Published: Monday, 19 October 2020 | Written by SciFi Vision
Recently, Hulu released the film, Books of Blood, based on the horror and theology by Clive Barker. The film, directed by Brannon Braga, takes some content from the books, as well as new stories, and weaves them into a single narrative.
Barker and Brannon, who recently took part in a press junket, talked with SciFi Vision about working together on the film, what its future could look like, and more.
Be sure to check out Books of Blood, now available on Hulu. You can also read the full transcript of the interview below the video.
Zoom Call Books of Blood Clive Barker and Brannon Braga
September 30, 2020
SCIFI VISION: Hi. So, thanks for talking to me, guys. I really enjoyed the movie, it scared the crap out of me.
BRANNON BRAGA: Yay.
CLIVE BARKER: Good, good, good.
SCIFI VISION: Yes, I really enjoyed it.
Can you start by talking about how it came to be, the movie, and how you two came to be working together?
CLIVE BARKER: Brannon, you go.
BRANNON BRAGA: For me, it started in 1987 when I stood in line for two hours to get Clive's autograph at a bookstore in Santa Monica, as a huge fan.
CLIVE BARKER: Was that '87?
BRANNON BRAGA: I think '87, '88. I think '87.
CLIVE BARKER: Yeah, yeah, the books had just come out, right?
BRANNON BRAGA: The books had just come out, and many years later, we were introduced. I always had a secret dream of doing something with the Books of Blood, and we got together, and we started talking. That's really how it started.
CLIVE BARKER: The rest is you being scared, which we're delighted to have happened, because the whole idea about this was to bring to television the kind of horror that really there hasn't been for a long time.
SCIFI VISION: I want to talk about bringing [the one story], "The Book of Blood" in. I'm curious about your process for deciding to put in just the two pieces from the books and then do all new stuff in between. Also, there’s the fact that you put the first part in the middle, which kind of surprised me. How did you come up with with the idea to format it like that?
CLIVE BARKER: The first thing is, there's something about the conventional, anthological show, which isn't I think very satisfying. Back in the day, they used to have those movies where you'd have five short stories, Tales from the Crypt or whatever, in one movie, and it felt like you're beginning again five times.
What Brannon did, brilliantly, I think, with Adam [Simon], his co-writer, was take a bunch of stories from my head and throw them up in the air and bring them down again, in an order which wasn't necessarily obvious. Which is to say, you're absolutely right, and I don't want to give too much away here, but the structure is cunning in the sense that you think you’ve finish with a narrative, and you haven't. Something else is going to come back. You know where those places are, because you've just seen the movie, but there are things, I think, in the movie, where you think, "Oh, hell, she's got a lot to deal with yet, while I thought her story was over." I think that's very smart, and I think it keeps you from feeling as though it's three little movies. Instead, it's one movie, which has its structure so elegantly devised that you feel it's one narrative, which is flowing in and out of itself. It's doing yoga; it's a movie doing extreme yoga.
BRANNON BRAGA: Then the stories, the title story had to be in there that you refer to, because that's the origin story of "The Book of Blood," right? Which is setting up, hopefully, more volumes to come.
But as Clive and I started our sessions, he had ideas for Books of Blood stories that you haven't seen, and two of them were great ideas and very modern. We decided to go with the two new ones and the one core one from the books. Who knows? The next volume may be all book stories. It just depends what felt right.
SCIFI VISION: Yeah, I did like the way it blended. I agree, it did make it kind of one long story.
So, talking about more stories, is there an intent to make more of these for Hulu? Because I thought I had read that originally this was going to be a series, maybe I'm wrong, but I read it somewhere, and then it was turned into a movie.
CLIVE BARKER: Well, I don't think it'll ever be a weekly series, but I do think the idea of being able to go back to this format, which essentially is, what we have is a man who has the dead writing their confessions upon him, hundreds of them, possibly thousands of them. What we're doing, if you will, is decoding. It's sort of human Braille where we're running our fingers over the flesh of a man who's had the dead write their stories on him. What we're telling you, hopefully, firstly in this movie and in many movies to come, is what we're reading, what that Braille is telling us, and it's a terrible Braille, because this is the dead. This is the dead who've been wandering just out of sight around our lives, and now here they are finding a way to finally tell the world what death is like, and that's an interesting place to begin, I think.
BRANNON BRAGA: You did read correctly. It started very early on as possibly an anthology TV show, but we realized, and Hulu realized, the anthological film format would be better for these stories. I'm really happy we went that way, and yes, we would like to do many more volumes, and we are really hoping people check this movie out.
CLIVE BARKER: I think the challenge is to see that we can make each one of these movies not a collection of short stories, but one narrative, as surprising or as unusual as hopefully this narrative is. I don't think anybody will have seen anything quite like this before.
