Lord of Illusions Blu-ray Review
Written and Directed by Clive Barker
1995, Region B, 109 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 17th March 2014
Scott Bakula as Harry D'Amour
Kevin J. O'Connor as Philip Swann
Joseph Latimore as Caspar Quaid
Sheila Tousey as Jennifer Desiderio
Susan Traylor as Maureen Pimm
Daniel von Bargen as Nix
Years after the defeat of a sinister cult leader, a grizzled Private Eye (is there any other kind?) stumbles across the remaining cultists while investigating a case in Los Angeles, waiting on their leader’s resurrection. A grim P.I noir, supernatural horror film and mystery all in one, Lord of Illusions is prime nineties horror, written and directed by the legendary Clive Barker.
Quantum Leaper and crap Enterprise captain Scott Bakula plays investigator Harry D’Amour, a bestubbled but smooth operator with quick wits and hard fists. Daniel von Bargen is cult leader Nix, a terrifying bastard with magic powers, a kidnapped child in the corner and a pet baboon to menace his victims with. Neither man is exactly A-list, but they give great performances here, ably backed up by the likes of Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor and the baboon. As D’Amour investigates the death of a famous illusionist (O’Connor) and grows closer to a pretty lady with a traumatic past (Janssen) he finds himself becoming indelibly caught up with Nix’s inevitable, imminent return.
Released under 101 Films’ ‘Cult Horror Collection’ line, this Blu-ray release gets you the regular theatrical cut in HD, plus Barker’s Director’s Cut on DVD. Based on a story from his Books of Blood, it looks and feels inimitably Barker-ish, with steamy atmospherics, tortured heroics and memorable, weird villainy. Hellraiser may be his masterpiece (although I’ve never been a fan, personally) and Nightbreed the cult classic, but Lord of Illusions, disposable as it may be, is not to be sniffed at. I’ll probably, regrettably remain a Midnight Meat Train man (a very guilty pleasure, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura) but this is a close second. It may not seem like much now, but released in the mid-nineties, when horror had turned self-referential and very slasher orientated, Lord of Illusions was a nice change of pace. Even now, its story is less rote than most – more interested in telling its interesting mystery story than having nubile teenagers knocked off one by one.
From the extended prologue to a flabby midsection in which Bakula just wanders around looking glum, Lord of Illusions is oddly paced and occasionally dull, but hard to dislike. Its gore sequences are effective (particularly the gruesome binding tool used to capture Nix and shut his ranting face), its villains deliciously nasty – the minion with the mismatched eyes is especially creepy – and the special effects cheesy in just the right way. One particular sequence looks as though it was rendered on PS1, while another is laughably bad. Thankfully, it manages to be properly gruesome when it needs to be – particularly for the Director’s Cut, which tends to linger a bit more on the good stuff.
If you can overlook its leaden pacing and dodgy CGI, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Lord of Illusions. A minor cult classic from a true master of horror, this is a film with some great tricks up its sleeve.
Video and Audio:
The theatrical cut looks nice and shiny in full HD, and sounds a treat too. The Director’s Cut is on DVD only, due to a problem with obtaining a license for the HD version. That’s a shame, but the quality isn’t noticeably bad, and you are getting a little extra bang for your buck. That’s literal banging, too.
Technically, the Director’s Cut DVD is the only special feature, although it’s hard to see who might opt for the theatrical version when this is available. It’s a bit longer, but it does also get you some extra gore, characterisation and sex scenes between Bakula and Janssen. No more baboon though.