Lord of Illusions (1995)


A Man Who Wanted to Become a God … Then Changed His Mind.

I really haven’t received too many legitimate requests for horror movies to review in my October Horrorthon, but I shant let that sway me. I suppose I don’t really need too many requests because I have a Netflix queue full of shitty horror movies to knock out, and probably even a few good ones. On this day, I picked a movie from my Instant Queue at random. I know the writer/director of this movie pretty well and figured, if nothing else, the movie would prove to be good joke fodder. But Clive Barker is also one of the biggest names in the horror genre, so there was a chance that the movie could be awesome and I just never got around to seeing it in my youth. Only one way to find out! And that brings us up to speed on the reason I chose to watch Lord of Illusions, written and directed by Clive Barker, and starring Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O’Connor, Daniel von Bargen, Famke Janssen, Barry Del Sherman, Joseph Latimore, Sheila Tousey, Susan Traylor, Vincent Schiavelli, and Joel Sweto.

In 1982, four former members of a cult – Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor), Quaid (Joseph Latimore), Jennifer Desiderio (Sheila Tousey), and Maureen Pimm (Susan Traylor) – confront their former cult members and the leader of the cult, a man with the ability to conjure genuine magic named Nix (Daniel von Bargen), in order to save the life of a young girl he intends to sacrifice. They barely manage to “kill” and bind Nix with an iron facemask and bury him deep in the ground. Thirteen years later, a private detective named Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) comes to Los Angeles to investigate an unrelated case, but starts to get caught up in this other story when he witnesses the murder of Quaid by Nix’s assistant Butterfield (Barry Del Sherman). As he’s dying, Quaid warns D’Amour that Nix is returning, and D’Amour must investigate the matter to stop it.

I was actually fairly surprised to find that I kind of liked this movie. It was in no way mind-blowing, but it had a lot of things going for it, and I’d say I enjoyed the experience altogether. The story of the movie was actually pretty strong, and it was executed pretty well also. It came off as about half noire detective movie and half monster movie. It seems like a strange idea, but it actually works for the most part. There was a pretty good cult part to the movie as well, and those are always creepy because there are actually people crazy enough to join those things. One thing about it got me wondering though, and then I realized that it’s true for the most part in real life as well, but why are white people the only ones stupid enough to join cults? I started thinking this movie was racist because there were no black people, Asians, or Mexicans in the cult, but I don’t think they tend to join cults that often. Stupid honkies. But I still liked the story of the movie overall, even with the couple of things I found irritating. The ones that I specifically look for while watching a movie so that I can have stuff to make fun of. The first thing was that they really beat the shit out of the word “illusion” in this movie. They used it all the time. I know what I’m watching, Clive! You can chill out now. After they first defeated Nix, they all agreed that they would bury him so deep in the ground that no one would ever find him. That is apparently 2 feet in the ground because, when they dug him up later, that’s where his body was. I’ve buried dogs deeper than that!

The look of the movie was pretty solid, and impressive in comparison to what I expected while going into the movie. The visual effects were good and the violence, while not being over the top gory, was pretty convincing when it was there. I noticed that Clive Barker seems to have something against what is apparently called the thenar space, or the webbing between your index finger and your thumb, because a couple of people in the movie took some damage there. I don’t really have much to say about that, but now you know that’s called the thenar space (according to 13 seconds of Google research), so you can’t say you never learned anything from my reviews. There were a couple of funny parts that related to the VFX, though they were not bad themselves. Take, for instance, the part where a clearly see-through monster was attacking them (the one that looked like one of the Scoleri Brothers from Ghostbusters 2) and it took them about a minute to realize it wasn’t there. And then slightly after that when Bakula decides there’s no better or more covert way to turn that hologram off than by shooting the camera that was playing it. You’re trying to leave no trace while sneaking into this place! You couldn’t tape a piece of paper over it, or just ignore it now that you know it’s not real? Also, when you later get attacked by a ball of flame, shooting at it probably is not the smartest thing in the world. It’s fire. Bullets will probably go right through it. The thing I took the most issue with visually in this movie was Nix’ face at the end. In the beginning he wasn’t wearing any makeup and was just pulling off creepy with his own performance. After being buried for 13 years with that facemask apparatus on, he emerged with discolored parts on his face that made him look like a sickly Darth Maul.

