment.

There isn’t a ton of blood, ironically enough since blood is right in the title. The most brutal moments are at the end when we witness the actual book of blood. The image is grotesque, but more than anything else it’s what our perceptions of the all around torture that really makes it seem like such a horrid fate. The scares are creepy enough and come suddenly, giving us clues as to the characters past as well as their near future. Most of them won’t faze majority of horror fans though. Book of Blood is really more about the building of suspense along with the sudden malicious ending we are left with. Book of Blood is one of the better recent ghost story films well worth checking out.

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