31 Horror Movies I Own #18: Lord of Illusions
Full confession: when I first saw this movie in the theater I HATED it. This was especially crushing to me, because I’ve been a huge Clive Barker fan for years, and was lucky enough to see him do a reading and talk about directing this film. Barker did say at the time that he was disappointed with the number of edits the studio made, because most of the key scenes were gone, and the film wouldn’t have as much impact.
Thus it makes sense that when I viewed the unrated director’s cut on DVD later on, I really liked it. There were SO many missing scenes, I don’t even know how the theatrical version was released. Despite Clive’s obvious love of Scott Bakula’s abs and some seriously Cinemax-y romance novel love scenes, the core of the story is pretty awesome, and the gore is even awesomer.
The villain, Nix, is a high-level magician who used his powers to create a commune of religious crazies who worship him, including getting ready to sacrifice a young girl. Fortunately for her, some ex-cult members have escaped Nix’s power and return just in time to save her from a terrible fate. Led by Swann, they trap Nix with a magical metal face mask (it sound weird, I know, but it’s actually pretty cool), and bury him ALIVE deep in the dessert.
Cut to 13 years later, where we learn that Swann is now an uber-rich Vegas-famous “illusionist”, and that a few of Nix’s disciples (crazy cannot-be stopped maniac guy, and pale, super-creepy no eyebrows guy) are murdering the members of the gang who buried him, and gathering up the other surviving cult members to raise him again.
Detective Harry D’Amour (Bakula) enters the picture by accident, and becomes entangled with Swann’s beautiful wife, Dorothea (Famke Janssen)—which you know, kinda complicates matters for everyone.
Without getting further into the story, Daniel Von Bargen KILLS IT as Nix, with one flick of his creepy eyebrows sending me into fits of heebie-jeebies, and the cult members, well, religious fanatics with weapons are always frightening, non? But particularly here, in the way they dispatch of non-cult members and fixate on their “god” with hair-pulling, orgy-esque abandon.
There’s a ton of great murder scenes, special F/X, and gore in this one. If you can put up with a certain level of cheese (and Famke’s 90s wardrobe), I recommend it.