I was surprised by the performances in this movie, but not generally because of quality. I was more just surprised to see them. Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor, and Scott Bakula have all had some decent movie careers and, seeing as I did no research for this movie, I had no idea any of them were in here. I don’t really have anything to say about any of their performances though. They did fine. That is it. Daniel von Bargen did a pretty good job being creepy as Nix, but I think Barry Del Sherman took most of my attention as Butterfield. First off, Butterfield is the worst name for someone that’s supposed to be an intimidating character. He did what he could to bring some intimidation to the character, but his wardrobe took a lot away from that. We first see his character wearing daisy dukes and a halter top, which I do not find very intimidating. But I get the feeling the character was supposed to be gay even though it was not really said, so it kind of fit. I reached that assumption later when he was typically wearing skintight yellow spandex pants.

I was admittedly surprised to find that I thought Lord of Illusions was a pretty solid movie. I liked the greater majority of the story and found it interesting that it combined elements of a noire detective movie with a horror film, the look held up pretty well, and the performances were not really worth mentioning beyond who was doing them. But overall it was a decent enough watch and you could do much worse in the horror genre. I streamed it from Netflix, if you’re interested. Lord of Illusions gets “Death. It’s an illusion” out of “I was born to murder the world.”

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There Will Be Blood (2007)


As Long As I Have Teeth, I Will Bite You

I honestly have no reason that I wanted to see today’s movie.  I guess it looked vaguely interesting from it’s trailers, or there was some Oscar buzz about it, or I was randomly clicking movies on Netflix.  No one can really tell.  It’s supposed to be a really good movie though, so I guess I’ll find out.  It did, however, take me a really long time to get it reviewed.  I got it from Netflix and let it sit on my desk for a while.  Then, when I tried to watch it, Netflix’s disc service let me down again by giving me a disc that was scratched to shit and unplayable.  I sent it back and got a replacement … which was also scratched to shit and unplayable.  Apparently this movie is popular with the asshole crowd.  But this second disc responded well to a go in the Game Dr., so I can finally present my review of There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciaran Hinds, and Russell Harvard.

In 1898, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a miner with the world’s shittiest lucky.  He mines some silver, but falls down the shaft and breaks his leg.  He then finds oil in the mine and one of his workers is killed when the oil buckets break free and smash his head, leaving his son to be adopted by Plainview and named H.W. (Dillon Freasier).  The fact that mayhem and death follow him around does nothing to slow his rise to a successful oil man.  One day, he gets approached by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), who sells Plainview information about an ocean of oil beneath his family’s ranch.  Plainview goes to the ranch and confirms the potential for oil, and then purchases the ranch from Abel (David Willis) and Paul’s twin brother, Eli (also Paul Dano) with the promise of contributing $10,000 towards Eli’s church.  Plainview brings the oil derrick to the ranch, and does not forget his own personal death and destruction.  An accident gets a drill piece dropped on a guy in the well, killing him instantly.  Later, when the oil explodes out of the ground, H.W. is right in it’s path and the impact leaves him deaf.  If you hadn’t yet noticed a pattern, you can expect that the rest of the movie will have death and mayhem will follow Plainview for the next hour and a half.

