Lord of Illusions (1995)
Whilst trailing a low-value fraudster, private detective Harry D’Amour finds a fortune teller hideously murdered. D’Amour links the killing to talented illusionist Philip Swann and his young wife, who have a shared past with the dead fortune-teller. The illusionist is then tragically killed on-stage during one of his acts and as D’Amour digs deeper, he finds that Swann’s role in the death of a satanic cult leader called “Nix” 13 years previously is the key to the puzzle.
Well, this is in a similar vein to Clive Barker’s previous hit, “Hellraiser” (1987). It’s a bit messier in plot and doesn’t bind as well as “Hellraiser” but in other ways it’s quite a bit better.
The cast are solid and the characters interesting in all manners of ways. There’s also plenty of gore and a number of scenes which make you cringe – I’m thinking specifically of the horrendous contraption they attach to Nix’s face when they kill him at the beginning of the film.
The most interesting part of the movie for me was when D’Amour confronts the members of the magic circle on whether all of their illusions are “fake” and if there is indeed such thing as “magic”. The head “magician” is portrayed by the always enjoyable Vincent Schiavelli (Fredrickson from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)), although to the detriment of the viewer, his is but a bit part.
However, the movie – like a lot of Barker’s output – is a bit homoerotic. Particularly, the relationship between Butterfield – the cult’s chief disciple – and the evil Nix, who is played rather melodramatically by Daniel Van Bargen (who some of you will know as Spangler from TV’s “Malcom in the Middle”). Why butterfield needs to be clad in some kind of gay jumpsuit is beyond me but there you go.
You also can’t help wondering that the film could have been far superior if the plot wasn’t as confusing – the purpose of Nix’s resurrection isn’t really made clear, it’s not enough just to say as the script does, that he’s here to “murder the world”. It begs the question, why? Some people seem to like this ambiguity but I’m not sure I did.
It’s chiefly a horror movie, so is it scary? Unfortunately not, being more unsettling than genuinely frightening.
Overall, a reasonably intelligent, bleak and serious horror film which has its fair share of moments but in the end, this is a bit of a mess, notable for a few dramatic eye-bulging sequences and little more.
hotdog rating: 5.5/10