Review: Lord of Illusions

Directed by: Clive Barker
Category: Horror

Wouldn't you know it? Immediately after watching the theatrical cut I find out there is actually an "unrated directors cut" which Clive Barker says is his true vision of what Lord of Illusions was supposed to be, one that runs a full 12 minutes longer. So that will have to be a later review, with this one being of the theatrical cut of the film.

 I've always been a big fan of Clive Barker, and around the time he made Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions, I would consider myself a die hard fan. So much so that when I got my first tattoo at 19, it was of one of his illustrations. To this day nobody knows what the hell it is and I still have to explain it to them. But I love it. Around that same time I had every single book, novella and short story he ever published and couldn't get enough of his writing style. The he started making movies and in the late 80's to mid 90's with the triple threat of Hellraiser (1987), Nightbreed (1990) and then Lord of Illusions (1995). But that's it, he hasn't directed a film in almost 20 years, which still shocks me because with each film he showed a maturity and growth, much more than your average newcomer horror director. But sadly, that wasn't the case. Lord of Illusions was his last directing gig and the world of horror is sorely missing a true visionary.

Detective Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula) is a private eye who seems to constantly sway towards cases relating to the supernatural. When he's hired by a famous magician's wife (Famke Janssen) for a job, he witnesses the magician's death and soon realizes that there's more going on than he was first led to believe. When he discovers a connection between the magician Swann (Kevin J. O'Connor) and Swann's former teacher and cult leader Nix, who Swann killed 13 years earlier, he opens up a Pandora's Box of death and magic that could lead to the end of the world. 

"I was born to murder the world"

Lord of Illusions, while not perfect or as awesome as his previous effort Nightbreed, works really well as a hybrid of two separate types and styles of films, the detective noir films from the 50's and a modern day horror film. One of the best things I love about this film is that you immediately sense Barker's maturity as a director. The film oozes style at almost every turn and looks much more polished than his two previous efforts. But, I have to admit Nightbreed is still my favorite. He also infuses the film with an eclectic array of strange characters, some good, some bad, that are so unique and outrageous (complete with odd names) that they almost deserve a film of there own. And that's just a testament to his creativity. The guy knows how to create some truly unique characters.

I really liked this one. It starts with a strong opening, slows down for the majority of the middle, and ends with a pretty grande finale. When the film slows down for the mid section, it plays out more like a detective story as D'Amour is investigating what the hell happened to Swann and what he may have been mixed up in. Some people may find this midsection to be extremely lagging, especially when your trying to remember the odd names with the large cast of characters, but I found it entertaining nonetheless because the cast is pretty great, especially Bakula, and the look of the film is pretty fantastic. But once he realizes there's a dark and supernatural connection to the illusions and that it's real magic and not tricks, the story delves more into the horror elements culminating in a pretty far out ending complete with some outstanding effects and some awesome quotable lines. Barker has always been ahead of the game in creating some pretty great dialogue. To this day, Hellraiser is still one of the most quotable horror films ever.

Overall a pretty great film. The film lags for a majority of the middle, but the combination of some great camera work, great actors and the kind of huge finale all films should have, really make for a much better experience than you'd expect. I just need to get to that "unrated directors cut" soon while this one is still fresh in my mind for a decent comparison.


  1. Oh, man...I liked this one...but its surely ten years since ive seen it last...but more than once...I really liked Scott Bakula in this.
    Just found out recently that Barker is gay, and that he has a scary voice,lol....looks like an evil twin of Downey Jr., too. Wasnt he going to direct the Hellraiser remake? WEll, im not up to speed about his recent plans...

  2. Good review! Only saw the Director's cut awhile ago. This was very underrated.

  3. Yeah, this was pretty good. I've also thought Bakula should have had more leading roles. The only thing that spoilt it a little was that Captain Spangler from Malcolm in the Middle played the main bad guy. I couldn't find him that scary.

  4. Ingo: I'm right there with you. I hadn't seen this ever since it was released theatrically. I remember liking it a lot and really liking Bakula in this kind of role. In regards to Mr. Barker, he does have a scary voice, but it didn't always sound like that. I've been following the dude ever since he came out with Hellraiser in '87 and during those years he didn't sound like he does now. He might have some medical issue going on with his throat or something. But you should give it another shot sometimes soon, it was actually better than I remember.

    Ty: Yes indeed sir. Very underrated. The guy should be directing more movies. Over the years I've read of projects he'd try to get off the ground, but they never happened. The Thief of Always was one, and The Great and Secret Show was another. But that was many years ago and nothing ever came of them.

    Jack: That's funny that you mention that. I'll always remember him as George Costanza's idiot boss in Seinfeld. I remember when I first saw him on that show I was like "What the hell is Nix doing on Seinfeld!?".

    And I agree, Bakula should have had more leading roles. I remember a few, like Necessary Roughness, but there weren't many. I always hoped that they woulda made more of these films with his character Harry D'Amour, which is a character Barker uses often in a lot of his books. Kind of like his trademark character.

  5. Just wanna add, I have no issues with anybody beeing gay- just a fact I learned recently, when I myself did a bit of research on him. Too bad he seems to have no good relationship to Hollywood, I believe, in one of the interviews I saw of him, he talked about Hollywood and how he hates it or something....but you never know what the future might bring....

  6. Nah, don't worry about it bro. I know that. It's funny you mention that. When I was really big into his work in the late 80's, early 90's and had every single book and short story he ever wrote, that was something I picked up on just from a lot of his writing. It didn't bother me at all or anything, but it was obvious. But if you've never read any of his books, I strongly suggest you try some of his early stuff. The Great and Secret Show I consider my favorite.

  7. I will consider that...sad only , that I really need some strong incentive to read anything....I will try to find some of his books...Stephen King I like a lot. The dark tower books are the sxxt..am stuck in the 4th..there are seven I believe..and he even keeps on writing books playing in the same universe...well...will seek out some Barker soon.