“The dead have highways…”
It’s the only line I remember from the (very) short story, so of course it’s spoken five or six times in this 90-minute movie. I watched this in hi-def, only perhaps the third feature I’ve watched at home in HD (hello, The Fall and Night of the Creeps), and the first where I’ve sat close enough to the screen to notice how awesome it is. Actually sometimes I forget, it’s not that HD is awesome, it’s that SD is terrible and it has been hanging around far too long. Down with the tyranny of standard-definition… we welcome our new masters! I’d love to welcome them further but I can’t afford blu-ray or a nice TV – this $200 widescreen computer monitor will have to do for the next few years.
Oh, right, the movie… so as we’ve discussed I am a sucker for movies based on Clive Barker stories. I’ll watch any old shit as long as his name is attached (except the made-for-TV shit and Underworld/Transmutations). Therefore, Book of Blood, based on the titular story which served as an introduction to his anthology, and another I don’t remember called “On Jerusalem Street.” This was halfway decent, not as much a waste of time as Midnight Meat Train, maybe even worth watching. That’d be the first Barker-related movie to hit the high mark of “worth watching” in nine years, so this is a big deal.
The plot doesn’t sound so great: mystical whiz-kid Simon (TV’s Jonas Armstrong) is taking some college course in supernatural hoo-ha (lucky bastards – all my courses were about operating systems and design fallacies and thermodynamics and Thomas Kuhn) taught by over-serious Mary (Sophie Ward of the Crispin Glover Crime and Punishment – yes, there is such a thing and I must see it), who hangs around haunted houses in the evenings with tech guy Clive Russell (supposedly in Spaced and Neverwhere, but I don’t remember him). They find a house that is seriously badass haunted and they pay Simon to sleep there while they monitor the goings-on. Sure enough, he is haunted as hell, but they fail to record it because Simon’s actually faking the whole thing, jamming their signals and scrawling on the walls because his parents didn’t pay him enough attention.
The action stops for an hour or two while each character recites his or her traumatic back story. There’s the same scene of a guy with big headphones and a shotgun mic walking around a haunted house as in Spooked. I love that.
Finally the actual ghosts have had enough of this, haul Simon to the CG-riffic GHOST REALM and take turns carving their stories into his skin. Simon escapes back into the framing story – have I mentioned there is a framing story? – in which a dude is stalking Simon at a restaurant. The dude captures him, listens to his story (that’d be the bulk of our movie), kills Simon and removes his skin, then drowns when his cabin fills with Evil Dead amounts of blood and the door won’t open (funny how the doors never open). Who hired the dude to skin Simon? Could it be Mary, the only other character in the movie? Yes!