SCIFI VISION: Are there certain stories that, if you do make more, you intend to adapt? Or are you going to do more original stuff again? Do you have any idea?
CLIVE BARKER: I think it'll be 50-50, something like that? Brannon, what do you think?
BRANNON BRAGA: I think anything's possible, but 50-50 sounds right. I mean, there's nothing more exciting, as a Books of Blood and a Clive Barker fan, than sitting in a room alone with Clive Barker and hearing he has new Books of Blood stories to tell.
CLIVE BARKER: Oh, boy, he's being way too self-effacing in all of this. The fact is, the man has got all kind of sick ideas in his head, which he was kind enough to share with me, and a lot of the ideas that appeared, were ideas which came out of that conversation. We both like storytelling; we love storytelling, and I think for two story journalists to get together in a room with a recorder or a pad of paper and tell stories to each other is kind of fun.
SCIFI VISION: I want to talk a little bit about the look of the film. I'm not sure entirely what it was that made me feel this way, but this movie definitely made me think of older horror movies that are more from around the time [it was written]. I was just curious how you decided on the look and the tone. Like I said, I'm not sure if it's just the way I interpreted it, or if there was something you specifically did. I did notice there was some vignetting at one point, but I don't know. I just got that feeling of a good old horror movie where it's more about the build up than just about the violence like we see so much of now.
CLIVE BARKER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Suspense, as opposed to just gore. Over to you, young sir.
BRANNON BRAGA: Well, we went after a very filmic look, first of all. We tried to make it as cinematically filmic as possible. So, even though it was not shot on 35 millimeter film, we wanted to emulate some of the great horror pieces of say, the 1970s, where, you know, dread - which is the title of one of Clive's stories - is kind of important. The first phase of this movie is about questioning reality and having a sense that something bad is going to happen but not knowing which direction it's going to come from or how it will manifest. That's definitely what we were going for, so that when the stuff goes crazy and you're seeing things, you're not even sure if it's in the character's imagination. Is it happening?
We weren't necessarily going after a retro look, but I guess in retrospect, the way the film is shot is in a very classical film style that reminiscent of some of - we can only aspire to Alfred Hitchcock or Roman Polanski or some of the people who made some of the great horror movies of all time, or John Carpenter, but that's what we went after.
SCIFI VISION: Can you two talk a bit about choosing the cast?
CLIVE BARKER: Oh, that was very much Brannon. He threw names at me and most of the time they were just brilliant names. In the end, that is the director's gig, but I want to jump back a moment and say, I think that also affected the tone of the movie. All those actors were so expert and so subtle. A lot of horror movies are not subtle, and this was, and I think that's got a lot to do with your choices [of performers], Brannon.
BRANNON BRAGA: Well, you know, you're from Scifi Vision, and we've been talking about how closely related science fiction and horror are, in that they need to have the right tone and be grounded so that the sometimes crazy almost silly things that are happening will be scary, or in the case of science fiction, make you believe. That ensemble cast going in, they just brought everything to it, and they're the ones making you believe the material.
CLIVE BARKER: I think it was also just in terms of belief by the fact that almost all the effects are physical or practical effects. So, when we're looking at the guy with all the stories of the dead written on him, you're looking at a guy with all the stories of the dead written on him. I think I heard you say, Brannon, it took eight hours, five makeup people, eight hours, is that right?
BRANNON BRAGA: Five makeup people took eight hours putting on a thin body suit that covered [Rafi Gavron] from head to toe. Most of the things you're seeing in the movie are physical, practical effects, which I think makes a difference, and you could call that retro, too.
CLIVE BARKER: Yeah. Well, the point is, if you can do it physically, why not?
BRANNON BRAGA: Christopher Nolan just blew up an actual 747 for Tenet. He could have used a model or a CG.
CLIVE BARKER: Sure, sure. But why do that when you could really [blow up one]? Besides which, nobody's flying these days anyway, so blow up a spare plane. Nobody's gonna care. They're all parked somewhere outside LaGuardia airport, aren't they?
SCIFI VISION: I think you can definitely tell the difference. They were really good effects. It looked very uncomfortable for him, though, I have to say.
BRANNON BRAGA: Oh, it was.
CLIVE BARKER: I bet it was.
BRANNON BRAGA: The first day, with Rafi Gavron, it wasn't comfortable, but it wasn't supposed to be. The character was severely uncomfortable at that point.
CLIVE BARKER: Yeah, we've both done scenes; I mean, the end of Hellraiser where Andy Robinson was tied up in chains, he waited eight hours in chains before we actually ended up shooting the shots. You really do have to have the right kind of mind, the right kind of actor, the kind of guy who's really into it, really doing it, and Rafi did an amazing job for you, I think.