To this day, I still vividly remember the first Clive Barker film I saw, which was Rawhead Rex (1986). Now, Rawhead Rex was only written by Barker, but it still showed me what kind of nightmarish world Barker had floating around in his head. My next Barker film was Hellraiser (1987), which was written and directed by him. After I saw Hellraiser… I was a Clive Barker fan! Over the years came, some fan favorites like Nightbreed (1990), Candyman (1992), The Midnight Meat Train (2008) and (one of my favorites) Lord of Illusions (1995). All told Barker has thirteen films out that he’s either written and/or directed. Along with two films, Hellraiser and Tortured Souls: Animae Damnatae, on the TBA (to be announced) board. Baker has been a producer on other films. So, all together Barker has seven-teen films under him. Now, Lord of Illusions wasn’t a huge fan favorite like Hellraiser or Candyman, but it holds a special place in my heart due to the special effects and twisted story.
Lord of Illusions is a horror/mystery/thriller that has a hundred and nine-minute runtime and it’s rated R for violence, language, and nudity. Come to find out, Lord of Illusions is based on Barker’s short story The Last Illusion from Barker’s Books of Blood Volume Six. Matter of fact, several of Barker’s stories have been adapted into films. Like Rawhead Rex, The Forbidden (Candyman), The Body Politic (Quicksilver Highway), The Midnight Meat Train and Dread. Barker even had his story The Yattering and Jack adapted for television for (the US series) Tales from the Darkside (1986). Lord of Illusions marks Barker’s signature character, Harry D’ Amour, as his first film appearance, but D’ Amour has been a regular in Barker’s books and even in BOOM! Studios Hellraiser comics series.
Here’s what you’re getting into with Lord of Illusions. The story is about an L.A. NY private investigator named Harry D’Amour who stumbles across members of a cult that are waiting for their leader, Nix, to be resurrected. Thirteen years ago, Nix was about to sacrifice a little girl when a few of his followers stopped the ritual and killed him. Since then, one of the ex-cult members, Phillip Swann, that stopped Nix has become a famous illusionist and it seems like his past has caught up with him. So, Swann’s wife hires D’Amour to protect him from the remaining cult members. Pulled into a world of darkness and mind-bending illusions, D’Amour must do everything he can to stop not only the remaining cult members but Nix’s resurrection if he want’s to survive this job.
Like I said, one of the reasons Lord of Illusions is one of my favorite Barker films is because of the story. You get thrown into the world of a cult lead by a man that calls himself The Puritan, whose end game is to destroy the world. The story raises the mystical veil and shows you what you thought was just an illusion was actual magic. Through the story, we’re shown a dark world that lies beyond ours and how dangerous it is to play with things beyond our knowledge. It also shows how easily people will follow a smooth talking guy happily into the unknown, which was kind of scary in its self. During all of the mind games and misdirects of what’s going on, Barker also throws in a bit of a love story. Unfortunately, the love story doesn’t smoothly fit into the rest of the movie and feels kind of shoved into the story.
The playthrough has a good pace to it and keeps you entertained the entire time. Between the story and the effects, you never get bored. Because the story is about what’s real and what’s not, the writer is constantly throwing misdirects at the audience to throw them off what’s really happening and to keep them guessing.
Some of the cast you’ll see is Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap), Kevin J. O’Connor (The Mummy), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Ashley Lyn Cafagna (The Skulls II), Joseph Latimore (Devil in a Blue Dress), Wayne Grace (Dances with Wolves), Jordan Marder (American History X), Barry Del Sherman (There Will Be Blood), Joel Swetow (Alice in Wonderland), Vincent Schiavelli (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and Daniel von Bargen (Super Troopers). First off, I always dig seeing Bakula, O’Conner and von Bargen because they usually play interesting characters. von Bargen makes for a great bad guy and this role in this one is no different. Think of von Bergen’s a-hole role in Super Troopers then heap on some supernatural evil intent and you’ve got his role in this one. Now, it’s always cool to see Bakula, I’ve been a fan since back in the Quantum Leap days. However, even as a fan, I can’t say this was his best performance. Don’t get me wrong, Bakula did a good job, but I’ve seen him do better in other roles. O’Connor was good, but his character wasn’t as active in the movie as I thought he would be. The movie revolves more around Bakula and Janssen with bits of O’Conner.
Are far as the special effects go, they came up some seriously twisted looking effects that perfectly fit with the dark tone of the movie. The make-up and effects that were used on the Nix character make up some of my favorite scenes and shows some cool imagination on the creators part. However, there some spots where the effects standout and not in a good way. Now, there is some gore to the movie, not a lot, but it does come up in some scenes.
Side note: There are two different versions of Lord of Illusions. One is the theatrical cut, which runs for a hundred and nine minutes and the director’s cut that runs for a hundred and twenty-one minutes. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the director’s cut so I don’t know what the difference between them is.
Overall, it’s not one of Barker’s best films, but I’d still say it’s work checking out.
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