Lord of Illusions: Special Edition
Director: Clive Barker
Right off the bat, gotta tell you I was a big fan of Stephen King growing up. I spent plenty an afternoon at the library after school perusing the selection of his books. Clive Barker was the next big name in horror to come along (at the time), so it seemed like a natural progression. But after reading a couple of books filled with painfully dull detailed descriptions of some truly demented shit, I pretty much gave up on the freak. I don't care if it's Hawthorne describing in detail the epitome of a perfect gable or Barker envisioning the entrails roped across a room, it gets real old real quick. Hellraiser, I must admit, was a decent entry into the horror genre, as sadistically gory as it was. This film, though, is a strange hybrid; not quite the fucked-up torture-porn we're seeing unleashed on audiences today (Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2006?), etc. etc,), this combines the lamest of occult mythology with the dullest of 50s detective stories, circa 1995.
Magic comes in two forms: One is an illusion to amaze and stupefy the audience with its tricks. The other form is reality, where death is merely an illusion. Premise set, we witness a freakish cult setting in '82, with a full-on freak-on fascinating conjuror, with a little more up his sleeve than simple tricks (like maybe Satan himself?). Skip forward 13 years and it acts itself up as a hardboiled detective yarn, complete with atmospheric saxophone score, just so you know for sure. Then pretty much abandons that shit and foists some mumbo-jumbo palm-reading crap and horribly theatrical secondary characters on you as the plot unfolds. Post "Quantum Leap" star Scott Bakula does a pretty by-the-numbers performances as the wooden/confused P.I. Famke Janssen in an early role, establishing her questionable acting skills. Daniel Von Bargen (you'll recognize him) mostly pulls off the evil. The rest are Turds.
Besides Barker's inevitably gay overtones and one really bad CGI sequence, this could have been a lot worse. There is some occasional gore, but this is relatively mild on pretty much all fronts despite the "NR" rating that goes with the "Special Edition." Purely BS marketing ploy there while people were still unsuspecting. I guess they still are, considering how many horror titles still use that to double-dip from the unsuspecting public. Regardless, this was your basic supernatural detective story plus Famke Janssen in some sheer negligie, with some above-average effects thrown in from time to time.
Great Scene: Some casual, you know, peeling of the flesh. Pretty good effect considering the year.
DVD Notes: Widescreen unrated version put out by United Artists, pretty nicely done. Includes commentary by Barker and isolated music score (both left unheard), a couple deleted scenes that not surprisingly didn't make it into this Special Edition, theatrical trailer and french and english subtitles.