Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions

1995, R, 120 min. Directed by Clive Barker. Starring Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O'Connor, Famke Janssen, Vincent Schiavelli, Barry Del Sherman, Sheila Tousey.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 25, 1995

Anyone who knows me even remotely knows how much I respect and admire the talents of artist, author, and filmmaker Clive Barker. So it is with a very genuine sense of disappointment that I say that Lord of Illusions is not a worthy horror movie by any means; it is simply a horrible movie. Plodding, fragmented, confusing beyond words, and finally, the ultimate sin, excruciatingly boring. When Barker broke on the cinematic scene back in 1987 with the chilling, fantastical, and thoroughly perverse Hellraiser, all eyes turned toward the young British terror maven in expectation. It seemed, for a time, that he could do no wrong. Then came Nightbreed, his second offering, bungled by the editors and a marketing campaign that left audiences scratching their collective heads. And now this ... mess. Based on his short story The Last Illusion, the film follows hardboiled P.I. Harry D'Amour (Bakula, in an interesting choice of casting that's as hit and miss as a rusty blunderbuss) as he tackles the case of Swann (O'Connor, in a bit of maddeningly awful casting that makes you want to cringe), a master illusionist along the lines of David Copperfield meets Harry Houdini. Swann, who may or may not be dead, has apparently incurred the wrath of Nix (Schiavelli), an evil sorcerer out to garner Swann's soul and destroy D'Amour in the bargain. Barker's eye is still good -- there are a few shots here that recall the phantasmagoric imagery of Nightbreed -- but his pacing, his direction, and, more than anything, his dialogue, are all disastrously off-key. Rarely have I heard such gales of unintended laughter erupt from an adult audience during a supposedly "serious and literate" horror film. And, I regret to say, I was whooping it up alongside everyone else. There's not much else you can do when Bakula grabs Swann's widow (Janssen) in a rough embrace, practically hollering, "Kiss me, you fool!" Riddled with the worst of film noir and horror film clichés, Lord of Illusions leaves you with the distinct impression that a good 20-odd minutes of narratively-imperative scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Jumping wildly from scene to scene and shot to shot, the film just makes no real sense: The narrative flow has been gutshot somewhere along the way and even the most diehard of Barker's fans are left with a muddled quagmire of vaguely interesting set pieces and the kind of continuity errors usually reserved for early Jackie Chan opuses. Awful in every way, shape, and form (even the score by Dario Argento's right-hand composer Simon Boswell seems seriously flawed), Lord of Illusions fails at almost every conceivable level, from computer effects on down to the Passaic, New Jersey dinner-theatre dialogue. Fans will be heartsick. Anyone else, go check out Hellraiser and its immediate sequel to see what all the fuss was about.

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Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions, Clive Barker, Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O'Connor, Famke Janssen, Vincent Schiavelli, Barry Del Sherman, Sheila Tousey

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