Horror is a tricky beast. Most horror focuses on those things that terrified us as children, the stuff that goes bump in the night, the eyes in the dark, that kind of stuff. Most writers create their stories with that kind of scare in mind; Stephen King being the top of the bunch there. But Clive Barker always focused on the adolescent and adult kinds of horror. Not just the fear, but also the sense of betrayal or loneliness or failure or even the pain of just being in the world, and manifestations of those and similar fears. This is part of what set his stories apart, like Imajica or, in this case, his woven collection of tales in Books of Blood.
This incarnation of the book (there was an earlier, less effective, movie) is wonderfully creepy and deeply disturbing, even if some of it feels familiar. And the three storylines are knit together in some very clever ways.
The movie is driven primarily by Britt Robinson (A Dog’s Purpose) and Anna Friel (The Look of Love), who each anchor different storylines. Their controlled performances add to the creep factor and the humanity. There are several other roles, but it’s Freda Foh Shen (Ad Astra) and Nicholas Campbell (Coroner) in Robinson’s tale and Rafi Gavron (Catch-22) in Friel who stand out…each for different reasons.
I have to admit I was surprised the movie was directed and co-written by Brannon Braga (The Orville), who doesn’t typically delve into that level of darkness. Finding a horror movie in this vein isn’t easy. It isn’t devoid of the scares or guts or terror, but it is filled with a level of believability and sick fascination that makes for truly great horror. Even, in this case, a horror that is worth seeing more than once. If you like the genre and want to see something a bit different and definitely on its game, make time for it.