Clive Barker is a horror legend, with many of his written works being snatched up and adapted to terrify us onscreen. While most know his work through the film adaptations Hellraiser and Candyman, what really started bringing people into the fold of his horror-filled mind was the release of his series of short stories aptly titled Books of Blood. Barker has now teamed up with director and co-writer Brannon Braga to take a crack at adapting the series of stories for its second film adaptation in Hulu’s BOOKS OF BLOOD. For the release of the film, I had the opportunity to speak with both Clive Barker and Brannon Braga about their collaboration together on BOOKS OF BLOOD, choosing practical effects over CGI, and why horror continues to be the tool we use to navigate difficult-to-discuss themes.
Synopsis: Based on Clive Barker’s acclaimed and influential horror anthology BOOKS OF BLOOD, this feature takes audiences on a journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three uncanny tales tangled in space and time. The series stars Britt Robertson, Rafi Gavron, Anna Friel, Yul Vazquez, and Freda Foh Shen.
Thank you both so very much for taking the time to talk to me today. Clive – how does it feel to see this creation come to life in such a brilliant way through Brannon Braga?
Clive Barker: He is brilliant. The cool thing about all of this is that it’s with a friend. I have a theory that nothing in life is worth doing unless you can do it with friends. Brannon turned into a friend as we got together and worked through all of these projects because it’s not just one adaptation we’re hoping to do, we hope to do many. The whole idea was that we should talk and come up with not just adaptations for the Books of Blood stories but find new books of blood stories between the two of us, which we’ve also done.
Speaking of new tales, how did you both come up with the extra stories to fit in with this anthology?
Brannon Braga: When we first started getting together, there were certain stories from the Books of Blood that I read and loved that I wanted to do. But as we began to talk at length I became really intrigued that he had, in essence, Books of Blood stories he hadn’t done yet. So of course, to me, these were like undiscovered volumes. He had a couple of really great ideas, one involving an AirBnB from hell and another involving the concept of a haunted neighborhood, which I just never heard before. We developed the ideas with another writer, oddly that Clive hasn’t met yet named Adam Simon, that helped as well, in a big way. We just kind of developed this movie based on our discussions.
Clive Barker: Part of the element of working with other people is surprise. Adam and Brannon had surprises that they could bring to me and I think I had some surprises I could bring to Brannon and that’s what you want, isn’t it? You want to be able to go into the creative process and go, “Oh wow, I hadn’t thought about that”. You would have been entertained if you had seen us like two kids musing over some ghastly scene that we had created in our mind’s eye.
One of my favorite aspects of the film was the use of practical effects, especially in the reveal of the creatures. Obviously, there are some special effects, but was it important to you both to stick with practical as much as you could?
Brannon Braga: Clive and I did talk about that as well. Horror and this is just our opinion, has to be there. Horror has to be in the room. It has to be real because if it’s a translucent visual effect thing, it creates separation. Most of the stuff in this movie is real, a lot of the cockroach stuff, we had a cockroach person who trained cockroaches. We had a rat wrangler. When you think about the title story from the very first story in the very first volume, which is of the Books of Blood that is in this, which involves somebody who is written upon from head to toe, his body engraved by the dead, that was a full head to toe body suit that took five people, eight hours to put on this actor. We had the budget to build like three of them, so it was going to be three days, cause when we took it off you had to use a new one. We could have put the actor in a green suit and done it with visual effects, but you’re not going to feel it. When he’s engraved upon and he’s laying in a pool of blood, you need to see it. It needs to be there. That’s just the philosophy we went in with and there are obviously visual effects, but they’re usually enhancing a practical effect.
Why do you think the horror genre does such a great job at exploring difficult themes such as mental health, the afterlife, etc considering they are so prevalent in BOOKS OF BLOOD?
Clive Barker: The fact is if I knew that I wouldn’t do it. The elements of surprise have to work on me too. When I was sitting with Brannon and I would have an idea about bodies in the walls, as I was telling it I was telling myself. In other words, I don’t have ideas which are planned or laid out. Brannon is probably seeing this more than anybody else, in the sense that there’s been nobody else besides Brannon in my creative career that I actually sat down and found that these stories were coming out. And every week, we met for many, many weeks, we automatically, or instinctively found ourselves flying towards new stuff. And if I knew why my mind works that way, I probably wouldn’t do it. It probably wouldn’t excite me anymore. But the fact is it does because I have a childlike desire to scare the bloody Jesus out of people. I’ve always had it. I remember sitting behind some girls in a cinema once in Liverpool, me and my friend Norman, we were watching Psycho, believe it or not. I was sitting with Norman and we were watching, the three girls in front of us were terrified and we got such a precarious throw. I think we watched the girls more often than watching the movie because there was something pleasurable about knowing that a scare was coming up and watching how they would respond to it.
BOOKS OF BLOOD is now available to stream on Hulu. For more on the film, check out our review here.