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"There are two worlds of magic. One is the glittering domain of the
illusionist. The other is a secret place, where magic is a terrifying
reality. Here, men have the power of demons. And Death itself is an
Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions is a terrifying glimpse into another world in which few have traveled. Those who have been there, didn't like what Barker had to show them. I wasn't even impressed with it upon my first viewing. I simply forgot it, lumped it in with the other, countless horror films I've seen and will never see again. However, I recently rediscovered it...and was completely awestruck. The theatrical release did not do the film justice. It dropped priceless minutes of film and much need footage. I strongly urge you to seek out the uncut director's version on DVD format. This is a very big horror movie, and a hidden treasure at that; hidden under a brilliant detective story and surrounded by film noir. But I promise you there is a horror spectacle buried under there. It may be a little slow going at times...but all that build-up makes whatever happens all the more effective. Lord of Illusions is an unbelievably awesome, genre-twisting experience (and was never bastardized by a sequel). Everyone needs to take this journey again. Please Mr. Barker...make another film.
Dorothea: "What the f**k are you?"
Nix: "A man who wanted to be a God...and changed his mind."
Title: Lord of Illusions (1995)
Director: Clive Barker
Cast: Scot Bakula, Franke Jensen, Kevin J. Oconnor
Clive Barkers takes us in deep into the world of magic and horror with what in my opinion is his best film...Lord of Illusions.
The story is about this religious cult whos leader Nix promises his followers eternal life. Swann, an ex member of the cult, gets cold feet and decides he wants out of the cult of freaky people and decides to eliminate the cult and its leader Nix. He manages to stop Nix and bury him....but is he dead? Many years later after these events Swann has become a David Copperfield type of magician winning big money. But suddenly some people are after him and there's rumors that Nix...the cult leader he laid to sleep might be returning for revenge on those who restrained him. Swann included.
The good thing about this movie for me is that it takes us into this world of magic, demons and religion in a very credible way. Barker handles things properly in this film by taking us into fantastic territory but with a touch of realism. As if it all could in fact be true. Thats the feeling I got while watching this film. And ultimately thats what makes the film so effectively creepy.
Nix is a great villain and I never for once felt I was watching some actor playing a by the numbers villain just for the kicks of it. Daniel Von Bergen as Nix delivers a great and evil performance. He uses anyone and everyone, he is selfish in his quest for ultimate knowledge and power over the supernatural and will do anything to have it. The guy is pure evil...and when he is about to be re awakened you almost feel sorry for the poor dopes who are doing it.
Another one of the movies assets is that it is done in the fashion of an old detective flick, with Scott Bakulas character Harry D Amour as the grounded on reality Detective who is constantly being confronted with the fact that this world is filled with things that we know nothing about. We see the film through Harrys eyes as he plunges himself deeper into the world of magic and Illusion. This is a smart lead character and cool thing about it is that you don't feel like its a bunch of teenagers making mistake after mistake, this guy knows what he is doing, he is a detective taking a full plunge into the dark world of Nix's religious cult.
But by far the coolest thing about this movie is its story. Barker carved up a fine spooky tale. Something to really scare you. The story is complex, and keeps you interested all through out, like a good mystery should. Not only that, but he directed the film with some real style. The movie just looks beautiful in everyway. A really good example of this is Swanns Illussion show in which he performs his "Last Illusion". Great sets and music in those sequences. Speaking of the music, as is the case in most of Barkers films, the music elevates everything to another level of grandiosity. You get this feeling that you are watching something epic and forbidden.
All in all, I would say that no doubt this is Barkers finest film to date. Its got a great involving story, good performances a great and memorable villain and a feeling of realism even though we are dealing with magic and Illusions. Barker is a master at weaving fantastic and dark fantasies, this my friends is his best one, go check it out! Rating: 5 out of 5
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For those who haven't seen the original theatrical version of "Lord of
Illusions", you might want to check out the extended version.
Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula) is a private detective with a problem: He has a dark side. It seems that a lot of cases turn ugly (One involving an exorcism). Offered an opportunity to get away from the insanity, he's offered a job tailing someone involved in insurance fraud. However, things REALLY turn ugly when he stumbles upon a guy being used as a pincushion. What's the reason behind this?
Seems that years ago, a cult leader called Nix (Daniel Von Bargen) had very spooky powers and was just about nuts. After kidnapping a young girl, some of his followers including Mr. Pincushion and Swann (The very underrated Kevin J. O'Connor)put Nix out of his misery, binding him and burying him deep in the earth. Now most of those that killed him are winding up dead. Swann, who is now a popular illusionist, winds up dead in a horrific accident during one of his shows, with his wife Dorothea (Famke Janssen) in attendance. D'Amour is soon drawn into a mystery in which things are not what they appear and people may or may not be dead.
