Books of Blood is a horror anthology series for Hulu featuring three separate, but interconnected stories loosely based on Clive Barker’s story collection by the same name. However, while this Hulu original may share a title with Barker’s masterful horror collection, showrunners Brannon Braga and Adam Simon have made a lot of changes to the source material.
Books of Blood is a horror fiction collection that was written by Clive Barker in 1984 and 1985. It helped launch Barker’s career, and cemented his place in the horror genre. The Books of Blood are separated into six volumes, usually collected into two omnibus editions, the first containing books 1-3 and the second 4-6. Many of the stories have been adapted for the screen, some by Barker himself like Candyman and Lord of Illusion. Other ones include Rawhead Rex and The Midnight Meat Train, which starred Bradley Cooper before he was widely known. In 2009, another film—titled Book of Blood—was released, featuring the stories that bookend the collection, “The Book of Blood” and “On Jerusalem Street (A Postscript)”.
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Books of Blood (2020) on Hulu begins with the famous quote taken from Barker’s work, “Everyone is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red“. From there, it strays into its own territory, starting with a hitman who is told by a rare book collector about the book of blood. The hitman kills the collector, then goes in search of the rare book along with his partner, hoping to make a fortune in the process. This narrative is loosely based on the final story in the entire collection, “On Jerusalem Street (A Postscript)”, but makes a number of changes to this story. The rest of the Hulu anthology borrows somewhat from Barker’s work, and additionally deviates from the source.
Changes To “On Jerusalem Street” vs. “Bennett”
Braga’s Books of Blood opens with a story about a hitman named Bennet who, after killing a rare book collector, goes in search of the book of blood. He is told that it lies in a neighborhood called Ravenwood that is avoided by most people because of something horrible that happened there. As it turns out, the horrible event that left the neighborhood mostly abandoned and haunted was the creation of the book of blood: a man by the name of Miles, whose body is scrawled with the names of the dead who wish to tell their stories.
Of course, Bennet doesn’t believe in the supernatural, and goes into the neighborhood without fear. That is, until he arrives in Ravenwood. His car dies, and his partner wanders off and commits suicide to join the ghost of his mother. Bennett eventually finds Miles, who is the literal book of blood. While this story borrows from Barker’s “On Jerusalem Street”, it takes a number of liberties.
In Barker’s story, a man names Wyburd is hired to obtain the book of blood for a rare book collector. When he finds the man who has become the book of blood, he skins him to obtain the book, but the skin starts to bleed and won’t stop, eventually drowning him in blood. This is quite different from Braga’s story, which not only changes the names of the characters, but also tells a very different tale. In both stories, an unscrupulous man goes in search and finds the man who is the book of blood, but that’s about the only thing that’s similar. In Braga’s Books of Blood, Bennett ends up stabbing himself because he thinks rats are crawling all over him, then wanders to the house Jenna escaped from, where he’s bludgeoned to death.
Changes To “Jenna”
Braga’s Books of Blood devotes about half of its run time to a story about Jenna (Britt Robertson), a young woman who suffers from misophonia, a condition where she is sensitive to sound. Because of this, she always carries noise-canceling headphones around to block out the world. Jenna runs away from her home to avoid being sent to a mental institution known as “The Farm“, and ends up at B&B run by a sweet elderly couple. Because of her sensitivity to sound, Jenna is able to hear the scratching in the walls, which turns out to be people who have been walled inside after having their eyes and ears sewed shut.
While certainly horrific, the story of Jenna has very little to do with Barker’s Books of Blood. It’s not based on any of the stories in the anthology, and is instead an original piece from Braga. However, it does borrow somewhat from Barker’s general style. Barker is known for “body horror“, where he often explores physical mutilation and transformation of the body. This makes the idea of an elderly nurse “saving” people from the torments of the world by removing their senses of sight and sound, then encasing them in coffin-like compartments somewhat reminiscent of Barker’s work.
Changes To “The Book Of Blood” vs. “Miles”
The other story that is featured in Braga’s Books of Blood is the introductory story to Barker’s collection, “The Book of Blood”. Barker’s story is about a psychic researcher who hires a fake medium to investigate a haunted house. The fake medium pretends to be contacted by ghosts, but the real ones attack him and scrawl messages in his flesh. This is the same person who is later skinned in the final story to Barker’s collection, “On Jerusalem Street”.
In Braga’s Books of Blood, the narrative plays out a little differently. It still revolves around a psychic researcher named Mary (Anna Friel), although this time the character is a university professor known for debunking psychic phenomena. However, when Simon comes to her with a message from her son—who died from leukemia—she becomes convinced that he’s a real medium, and they become lovers. Later, while drunk, Simon admits to having faked it all, but Mary refuses to believe him and locks him in her dead son’s room, where the spirits come and carve his flesh with names of the dead. Thus, the book of blood is created.
Did These Changes Benefit The Anthology Or Hurt It?
Overall, the changes Braga makes to Barker’s stories are acceptable for the kind of movie he was trying to make. Although Barker’s stories are serious and dark, Braga ended up making a screen adaptation that’s a little hokey at times. The acting is somewhat inconsistent, and feels a little like a daytime soap opera. Nevertheless, Britt Roberson does a great job portraying the fear and psychological struggles of her character, Jenna.
Hulu’s Books of Blood mostly co-ops a well-known brand to increase its viewership for a generic horror anthology. While it does center around a fake medium becoming scrawled with the words of the dead (although in this case, it’s just names, rather than actual messages), it misses an opportunity to adapt other stories from Barker’s excellent collection, such in “In the Flesh” and “Son of Celluloid”. Jenna’s story is okay, but with Clive Barker’s name attached to it, it’s likely many fans of the horror author’s stories will feel like something’s missing from Hulu’s Books of Blood.
Next: Every Story From Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood That Became A Movie
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