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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