Hulu’s latest original horror film Books of Blood demonstrates how horror anthologies can be very hit or miss. Based on several short stories from Clive Barker’s collection of the same name, Books of Blood has some cool ideas (no doubt from Barker’s storylines), but the overall execution is regrettably a bit underwhelming.
Taking the Pulp Fiction approach, the movie features two separate stories, then a third one that loosely connects them both. The first deals with a woman struggling with mental health struggles and the toll that it takes on her and her family as they care for her.
Eventually it proves to be too much for them and they kick her out, leading her to a new living arrangement with a family that seems lovely at first, but everything gets very People Under the Stairs very quickly.
We also get a legitimately fascinating concept with a scientific skeptic teaming up with a medium to promote spiritualism and mysticism as a sort of new science. It taps into the age old conflict between science and faith, but with a horror twist and truly showed a lot of potential.
What’s frustrating is that these legitimately interesting and creepy ideas are wasted on over the top writing and acting that feel like something out a teen drama. In most anthologies the vignettes play out like short films, usually with some sort of twist or narrative subversion.
Part of the issue is that each of these stories feel like they could have been their own movie, and it shows. Each one is just long enough (about 40 minutes) that it feels too long for a short film, but not long enough for a feature length movie. So the result is cramming 90 minutes of material into half the runtime.
To its credit, it does have some cool visuals, especially given its budget. And while it never forgets to be a horror film (which Hulu’s Into the Dark has been known to do from time to time), it kind of botches the anthology approach. Books of Blood probably would have worked better as a series, or by just adapting one of the stories in a full movie.
Books of Blood is streaming exclusively on Hulu!