Clive Barker is all business in his Books of Blood Volume Three, and that business is sex and violence. There is no stray dark comedy piece along the lines of Volume One's The Yattering and Jack to be found in these pages. These five stories take us to realms of pain and bloody death, sometimes pushing the envelope on the new kind of dark horror Barker helped pioneer.
Son of Celluloid is by far my favorite of these stories. I love the unusual premise and the surreal quality of the piece. Basically, the back wall behind the screen of an old movie theatre has seen so many famous lives projected upon it that somehow the essence of those screen legends has germinated within its neglected existence. The only thing needed to bring the screen personalities to life is a catalyst, which comes in the form of a dying criminal. The man himself is of no consequence, but he has within him a force with ambition and a single-minded drive to grow and thrive. This driving force is cancer, and I find Barker's unusual appraisal of the silent killer to be a fascinating one. Next up is Rawhead Rex, one of Barker's more violent stories. There are creatures that thrived on earth long before man helped force them to the brink of extinction, and things get pretty gruesome when one fellow unknowingly unseals the prison in which such a monster has been sealed for eons. Murder of a more human (albeit post-human) kind rests at the heart of Confessions of a (Pornographer's) Shroud. This tale doesn't succeed completely in my estimation, and some might even find it oddly laughable, as the main character is an amorphous blob of a dead man's essence who reconstitutes the form of his human body in his own death shroud. Scape-Goats is a little island of death story, the most interesting aspect of which is its viewpoint; it is not often that Barker tells a tale from the first-person perspective of a woman. The final story, Human Remains, offers Barker's typically unusual slant on the old doppelganger motif.
All in all, this is a fine collection of stories. Son of Celluloid borders on greatness, Rawhead Rex helps sate the appetites of those seeking blood and gore, and the three accompanying pieces are more than capable of holding one's interest if not fascination from start to finish. This third volume, unlike its immediate predecessor, stands as a most worthy successor indeed to the genius displayed in Clive Barker's Books of Blood Volume One.