Lord of Illusions (1995)
Lord of Illusions (1995)

Genre: Supernatural Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: August 25th, 1995 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Clive Barker Actors: Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O’Connor, Joseph Latimore, Sheila Tousey, Susan Traylor, Ashley Lyn Cafagna, Daniel von Bargen, Jordan Marder, Famke Janssen, Vincent Schiavelli

 


 

T

here are two worlds of magic. The first is the fantastical world of illusionists. The second is a secret place of terrifying realities, where men have the power of demons and death itself is just a deception. Illusions are mere trickeries – magicians do it for real. Since Clive Barker – the man behind “Hellraiser” and “Nightbreed” – produced, wrote, and directed this film, it obviously explores the more horrific, demonic realm, where gore and carnality run rampant and satanic enchantments command every motive. The entire project is also tinged with an unmistakable preoccupation with sex and violence.

In 1982 in the Mojave Desert, filthy, possessed cult leader “The Puritan” is about to sacrifice a young girl, Dorothea, to the demon Nix (through the use of an enraged baboon). Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor), a former member who thinks the fanatical leader has gone too far, storms the rundown shelter with a few armed friends. They eventually subdue the energumen and encase his head in an iron mask, before burying the corpse as deep in the ground as they possibly can.

Thirteen years later in New York, private eye Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), disgraced from – and plagued by – an exorcism investigation gone haywire, decides to fly to Los Angeles for a potential $10,000 job, tracking down a man wanted for insurance fraud. When he arrives, he’s approached by Valentin (Joel Swetow), a man who works for Dorothea (Famke Janssen), now all grown up and married to Philip, who has become the greatest illusionist in the world. Dorothea employs the detective to protect her husband from murderous cultists, but when Harry attends the final L.A. performance, a new illusion involving swords plunging from the ceiling accidentally kills Philip, impaling his clasped body in approximately five different spots. Harry attempts to breach the cagey, close-knit community of magicians at the Magic Castle, where many jealous competitors gather, but he’s only able to collect a handful of clues. One is the woman Jennifer Desiderio (Sheila Tousey), a drugged patient housed at a sanitarium. The other is the name Nix.

Like “Hellraiser,” “Lord of Illusions” is weird, demoniacal, and fused with perverse sexuality and bondage. Abattoir-like environments, contraptions of confinement, religious rituals, phony messiahs, and bloody torture permeate the plot. Jump scares, flashes of nightmarish imagery, booby traps, and oodles of necromancy are never far away, while grisly violence and damaged flesh consume innocents and villains alike.

The problem with the story is that it’s overlong, full of bland details (or morbid ones for the sake of morbidity), and engrossed with bloodshed over sensible occult configurations that could have adequately defined the randomness of Nix’ world. Incidents of resurrection and revenge just aren’t unique or properly explained. The dated computer graphics don’t help either, not only by being unconvincing, but also by exhibiting uninspired designs. Nix’ ghostly form appears as a smattering of textured triangles and other flat shapes. Brief glimpses of monsters, extensive makeup effects, and explicit butchery are assuredly more powerful, but they feel wasted amidst the unfocused procession of events – most evident in the incredibly repetitive scenes of protagonists getting cornered, then escaping, only to be trapped again. The entire finale is nearly incomprehensible satanic bunk, stretched out with undying villains and nonsensical happenings.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10