Sunday, 13 January 2013

5 Films Based on Clive Barker's Books of Blood

The Books of Blood series put writer Clive Barker into our horrorsphere.  After this series of short story, he went on to his first full length novel, "The Damnation Game" and then followed that up with a novel called "The Hellbound Heart".  Never satisfied with the way his stories turned out on film after producing two short films and two full length features, he turned to directing.  His first film was based on "The Hellbound Heart" called Hellraiser.  This catipulted Barker into the horror stratosphere and he hasn't looked back, creating some of the most well known novels and films of our time.  It's hard to believe that it all started with these 6 books.

Here are 5 Films Based on Clive Barker's Books of Blood

 5. Rawhead Rex (1986) - So, we're in Ireland and these guys are trying to remove an ancient post that is in one of the guy's yard.  The guy's friends give up and take off, but the one guy really wants to move it and when the giant pillar does finally shift, it releases a demon, that comes out and kills him.  Over at the church, they're singing an unusual about of halleluiahs and Howard Hallenbeck is outside taking some photos for his new book that he's working on.  Howard's son, Robbie tells his dad that he needs to hurry up or mom will be upset with him, so he tells Robbie that he just needs a few moments to speak with the priest inside.  The church service has ended and the Father O'Brian is saying good bye to everyone, when Howard asks to speak to someone about photographing the inside of the church and looking at old records of the church.  O'Brian directs him to Reverend Coots, who tells him that it's alright and he'll have someone dig up the records for him in the morning.  Meanwhile, the demon monster is randomly killing people and like all police detectives in horror movies, they have no idea what's going on.  Howard's wife, Elaine is sick of being in Ireland and wants to go home and so do his children, Robbie and Minty. Minty? But Howard reminds them that this is a workcation and they need to enjoy themselves.  Frustrated, Howard goes for a walk.  At the same time the monster is killing some teens and is spotted by Howard.  It runs away and Howard brings his info to the local authority.  They all but laugh in Howard's face, when he tells them about the monster he saw and they usher him out of the office like a old man who's up past his bed time.  Fed up with Ireland, Howard packs up his family and starts to leave town but Minty, Minty?!, has to go pee.  So they stop the car on the side of the road and send Minty, Minty?!!, not just behind the giant fence but farther into the bush to pee.  While peeing Minty starts screaming and Howard and Elaine go to rescue her from a demon monster? Nope, a dead rabbit. Oh Minty!  However, while saving Minty, this gave the demon monster a chance to kill and eat Robbie! Now Howard must avenge Robbie's death with or without the help of the police and maybe he can get a book out of it too.  Rawhead Rex was the first story to make it to the big screen from the Books of Blood series and it's probably the worst.  Director George Pavlou is all over the place with the story and sometimes things just doesn't make sense.  Sometimes Rex is killing just men, sometimes not, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the demons intentions.  Some of the blame can be put on Barker's shoulders, he did adapt the story and he wore the ridiculous Rex costume for the film.  The kill scenes are mediocre and the acting is terrible and I can see why Barker became so hands on with his content after this film.  Worth watching for the fan who wants to have see all his works but not something to go out of your way for.

4. Dread (2009) - Stephen is a film major in college and has to take an ethics course to even out his study.  One night he meets one of his ethics classmates Quaid and goes for a beer with him after class.  Quaid seems to have an obsession with dread, not Judge Dredd, and asks Stephen what is his most painful memory.  Stephen tells him that it was when he was 15 and his older brother died in a drunk driving accident. Quaid is fascinated and proposes that they do a study on the subject of dread, for his on interest and Stephen have use this as his thesis. Win/Win.  Stephen enlists the help of his editor/vegetarian/love interest friend Cheryl to work on the project together and she agrees so, everything is a go!  Except, Stephen doesn't know that Quaid has been heavily medicated since he saw his parents brutally murdered when he was a small child and he has recently ditched his medication to get to the real answers of dread.  Over the week, they interview a ton of people on the subject of dread, montage time, but Quaid doesn't seem to be getting the results he's looking for and is getting frustrated.  Cheryl volunteers to tell her story on camera and lets the gang know that she was molested by her father, who worked in a meat packing plant. Now, because of him, she can't stand the smell of beef, let alone put it her mouth.  eeew!  This is what Quaid was looking for and the group goes forward with the project.  However, Stephen has noticed that Quaid is acting more erratic than usual and seems to be scaring him and the people for the interviews.  It comes to a head when Quaid catches an interviewee lying about her encounter with dread and he flips out attacking her and smashing their equipment.  Cheryl and Stephen leave and tell Quaid to fuck off, they're done.  Now with Quaid's back to the wall and alone in his madness, what can he really find out about dread?  This was okay and it tried to stay close to the book but I felt it could have been done a little tighter.  Additional characters were added with the intention of rounding out the base characters but I think it only muddled the story in the long run.  Not really a blood bath horror but more of a disturbing look at dread.  I liked Shaun Evans as Quaid and Jason Rathbone does a terrific job as Stephen, they play against each other well and create an interesting dynamic.  Jason Rathbone doesn't bite anyone in this movie, heads up, Twilighters. Not my favourite Barker film but still worth watching, some interesting ideas and a really terrific ending.