In the Director's Cut of the film,You have a better understanding of D'amour's dark side, plus you get to see a little more into the cultists, how their devotion to Nix is without question (You actually see them headed to Nix's resurrection after they killed members of their family!). The deleted scenes are o.k. and you could sort of understand why they were deleted. Barker's commentary is a plus (Actually, I like when director's put their 2 cents on the makings of a movie.)
The part when Nix returns STILL creeps me out. Not in the manner of his return, but the blind devotion that his followers show him.
Anyway, rent this, or at least buy it. For Clive Barker fans, horror buffs, or just to have a good time on Saturday night.
If you liked the first two films of the series "Hellraiser" and appraised "Nightbreed",you will have a thankful surprise with 1995's "The Lord of Illusions", the last film that Barker directed ( he is currently re-writing his story "The Thief Of Always" for the screen), and that carries his characteristics and basic ideas. The film is morbid, violent and very frightening as well as "Hellraise" was, back in the eighties.It explores delicate themes as mysticism, demons and sects. One of the great qualities of Barker's last project is to dare, telling a tense and complex story in an imaginative and bloody way. The homosexual context of the work is evident, Clive Barker once again tried to join the concepts of pain, fear, horror, pleasure and meat, but he didn't obtain an excellent result as he achieved in "Hellraiser" . However, "The Lord of Illusions" is a more sophisticated film, with a tuned cast, formed by Scott Bakula and Famke Jansem,just to mention a few,and with an above-the-average production. The atmosphere, and the scenery, in this English movie-maker's filmography, is quite significant element, if in "Hellraiser" the atmosphere was dark and sordid, "The Lord of Illusions" is punctuated by clear, stunning and luminous sceneries, exalting the whole magic and madness' aspects. The story is very intricate, and it involves a rich and famous magician who sold his soul for the devil and who is now sorry, his temptress and reluctant wife and an ambitious detective who will find himself a prisoner in a tissue of murders, strange creatures and homosexuality.So, if you like Clive Barker's ideas, watch this film today!! "The Lord of Illusions" is rated R for strong violence, gore, language and sexuality and it runs 108 minutes.
Private investigator Harry D'Amour must stop a supernatural cult from
raising Nix, a man with god-like powers, who was killed 13 years before
hand. Now he's back, and he must save illusionist Philip Swann and his
wife, Dorothea. Clive Barker's "Lord of Illusions" may not be his
ultimate masterpiece, but it sure is an entertaining horror film.
Pretty good performances from most of the lead cast members, though
Kevin J. O'Connor was a little wooden as Philip Swann. The make-up
effects, courtesy of the boys at KNB FX, are really cool, and there's
enough gore (My favorite being the messy "sword accident" scene) to
satisfy horror fans. The visual effects were also very well-done for
the most part.
An enjoyable, well-done horror film overall. Not a masterpiece but gory, fun and often imaginative. Worth a viewing.
While magician Nix entertains his young audience by holding fire and
even juggling it, Philip Swann and others are rescuing young Dorothea,
who has been kidnapped and is being held in the same building. In the
process of getting the girl out, Nix is killed--or is he? 13 years
later, New York private detective Harry D'Amour is hired to go to Los
Angeles to work on an insurance fraud case. He visits a fortune teller
and is shocked to see a man dying violently. There may be a connection
between this death and Swann, who is now married to Dorothea.
Valentin works for Swann and wants D'Amour to meet with Dorothea, who wants D'Amour to work for him (and also looks good in a swimsuit). D'Amour goes to one of Swann's shows, where one of the illusions doesn't go as planned. This gives Swann something to investigate. An interesting investigation follows.
My primary motive for watching this movie was seeing Scott Bakula, who I liked in 'Quantum Leap'. D'Amour is intelligent and a smart-aleck, sometimes funny, with just the right mix of confidence and vulnerability; he did not disappoint. Had I judged the movie from just its first 10 minutes, to paraphrase a line spoken by one of Dorothea's rescuers, I would have said bury this thing deep where it can never again be found. The same applies to the horrifying, graphically violent ending. And there is plenty of blood and gore in between the opening and the final scenes. I'm pretty sure the language was cleaned up for UPN as well--who actually would say 'Forget you' in a theatrical film? Sometimes the audio didn't sound right in situations where profanity would be expected.
The movie had redeeming qualities, though. Kevin O'Connor showed confidence onstage but often seemed afraid or nervous otherwise--I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and call that good acting. Vincent Schiavelli had a brief but effective scene as an illusionist in a meeting with others practicing the profession. Joel Swetow was good as Valentin.
Although they were not what I would call entertaining, I would say the visual effects were quality work. Certainly the gore factor was quite high, but someone did an impressive job with what is called morphing.
