Lord of Illusions (1995)

Rating: C

Dir: Clive Barker
Star: Scott Bakula, Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Daniel Von Bargen

In the Mojave Desert, the mystic Nix (Von Bargen) reigns over his cult of followers, until Swann (O’Connor) comes after him, killing Nix, and hiding his body. Over a decade later, occult private eye Harry D’Amour (Bakula) arrives in Los Angeles on the trail of an insurance fraud, only to find himself witness to a murder. Turns out that a former Nix disciple, Butterfield, is systematically going after Swann’s followers, those who helped him destroy his mentor. Swann is now an illusionist, doing magic tricks in a theatre, until one of his stunts mysteriously goes wrong, resulting in his impalement. D’Amour has already fallen for Dorothea (Janssen), Swann’s wife, but it turns out that she also played a significant role in Nix’s death, and so seems a logical target for Butterfield. It’s up to D’Amour to stop the vengeful acolyte before he can recover his master’s body and complete his plan, bringing it back to life.

If rather more polished than Hellraiser, and covering many of the same themes (resurrection, religious faith dressed with S/M trappings, etc.), it lacks the raw edge which made Barker’s directorial debut memorable. There’s also an odd shift of focus: it initially looks like Swann is going to be the center, but attention then moves to D’Amour, and Swann becomes an ineffectual, almost pathetic character; as a powerful magician, he’s frankly a bit crap. There is a lushly-decadent feel to proceedings, with a nice sense that there is an unseen world operating just out of view, of which we “normals” are entirely unaware. It still doesn’t all fit, with the characters nowhere near as interesting as the setting, and it’s obvious to everyone except them where this is heading. Once you’ve worked that out, you’ll be looking at your watch and waiting for the script to catch up with you.

Original review: [18] Nightbreed seems a very long time ago now, doesn’t it? And Hellraiser, positively prehistoric. Ah, yes, I remember the days when Clive Barker actually seemed to have talent. Not that LoI is actually bad, it looks very nice, there are some great effects, and an effective Simon Boswell soundtrack. However, it all treads familiar ground; it is too obviously not just a Clive Barker film, it’s the Clive Barker film. While Scott Bakula is a decent Harry D’Amour, perhaps he exacerbates the problem that the movie plays too much like an 18-rated episode of The X Files, without the benefit of any 18-rated Gillian Anderson scenes. It all ends up on a loop, with the climax looking a lot like the start, as evil incarnate is fought. D