Magic moments in horror movies are usually of the one-liner variety, but Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions is about the dark side of magic itself, making it the perfect candidate for a scary Halloween night.
Lord of Illusions
(USA 1995, director: Clive Barker)
Private investigator Harry D’Amour gets involved with a cult following the resurrection of their leader Nix who was stopped by trainee Swann to destroy the world.
Clive Barker is pretty good with his poetic language and creative visions of evil forces and human desires, so it comes natural that he would write about magic in one of his short stories, namely The Last Illusion from his Books of Blood collection. Unfortunately, plot and character development aren’t his strongest skills in filmmaking, as it becomes obvious here.
While Harry D’Amour is an interesting character Barker also used for his other writing, the background story of him doing an unexplained exorcism to make him receptive to the supernatural feels as rushed as the predictable love affair with Swann’s wife. Nix might sound like a silly name for an antagonist and he doesn’t get as much screen time as expected, but he’s still scary and believable enough to make for some memorably sick scenes. Swann who is shown as a David Copperfield fallen from grace is also one of the better-written parts, while all of Nix’s cult members seem like a mix of all kinds of horror stereotypes, including a man obsessed with snakes, a skinhead who can’t die and has more brawns than brains, and his “boss” who likes to torture people with his knives.
While the characters are acceptable, the slow pacing isn’t. Sure, it’s an investigation about following leads, interrogating suspects and so on, but for a runtime of two hours (at least in the Director’s Cut), there could have been more interesting dialogues and above all action set-pieces. The latter are quite brutal, while horror sequences provide some great splatter and make-up effects, but the plot itself isn’t much to write home about, lacking in suspense and originality. This is too bad, because the opening and finale are both excellent and memorable, with the rest simply being dragged along with no real sense of direction.
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