And Daniel von Bargen did an outstanding job as the very frightening Nix. I did not like the character at all, but one has to be impressed with the talent shown.
Alright, so maybe this wasn't a great adaption of his short story, the Last Illusion, but it was one hell of a ride. The special effects aren't overdone, the acting was up to par, and the direction was marvelous. This movie is so gritty, its tone is perfect. Bakula may have been a bit too emotionless in a scene or two, but overall he was wonderful as the detective who gets caught up in the trickery, and the evil. There is also one or two funny moments, very very well placed. Of course, to fully appreciate the movie, you must watch the directors cut, with a couple extra scenes, that actually add a lot to the plotline, and the surreality of it all. Great stuff Clive!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman - a rope over an abyss...
What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be
loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under... I say unto
you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a
dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves. Alas,
the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas,
the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer
able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man.
--Friedrich Nietzsche, "Also Sprach Zarathustra"
5 Jesus said, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. And there is nothing buried that will not be raised."
29 Jesus said, "If the flesh came into being because of spirit, that is a marvel, but if spirit came into being because of the body, that is a marvel of marvels. Yet I marvel at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty."
--From the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas
"Flesh is a trap...and death is an illusion."
You know when you're watching a film by Clive Barker, that you're in good-hands. I saw this in 1995, and was floored by an oddly-believable tale of magic, both ancient and modern. It's interesting to note that Mr. Barker is well-versed in occult-lore, and that when you view his films he's trying to mess with your head on several-levels at-once. Magic is real, we do it every day, but it's seldom-acknowledged. When we think-of-something--an action, or a wish--and we externalize-it into-reality, we have done something that is magical. Animals are also capable of this, but none-so-well as human-beings. Technology is also an externalization of the human-mind (and body), and stems from a scientific-tradition that began with alchemy. In the mystery-traditions, an initiate would be immersed in a symbolic-environment, just as advertising does today for darker-aims! We live illusion every-single-day. If-only it wasn't dead in pustulent-Hollywood.
The battle-between the flesh and this world is eternal, and Clive Barker throws us into the midst of this battle. The film begins in-flashback to a cult-compound that looks a disturbingly-similar mix between the Branch Davidian one in Waco, and Spahn Ranch in Death Valley (once-populated by the Manson Family). This is the story of the birth of a religion, and where-else do they usually begin? The desert, of-course. But Barker takes-it-further, and we get what could be taken as an inversion of the Christian-myth of Jesus. Nix is the messianic-figure, who tells his disciples, "Fire spoke to me and said--NIX, you are the chosen-one, the Puritan." Unlike Christ's meeting with Satan in the desert, Nix succumbs-to-temptation, and his hatred for the material-world. Has he met-with darkness, or fire-itself, an elemental-force? Barker let's US decide throughout what we are seeing-and-hearing--yes, he's playing-with us. Maybe this ISN'T an inversion of Christianity, after-all...
But, Nix is betrayed in the opening-prologue by his chosen-one, Swann. 13-years pass, and Swann is an incredibly-successful stage-magician, using the skills taught him by Nix. He has a consort in Dorothea, and in a direct-reference to Gnosticism, a wizard's assistant in Valentin. Being our cinematic eyes-and-ears, we are introduced to the Detective Harry D'Amour, a gumshoe with a penchant for the unknown in the occult-underworld. We get-treated to some great film-noir moments thanks to Barker's genius-take on the P.I. character, and it blends with horror effectively. A lot of credit has to go to Scott Bakula for his performance as D'Amour, it's a tightrope-role that requires a subtle-approach, with a little humor and cynicism. He's our surrogate, and his disbelief is crucial to our accepting the realities of this story, a tall-order! I believe Barker and his collaborators succeeded in-spades.
Interestingly, Clive makes a wonderful-homage to Orson Welles (himself an illusionist of high-caliber) in the early murder-scene of the fortune-teller. It's shot in the very-same Venice locations as Welles' "Touch of Evil" (1958), a noir-classic. In some-respects, this film also resembles Welles' "Mr. Arkadian", with a detective searching a man's past as the central-narrative--this was also copied by Alan Parker and his writers on "Angel Heart" (1986), another classic of horror. Barker also references Mario Bava's "Black Sunday" (1960) with the tale of a resurrected-witch/wizard, and the mask that punctures Nix's face into a ghastly-visage.
By the end of the film, it's clear that Nix has come to destroy the world (like Jesus), and we are shown realities we'd rather forget. In-a-sense, there are many criticisms of ALL world religions here, even esoteric-ones. Barker condemns the notion that it is the world that corrupts, and that material-reality is the only source-of-evil and destruction. Mankind can be that essential-ingredient ("Fire spoke to me and said...") of chaos and destruction--we hold our fates in our own-hands, we are that hand-of-fate in occultism.
