“Books of Blood” Is A Bloody Mess

Review of Hulu’s Latest Horror Film


“Books of Blood” was the anthology book series that helped to launch now famous horror novelist Clive Barker into the forefront of the horror genre. Now, Hulu attempts to adapt Barker’s work into an original film for their streaming catalog. Directed by Brannon Braga, the film, similar to last year’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” is split up into several separate segments that all end up connecting to one another. The first is about a young woman named Jenna (Britt Robertson), who suffers from misophonia, the extreme irritability towards particular everyday noises, on the run from her controlling mother which leads her to a strange and disturbing bed and breakfast. The second is about Mary Florensky (Anna Friel), a psychic researcher, who enlists the help of Simon (Rafi Gavron) to communicate to her deceased son Miles (Etienne Kellici). Simon claims to be able to talk to the dead. Lastly, the third segment is about a hit-man named Bennett (Yul Vazquez) and his hunt for the legendary Book of Blood. 

If there was a word to describe the overall feeling of Hulu’s adaptation, it would most certainly be dull. Nothing about this rendition of “Books of Blood” feels engaging, and instead just feels like any other generic horror film. A big part of this feeling stems from the acting within the film. Nearly every single character within the film, regardless of which segment they’re in, is portrayed in the most monotone way possible and displays nothing that even resembles emotion. For instance, within the second story regarding Mary Florensky’s quest to communicate with her son, there are several scenes in which she is supposed to feel anger and distress regarding attempting to communicate with her son and whether or not his messages are real. However, Anna Fiel’s performance within these scenes never feels genuine, and as a result the viewer does not really care about Florensky’s struggles. The only individual that does somewhat succeed in conveying some emotion is Britt Robertson’s portrayal of Jenna, namely when she tries to escape from the tortuous location she winds up in. However, even this can only demand so much praise as it has been done in other horror films and has been done better.

The music also contributes to the generic feeling of the film. Even though it initially gives off eerie vibes during the early stages of “Books of Blood,” as the film continues on the initial eerie feelings become lost as the viewer gets acclimated to the music and as there’s no real variance within the music, the overall atmosphere of the film shifts from somewhat disturbing to extremely bland. This also makes every one of the three stories feel exactly the same, in spite of how different these stories are. Jenna’s struggles to get away from her controlling parents should feel unique from Mary’s wishes to talk with her son, yet they do not.

While on that subject, the biggest overall issue with “Books of Blood” is the stories themselves. There is no real coherency even within the individual stories themselves, instead appearing as if events are occurring at random. One notable example of this happening occurs within the third story during Bennett’s quest to find the Book of Blood. His partner, Steve (Andy McQueen), eventually ventures off within a haunted neighborhood because he claims to be talking to his deceased mother. This detail pops up out of nowhere, making the event just come off as a forced way to deliver some uneasiness and scares within the third story. Pacing is another issue that is prominent throughout the film. The first story with Jenna drags on too long, soaking up around 46 minutes of the film, with the other two stories taking less time than that. 

In fairness to this movie, some aspects of the sound design, particularly how it portrays Jenna’s misophonia by emphasizing sounds like chewing, is kind of clever. At the end of the day, though, Hulu’s “Books of Blood” does the unthinkable: it makes Clive Barker boring. For casual viewers and horror buffs alike, there are better ways to be spending your October.