I have next to no fucking idea what was going on in this movie.  I would say this is a movie that I respect, but do not like.  It’s really confusing in parts, boring in other parts, but it still kept my attention and I had no idea why.  At first, the movie is just about Plainview’s rise to riches, and it’s fairly interesting.  At about the halfway point of the movie, Plainview starts going really insane for no reason that I can figure.  He mentions something at one point about hating all other people and wanting no one around him to have any success, but that hardly excuses beating someone to death with a bowling pin.  Plainview had a passionate hatred for Eli from almost the moment he met him, and I never really understood what drove this hatred either.  I grant that I also found that guy really annoying, but I would probably just react with a good bit of ignoring him as opposed to slapping the shit out of him.  This movie did such a bad job of keeping me informed that I didn’t know that Paul and Eli were different people until I started writing this review!  Finding this out didn’t really clear anything up either.  The movie was basically just a realistic depiction of the life of a oil man.  Not that I’ve ever worked as an oil man before, but I feel like I know all about it now … and it’s boring.  We get to watch everything, like the early drilling technology, the measuring of the fields, the real estate acquisitions, all of it.  And if that sounds boring, you’re right!  What I thought was interesting was that I still found it pretty interesting.  I think the semi-random deaths and mayhem – in conjunction with the music that seemed to keep swelling, regardless to what was actually happening – made me keep watching thinking that something interesting was about to happen.  At least half of the time, the music swelled up to Plainview picking up the phone, whereas the other times it swelled to the oil derrick exploding into flames.  A good example of this is the beginning of the movie.  It’s just Plainview working in the mine, finding silver, hurting himself, finding oil, killing someone, moving on.  Not a single word is spoken until 15 minutes into the movie, but I was still paying close attention to it.  The settings were also very nice, and the camera angles were usually pretty interesting.

The performances were … good … ?  Daniel Day-Lewis is a fantastic actor (at least that’s what I hear; I think this is the second movie of his I’ve seen), but he (and everyone else in this movie) made very strange choices for their characters.  Everyone in this movie had a stiff and odd performance, but it also seemed like all of them chose to do this, so I really don’t know what to say about it.  I found it off-putting, but it’s what they were going for.  Daniel Day-Lewis was by far the best performance in the movie, as he started off stiff and odd but migrated towards bat-shit crazy at the end.  Paul Dano was the stiffest and the oddest.  I found him irritating through the entire movie.  He gets pretty wacky when he’s casting the demons out of people as the evangelical preacher, but that’s not going to win him any points with me.  Even as a religious person, I found his amount of bible thumping very irritating.  Everyone else in this movie will just fall under the heading of “I guess that’s how you wanted to do this” performances.

I’m torn on what to tell you guys about this movie.  The story (and the movie itself for the majority) is pretty boring, but it manages to hold your attention with a couple of cool accidents and music that tricks you into believing another one is always around the next corner.  The performances are good, but they’re also very off-putting.  I found the movie interesting enough, and I respect it’s quality, but I don’t want to ever watch it again.  It’s just boring to me.  But almost everyone on Rotten Tomatoes loves the thing, so maybe I’m wrong.  But I’m not.  I think you should watch this once, but I do not promise you’ll like it.  There Will Be Blood gets “I see the worst in people” out of “Now run along and play, and don’t come back.”

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Deep Rising (1998)


Oh Man … What Stinks?

I have no idea what inspired me to rent today’s movie.  I kind of wanted to watch a dumb action movie, so I guess I did that.  It’s one of those times when something is in your Netflix queue and you’re not paying attention so you actually have it get sent to you and then you have to watch it.  What made me put it in my queue in the first place is a better question, but I don’t have an answer to that either.  Either way, let’s make fun of a dumb action movie!  This one is Deep Rising, written and directed by Stephen Sommers, and starring Treat Williams, Wes Studi, Anthony Heald, Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Derrick O’Connor, Jason Flemyng, Djimon Hounsou, Cliff Curtis, Clifton Powell, Trevor Goddard, and Una Damon.

There’s a little boat hauling ass through the middle of the ocean somewhere, crewed by John Finnegan (Treat Williams), engineer Joey “Tooch” Pantucci (Kevin J. O’Connor), and the Tooch’s girlfriend, Leila (Una Damon).  Finnegan has a reputation for putting his boat out to people without asking questions, just as long as the money is there.  This time, the money comes from a man named Hanover (Wes Studi).  He has brought a bunch of heavy weaponry and a crew of mercenaries, comprised of T-Ray (Trevor Goddard), Mamooli (Cliff Curtis), Vivo (Djimon Hounsou), Mason (Clifton Powell), and Mulligan (Jason Flemyng).  Meanwhile, there’s a cruise ship owned by Simon Canton (Anthony Heald), and captained by Captain Atherton (Derrick O’Connor), who are dealing with a mischievous, and hot, thief named Trillian (Famke Janssen).  While they do that, something hits the ship and it goes dark.  Back on Finnegan’s ship, they run into a lifeboat dropped in the impact from the cruise ship, damaging their ship and leaving it nearly useless.  They get onto the cruise ship and find everyone missing.  Apparently, some kind of tentacled monster has attacked the cruise ship, leaving few survivors, and the mercenaries and Finnegan’s crew have to find the parts they need to fix their ship, while trying to survive the creature.