We stare into-the-abyss, like Nix and Swann, and realize there is nothing, only ourselves. WE are the meaning in the universe, because we create that meaning. Nix, his followers, and Swann succumb to this, and decide non-existence is better. Harry D'Amour, and his allies in the story, do not. The battle, then, is between creation and destruction, not good-versus-evil. D'Amour and Dorothea are an erotic and productive-dyad, whereas Swann and Nix are not. The Apocalypse is always in human-hands when individuals succumb to the forces of the universe that are destructive. They have given-up.
I like a great deal of this film although some parts of it drag and are
The casting is fine for everyone...those actors and actresses known and unknown at the time. I liked the constant good and evil conflicts of within for the Detective, Harry -- the Magician, Swann -- and the Girl, Dorthea. The film contains good effects, nice scenes with Swanns shows and of course..some gore.
Best of all in "Lord of Illusions", I love the character and story development of the magician Swann as a big time Celebrity, the inner workings of those in that industry, and his relationship (or lack there of) with the Girl, Dorthea.
But there is something about Daniel von Bargen who plays Nix in this film that makes me cringe...and is seductive at the same time..all traits of Clive Barker and his work.
Another trait seems to be Clive's problem with "a superior being" and what that entails, case in point, Nix's cultests and when Nix is finally restored, how he treats them for waiting for his return. A conflict that runs throughout all of Clive's work film, book, short story or otherwise.
This is an 'all right' feature, again many slow/confusing moments, no real sexual chemistry between Dorthea and Harry or Dorthea and Swann...but the story has a strong presence.
You do want to know what happens to a few characters and that makes you want to look at this film more than once beyond the "special effects" and gore. Eventually you may become like me after viewing the film and become a "couch editor" thinking, "Well, if that part was cut out and this part was here than there..then this film would rock!!"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are quite a few things going for this movie that attracted me to
it and should have added up to a movie that I loved. First, I'm a big
fan of Clive Barker. I love his aesthetic. I love the mythology that he
creates in his works. I feel like his vision pulls the curtain back on
Hell's fiery gates, just a bit, and creates these wonderful, demonic
fairy tales full of infernal imagery. The subject matter also intrigues
me. Like all geeks with a penchant for the fantastic, I enjoy magic and
illusion, but even more I like movies and books that explore that thin
line between illusion and magic and the possibility that perhaps there
is real magic. Of course, it's not a far stretch from that sort of
magic into occult territory, either. As a horror movie lover, I have a
natural affinity for things dealing with dark magic, as well. The
combination of all of these could have created something that I would
have put up there as an instant classic, but sadly this movie is
This is probably the least "Barker-ish" of any Barker adaptation I have seen. What I mean by that is that it is mostly devoid of any of that aesthetic that I was speaking of earlier. Movies like HELLRAISER, NIGHTBREED or CANDYMAN all feel like part of a large mythos, like all of them could have existed in the same world. There are very similar visual strands in those movies, even though one of them wasn't even directed by Barker. This movie is largely lacking any of that imagery. Except for the prologue and climax, we rarely get anything diabolical. It feels like it could have been the work of any old horror writer. While some may praise for deviating from his norm, this isn't what I come to the House of Barker for.
Even the actual magic in the movie is somewhat of a letdown. I really enjoyed the centerpiece scene where Swann is killed during his magic show. I wanted to see more of that sort of thing. They spend a lot of time talking about how these characters had crossed the line from illusion to real magic, but they seemed to know two tricks, levitation and fire. I'd at least expect enough effects to give me a true sense of power. Hell, even Harry Potter had better tricks than this.
Those were my expectations, though, so it's maybe not fair to judge this movie by how much it met those expectations. The real problem is that this movie just goes nowhere. It sets us up with a great opening scene, full of action and effects that seemed like this could turn into something memorable, but it dies quickly, mired down in a half-baked detective noir that is as predictable as it is uninteresting. Some part of that blame lies in Scott Bakula who's just not believable in this role, at all. He's supposed to be a hardened PI with one foot in the world of the occult, almost a John Constantine (comic books) type figure. Instead, Bakula just can't shake his wholesome image. Even when he swears it feels like elementary school kids trying out a word for the first time. Then, they inject a phony romance angle that just feels crammed in an insincere.
There are some great effects shots that still work very well and then there are some real doozys, like the CGI polygons that look so very dated 20 years later. What I saw is the Director's cut, which was probably more of a mistake because it was just too long and in need of editing.
If you've never seen anything by Barker before, do yourself a favor and go watch HELLRAISER. If you want a great movie about pushing magic to its' edge, watch Christopher Nolan's THE PRESTIGE.
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