This movie version of one of Clive Barker’s short stories from his seminal ‘Books of Blood’ horror anthology is a strange beast, as at first distributor Lionsgate was going to give the film a cinematic release, but then it only got a very limited run, that most of us had no chance of catching. However, at last fans such as myself can finally get a chance to see another of Barker’s nightmare-like stories on screen. Was it worth the wait? Well… let’s says it’s better than Rawhead Rex but not as good as Hellraiser. Actually, that’s being a bit unfair really, as the film itself is actually quite good, as is the original story the movie is based on.
The plot of the movie revolves around Leon (Bradley Cooper), a failing photographer whose niche in the photography market revolves around ambulance chasing and images for the police in accident scenes. However, Leon has a talented eye for taking pictures of ‘the city’ (which one I don’t know) that just needs a lucky break into the world of ‘art’, and with the help his girlfriend (Leslie Bibb), he’s introduced to a fine-art dealer who is not impressed by his work, asking him to get to the underbelly of the ‘city’.
This quest to find out about the hidden life and nocturnal goings on in the city leads him to a lot more than he bargained for as he encounters a hulking butcher who prowls the subways carving up unsuspecting commuters. If this seems a familiar storyline, well, it is, as a recent horror flick Creep was also based loosely on Barker’s tale; however, instead of a malformed mutant creature touring the subways, we get a surprisingly good Vinnie Jones decked out in an ultra-smart suit, slicked back hair, a seriously threatening and creepy unstoppable villain whose smart presence belies the fact that when the very last train leaves the station, he proceeds to smash the brains out of his victims with a very serious looking meat tenderiser.
While not needing to talk or really act that much, Jones is actually very good indeed, a walking Frankenstein-like presence carved from rock but decked out in pristine fashion and spotlessly clean and, while not as iconic as Freddy, Jason or Pinhead for a ‘monster’, fits the film perfectly. He’s a good foil for the ‘hero’, Leon, whose descent into the underworld of the city has him literally falling to pieces, becoming a dirty, nocturnal addict driven by lack of sleep and his compulsion for the seedier underground late night world he is now inhabiting to get his photos.
Visually the film is well above par for a standard horror flick. Director Ryuhei Kitamura has a great eye for colour with the subways and underground world, using a Matrix-like sheen to give the underground scenes an unearthly atmosphere. With a palette full of blues and chrome metallic reflections, rather than the standard guts and gore reds, browns and green horror clichés, the film has a clinical set of colours and tones that gives all the subway scenes an unnerving, creepy feel. How often have we seen overly dark, saturated scenes filled with blacks and dark browns where you can’t see anything, with the effects drowned out in shadows? Not here. In this movie the gore is right out in the open, under the artificial nature of neon tube filament lamps, and even when the film takes a little trip into the realms of fantasy in its climax, all the effects work and effort of the prosthetics, lighting and FX crew are there on screen for you to marvel at.
And for those gore-hounds there is a lot of marvel at. With only a couple of quite obvious CG effects to be seen, most of the film’s gory details are prosthetic in nature. From the unnerving sight of seeing people hung up like carcasses, devoid of all humanity and filmed in a cold emotionless blue-filtered style, to the gallons of fake blood and the nightmare creatures that Mr Jones is forced to work for, the film is aimed directly at those who like their effects on the visceral, gritty and grounded world of surgical instruments and scary pointy kitchen utensils.
Extras-wise the disc is not that packed, however there are a few gems hidden away with the standard commentary. Firstly, the trailers at the beginning of the DVD are surprisingly good, showing other Lionsgate releases such as The Spirit and Repo – The Opera (with added Tony Head goodness!).
In addition to this there is also a 15 minute documentary about Clive Barker which focuses on his painting. For a short documentary this was pretty fascinating as the entire interview was done in his art studio which is crammed from ceiling to floor with his works or art, some of which are actually on display in the film. I could not help feeling, though, that maybe Clive should put the brushes down for a bit and get back to the old typewriter as fans of his have been waiting for years to get his final Hellraiser novel, The Scarlet Gospels. Come on, Clive, please. For us. We want to see some more Harry D ’Amour and finally find out what Pinhead’s real name is! Still ,at least we have ‘Books of Blood’ coming soon on DVD to sate our hunger for Barker horror goodness.