‘Books of Blood’ Review: Not Quite a Page-Turner

It’s been 36 years since “Books of Blood,” Clive Barker’s six-volume collection of short stories, hit shelves and seeded a few above-average horror films like “Candyman” and an early starring vehicle for Bradley Cooper, “Midnight Meat Train.” (“I own all the copies,” Cooper once joked.)

Now, the debut feature director Brannon Braga has turned the book-within-a-book into the framework for his own anthology of three mean and gory tales, streaming on Hulu. One involves the creation of the ghastly tome, a human body tortured by spirits who scrawl their names and thoughts on its flesh like the bathroom stall of the damned. The other two are originals penned by Braga and Adam Simon that feel like Barker’s books were confettied and assembled by leaf blower, along with a few pilfered pages from Jordan Peele.

It’s a mess — and I’m not just talking about the close-up of a bleeding, ghost-gratified fingernail. Tropes include rats, cockroaches, people vomiting cockroaches and a small sick boy saddled with dialogue like, “I’m awfully tired,” as though he accidentally blundered into the Brontë section of the library.

The one inspiration is a damsel-in-distress (Britt Robertson) tormented by misophonia, an extreme sensitivity to sound, that sends her into a rage whenever her mother eats a salad. All the better to hear bumps in the night — though at least she doesn’t have to hear a soundtrack cluttered with rattles, whines, metronomes, music box melodies and death metal. Toward the very end of this grim, miserable picture, Robertson’s character becomes moderately interesting, but the movie drops that plot point like a first-time chain saw juggler. Now that’s scary.

Books of Blood
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. Watch on Hulu.

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