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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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

Laugh While You Can, Monkey Boy!

I’ve heard about today’s movie many times as a staple in nerd culture. It got to the point where I felt as if I would not qualify as a true nerd if I had never seen this movie. And since I have only two things – my nerdiness and my balls, and I don’t break ’em for nobody – I felt it was necessary to watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, written by Earl Mac Rauch, directed by W. D. Richter, and starring Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Robert Ito, Clancy Brown, Lewis Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Pepe Serna, Ronald Lacey, Matt Clark, Vincent Schiavelli, Rosalind Cash, Dan Hedaya, and Yakov Smirnoff.

Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is some kind of scientist/action hero guy. The movie opens with him testing out a Jet Car with a oscillation overthruster mounted to it that allows it to drive into a mountain. When he comes out, he finds some kind of alien organism attached to the car. Elsewhere, in the Trenton Home for the Criminally Insane, Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow) hears about Banzai’s accomplishment and has a flashback to when he helped Banzai’s mentor, Dr. Hikita (Robert Ito), in a overthruster experiment that failed and allowed Lizardo to have his mind taken over by Lord John Whorfin, leader of the Red Lectroids. The Red Lectroids are a group of alien reptiles that tried to take over Planet 10 before being stopped by the Black Lectroids and getting banished into the 8th Dimension. The Red Lectroids now spend their time hidden as regular people who all share the same first name of John. Banzai finds a girl named Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin), the long-lost twin sister of Banzai’s deceased wife, but she is kidnapped to ransom her for the overthruster, and the Black Lectoids threaten to destroy Earth if Banzai can’t stop the Red Lectoids. Can Buckaroo Banzai save the day? And if he can, will we understand what the hell is happening in this movie?

Generally speaking, a cult hit is not a very good movie, but has a certain campy charm that makes it appealing to a certain group of people. I guess you could say that this movie has a bit of a campy charm to it, but it just wasn’t very good. You could very easily say this movie is imaginative, but it was also very strange and confusing. I barely have any idea what was happening in this movie. The whole theme of the movie was reminiscent of old serialized action/drama’s that I’ve seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I wouldn’t want to watch those without three hilarious guys mocking it. This movie was not painfully bad, and certainly had a few entertaining moments, but it was so confusing to me that I can’t say I enjoyed watching it. There was a machine that put people into another dimension, this group of scientist/superheroes that were also in a band or some shit, a love interest that was inexplicably depressed when we meet her and was the twin sister of our hero’s dead wife but them dating was cool somehow, a bunch of strange-looking aliens that all were named John for some reason. I have no idea what was going on here. I suppose it’s a similar story to the first Men in Black movie where the heroes have to stop something from happening to save the world, but it was like the first Men in Black if it was written by people on LSD that didn’t read the story they wrote after the drugs wore off.

The coolest thing about this movie is the people in it. It may not have been the start of these actor’s work, but it was certainly one of the earliest roles for people that went on to be in huge movies. Peter Weller may not have had as big of a career as some of the other people I’ll get to, but he was Robocop. His performance in this movie was decent, but nothing that caused me to pay much attention to him. John Lithgow, on the other hand, I did pay attention to. We should all know Mr. Lithgow from his many other fantastic performances and he was probably the most enjoyable part of this movie with his over the top performance as Emilio Lizardo. If not him by himself, some of the funniest parts were interactions between him and his resentful underling, John Bigboote (which most people pronounced Big Booty), played by Christopher Lloyd. This man will be forever loved by me for Back to the Future, and his role as Fester Addams helps too. This movie didn’t do anything to help my love of him, but didn’t do enough to hurt it. I don’t really know what I thought about Ellen Barkin’s performance because I mainly spent all the time she was on screen trying to figure out if I was attracted to her or not. I’m still undecided. There are many other people in this movie who went on to huge movie roles that I’m sure had very little to do with this movie. Jeff Goldblum was in Independance Day and Jurassic Park, Ronald Lacey was most famously Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark (though that was before this movie), Clancy Brown was the fuckin Kurgan in Highlander, Dan Hedaya was in Alien: Resurrection, and Yakov Smirnoff was … Yakov Smirnoff. Lots of big names in this movie, if nothing else.

I can see how people would find this movie charming without actually finding it charming myself. Kudos are deserved for making a movie that certainly qualifies as a candidate for the most imaginative movie I can think of, but the movie also has to make some sense for me to get into it. It was sort of fun, and included varying qualities of performances from numerous recognizable characters, but if you never know what’s going on, what’s the point? I can’t really recommend you watch this movie. I imagine I’ll find it fun to be able to say that I’ve seen this movie in the future, and it is apparently such a staple in nerd culture that you may have to watch it to consider yourself nerdy, but the movie itself is only good to be mocked, as far as I’m concerned. If they tried to be funny by kind of being a parody in itself, I didn’t get it. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension gets “Use more honey. Find out what she knows” out of “I’ve been ionized, but I’m okay now.”

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