Clive Barker has always been known for his ventures in the horror and fantasy. His epic career, which spans three decades, is perhaps most well known for his directional debut Hellraiser (1987), and the content he provided for Candyman and its sequels. Recent returns to directing and producing have seen new films added to his biography, and Book of Blood is certainly a good place to start. Once again, Barker’s ability to play with light, shadow, and his beautiful detail to dialogue combine to create a fabulous opening scene. An echoing voice-over narrates a black screen, creating an ominous feeling right from the get go. We learn about the highways of the dead, where the travelling souls of the dead traverse the lands, attempting to communicate with the living.
The story begins with the brutal murder of a young girl in a historically haunted house, a murder that imitates the horrific death of previous residents. Paranormal researched Mary Florescu (Sophie Ward) takes a research team to the house in order to investigate these highways of the dead, looking for proof of paranormal activities. When student Simon McNeal (Jonas Armstrong) transfers into her class, Florescu becomes enthralled with his ability to connect with the paranormal. McNeal begins working with Florescu to help uncover what happened in the haunted house, using his clairvoyant gift to discover what truly happened.
When McNeal is attacked it appears the paranormal is haunting the small group. Video cameras switch off, doors can’t be opened, and threatening words appear in flames on the walls of the haunted attic. Paranormal events become more severe as the relationship between Florescu and McNeal becomes physical, yet the playback on recorded footage shows dissimilarity between memories of the haunting and recorded events. It is at this stage that Barker’s handling of the erotic events between McNeal and Florescu adds credit to the film. His delicacy in presenting these scenes is something not normally seen in the horror genre, and should be commended. It’s not every day that a director chooses to acknowledge sex without exploiting it.
Barker’s ability to truly creep his viewers is never under question. His use of colour, light and sound to create tension work wonderfully together to make viewers uneasy if not downright scared. Tricky lighting creates ominous scenes, highlighting the good and the bad, and the constant shift to view various rooms through the video recording system gives a creepy look through the eyes of the characters. A truly unexpected ending eventuates, no less creepy then imagined. Barker once again delivers a truly cringe worthy film, that is enlivened by his knack for delivering fresh and interesting stories. Three stars.