This isn’t a great movie.  I’m pretty sure it’s well aware of that.  It should, therefore, endeavor to be fun.  It gets close to being fun, but is kind of bogged down by being too predictable and cliche.  It’s a fairly typical monster movie, though it seems they didn’t have the money to show the monster very often.  I guess they could have been going for the suspense, but it didn’t really work.  Instead it just seemed like they were afraid to show it at first because it might be ridiculous.  And it was.  For the first 90% of the movie, the monster was just a series of autonomous tentacles that knew where the cast was without actually having eyes or ears.  They were basically just arms on an octopus that wasn’t seen until the end, so how would they know where the people were?  The writing of the movie was pretty typical and cliche.  A few lines required punctuation that came in the form of a shotgun being cocked, for instance.  At one point, the engineer is running down a hallway with the leader of the mercenaries, running from a tentacle that should have no idea where they are, and they both keep mentioning over and over that the only thing that will stop the tentacle from chasing them is if they feed it something.  They say this like five times until the engineer says “What could we feed it?  What could we feed it?!” and the mercenary leader shoots him in the leg, leaving him for dead.  You didn’t see that coming?  Other parts were just badly written.  The one that comes to me right now is when the mercenary puts a gun to Famke’s chest and says “Tell me what I want to know …” pulls back the hammer on his pistol “…or I’ll pull the trigger.”  What a lame punchline!

The cast did what they had to do, but they didn’t have much of a script to work with.  Treat Williams was reminiscent of Nathan Fillion from Serenity, being a wisecracking captain that never seems to take the situation that seriously, but Nathan Fillion had the benefit of good writing.  Una Damon was the hot Asian lady in the movie.  That’s about all that could be said about her character.  I got really angry that she was the first person of the principle cast to get killed, stealing my primary eye candy away.  I’ve never found Famke Janssen too attractive, but she was at her hottest in this movie, so she took over the eye candy role when the Asian died.  She was a entertaining character, and usually portrayed as a tough chick, but that just lead to me getting pissed off at the end when the captain was chasing her with a flare gun.  He fired twice and missed, but she kept running as he started to reload.  She could have gotten to him and whooped that ass before he could reload if the writers didn’t hate women.  I’m pretty sure she punched a guy or two when outnumbered in the movie, and he never gave us any reason to believe he could fight, but women lack the arm strength to best a man of any kind, right writers?  Kevin J. O’Connor was the other role that made an impact with me, but only because he was really annoying.  That was what he was going for, and it worked.  He could not stop words from spilling out of his mouth.  He was playing much the same role as he did in The Mummy, but he never turned evil and the writing was nowhere near as strong.  It was a nice bit of wishful thinking that the writers made him be dating the really hot Asian chick, but really bad writing that this dude survives the ENTIRE MOVIE and she dies first.  No one wants him around!  None of the mercenaries really made an impact beyond the fact that they made me realize that the writers believed that every person can have only one personality trait.  Finnegan is cocky, the Tooch talks too much, T-Ray is an asshole, Vivo is a scary black man, and Mamooli is horny all the time.  If the movie stuck in my head more, I could probably do it for every character.

I’ve said before that I do not mind a movie being dumb as long as it’s fun, but this movie falls short on the fun.  It’s just predictable while making no sense, having poorly written dialogue, and having really basic characters.  The comic relief was mainly supplied by a guy who was always around and would not shut up, but was rarely saying anything funny.  Deep Rising is not a horrible movie, but it’s not good either.  You can skip this one.  Deep Rising gets “There goes one year off my life” out of “Shut your fucking whining weasel …”

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