3. Book of Blood (2009) - Paranormal investigator, amateur psychic and professor Mary Florescu is investigating a potential haunted house for a new book.  The daughter of the previous owners supposedly had her face ripped off by ghosts, who then wrote with her blood Don't Mock US on the wall just because she was playing with a Ouija board.  Tough ghosts.  Now Mary and her crack team of Reg, the video guy, are going to try to get to the bottom of this whole ghost thing but she just needs one more person, Simon McNeal.  Simon McNeal is a student that Mary has the hots for and coincidentally he is suppose to have remarkable psychic ability. So over a pint, Mary convinces this young Lothario to join her team and bust some ghosts.  To Mary's pleasure, Simon strips down to his skivvies the first night and sleeps in the haunted room.  Mary and Reg watch has Simon starts to make contact with the dead and then the recording equipment goes ballistic, blanks out and Simon is screaming.  Mary and Reg cautiously go to the door and wait til Simon stops screaming to enter his room.  When they enter the room, they see that Simon has been attacked and the ghosts have written some shit on the walls.  Reg goes in the closet to discover a message that bursts onto the wall with fiery force, leaving a terrifying message.  Reg and Mary take samples of everything and talk with Simon about the events but he can't remember anything.  Mary drops the findings off at a lab to be tested.  The next night, the same thing happens and Mary is so excited that she sleeps with Simon!  Afterwards, she is visited by ghosts and lead her to the window, where she is confronted with images from her past.  Simon tries to let her know that the night before was different from the night before that and he's now feeling very uneasy about the project.  Mary is greeted on the streets by fans and while Simon is talking with them, she gets a phone call from the lab.  Simon turns to Mary and she's disappeared!  Luckily, he finds her at the house but she is pissed because the lab report has come back and apparently Simon is a fraud.  Simon tells her that the first night he did fake it, (wink) but the second night was real ghost shit and to prove it, he marches upstairs and takes off his pants and locks the door.  Reg and Mary don't care and just want to leave but the equipment starts acting funny again, they think it's Simon having a go at them again until Reg notices that the equipment isn't plugged in.  Simon starts screaming and Mary and Reg don't know what to do.  Have they really opened up a door or a highway to the land of the dead?  If so, how do they close it? Writer/Director John Harrison does a nice take on this story.  He opens up the original short story, gives it a wider birth and allows the story to germinate into a wonderful tale of terror.  Sophi Ward is excellent has Mary and gives a killer performance. Jonas Armstrong is good as well, even though he's not the guy I would have pictured from reading the book.  Doug Bradley even shows up in a few scenes which is nice.  All round good haunted house film, lots of blood and like most of these Barker stories the ending is the true payoff.

2. The Midnight Meat Train (2008) - Leon is a struggling photographer, who is trying to capture the heart of New York City, under all the grime and crime.  His girlfriend Leslie tells him that her friend, Jorge has made an appointment for Leon with of the city's most prominent art dealers, Susan Hoff.  Unfortunately, after looking at his work, Susan Hoff tells him that his work is good, but he's not capturing the right moment.  She tells him that he needs to be brave and come back with when he finds the right moment.  This crushes Leon but he rallies and heads down to the New York subway system that night. I'll show you whose brave.  While being brave, he confronts and photographs a gang of young thugs trying to hurt a young lady trying to get to the train.  They let her go and make their way towards Leon, then Leon reminds them of the security camera beside him.  The gang leaves and the girls thanks Leon and makes her train.  Leon gets one more snapshot of her before she gets on her midnight meat train and she is goes missing the next day.  Leon reads that and goes to the police.  The police dismiss it and tell Leon that they'll look into it.  Leon brings his photos of that night to Susan Hoff and that is exactly what she is looking for and if he can get two more pictures like this, then he can be in the exhibit.  That night Leon heads out and notices a strange man waiting for a train but pays no mind of him until he sees him the next morning coming from the train station.  He gets a weird vibe and follows him to his place of work, a meat packing plant.  Over the next few days, Leslie notices some changes in Leon and his new obsession with this butcher.  Leon is researching the subway system and his new friend the butcher and thinks he may have the answers to all the disappearances over the years.  This butcher is killing them and disposing of the bodies but why?  Can Leon unravel the mystery of the butcher and his midnight meat train?  This movie is pretty gory.  Vinnie Jones gives an outstanding performance as the butcher and swings that mallet like nobody's business.  Surprisingly, Bradley Cooper gives a good performance playing Leon and really brings the character to life.  Brooke Shields, Leslie Bibb and Roger Bart round out a stellar cast in this under the radar horror spectacular by director Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus).  Great film and well worth a watch.

1. Candyman (1992) - Helen is working on her graduate thesis on Urban Legends and during one of the interviews, she is told about Candyman.  Apparently, if you look into the mirror and say Candyman 5 times, he will appear behind you and gut you like a fish with his hook hand.  She tells research partner, Bernadette later that evening and they jokingly give it a try in Helen's bathroom.  Nothing happens.  The next day while making notes on the taped interviews, one of the cleaning staff mentions to Helen that Candyman killed a girl recently over in housing projects in Cabrini-Green.  Helen convinces Bernadette to go with her to Cabrini-Green to investigate the Candyman legend.  When they arrive the locals believe that they're cops so they leave them alone to wander through the neglected building.  Helen takes pictures of the graffiti scrawled across the walls of the stairwells and hallways that pay tribute to Candyman.  They get to the apartment where the victim was found and open the medicine cabinet to see now the assailant got in.  Helen goes through the hole to take more pictures and finds candy with razor blades on the floor.  When she returns, they are questioned by the victims neighbour, Ann-Marie and told that they are crazy from coming to this part of town without protection.  Eventually, they become chummy, meet Anne-Marie's baby, Anthony and told that everyone is afraid of Candyman.  Helen gives Ann-Marie her card and leaves with Bernadette.  During dinner with another colleague, Helen and Bernadette learn about the legend of Candyman.  Candyman was the son of a slave who grow up with a very privileged background because of his artistic talent.  Unfortunately, he fell in love with and impregnated the daughter of a wealthy land owner, who had a gang of thugs murder him.  The gang cut off his hand, covered him with the honey comb of bee hive and was stung to death by angry bees.  The next day, Helen goes back to Cabrini-Green to speak with Ann-Marie, but only her rottweiler is home.  However, a young boy named Jake is sitting outside her door.  Helen asks him about Candyman and he says that he can show her where Candyman lives.  He brings her to a bathroom area by a park in the Cabrini-Green complex and tells her that Candyman killed and cut off the genitals of a mentally handicapped kid there.  Genital mutilation! Helen is intrigued and heads into the washroom but after a few snapshots of some shitty toilets, a gangsta calling himself Candyman shows up with his crew.  Candyman using his hook, gives Helen a warning with a face beating.  Luckily, Jake saves her, after Candyman and his boys leave, and the police capture Candyman. Hooray! Candyman is in jail and Helen tells Jake that Candyman is not real, so he and his community never has to be afraid of him again.  This pisses the ghost Candyman off.And to get his revenge, he knocks Helen out and leaves her in a pool of blood in Anne-Marie's bathroom.  When she wakes up, Anne-Marie's dog's head is on the floor and Anne Marie can't find her baby.  Ann-Marie attacks Helen screaming about her baby and Helen tries to defend herself with a cleaver.  Unfortunately, the police show up at that moment and arrest Helen for kidnapping and possible murder. You dun fucked with da wrong ghost bitch.  While in jail, Candyman tells her that if she sacrifices herself to him and get the people scared of him again, then he'll return the baby to it's mother.  Can Helen escape to stop this vengeful ghost and save the baby, her reputation and most importantly her soul? Great film!  Love Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd in this.  It's a nice blend of psychological thriller, gore film and it has just the right amount of social commentary to make director Bernard Rose's film a horror masterpiece.  Watch it, then go in the bathroom and say Candyman 5 times, see if you don't hesitate that last time.  Definite must for any Clive Barker fan!

Looking into Barker's extensive work over the years, it's easy to see how some of the tales could fall to the wayside and be forgotten.  So, it's nice to see that another generation of readers and filmmakers are recognizing the talents and the true terror of these stories and sharing Barker's nightmares with a new audience.


  1. you forgot the last film which Barker himself directed - Lord of Illusions (based on the Last Illusion, in Book 6), and starring Scott Bakula, Famke Jansen, and Kevin J. O'Connor. but a good read, nevertheless :)

    1. I haven't seen Lord of Illusions for a long time, good film. I didn't realize that Clive Barker directed it. I'll probably use it in another list, but thanks for the heads up.