Lord of Illusions (1995)
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A private investigator hired to protect a popular stage magician finds himself drawn into a dark, occult underworld in this supernatural horror film from writer-director Clive Barker. With several nods to film noir tradition, the danger begins for detective Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula) when he is approached by a beautiful woman, Dorothea Swann (Famke Janssen). Dorothea is married to Philip Swann (Kevin J. O'Connor), a wealthy illusionist who has found fame by disguising real magic as stage trickery, and believes that her husband may be in danger. Harry reluctantly agrees to investigate, and he discovers that Swann has made enemies of a bizarre religious cult who wish to resurrect their leader, an evil sorcerer killed by Swann. … More
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Critic Reviews for Lord of Illusions
Barker's visual side dominates its literary equivalent this time out, resulting in a time-killer that may amuse fans until illusion is shattered by the rolling of the end credits.
It's a sad day for both fright fans and the man Stephen King once prophesied was "the future of horror".
a cool flick from the master of grotesque
A terrific little horror film expertly renderd from Barker's own short story.
Better than people give it credit for, especially if the viewer fully appreciates the gay subtext.
Odd, but not uninteresting horror opus from Clive Barker.
High concept, wavering script, completely weird.
A shocking, thrilling, anything goes film noir bloodbath that even has a baboon as a character!
Part Noir, Part Scarefest....Prepare to be Blown Away by it's uniqueness
Audience Reviews for Lord of Illusions
Clive Barker's Lords of Illusions is a slightly more developed film than his previous film, Night breed. I thought that Night breed was a decent affair, but it was nowhere near as good as his directorial debut, Hellraiser. This film is a well crafted horror tale that Barker conjures up from his brilliant, twisted imagination. The film is a well structured tale that will entertain you from start to finish. The cast do a fine job with the script and the visuals are impressive and terrifying. Clive Barker is a master of horror and he directs something truly original and worthwhile for genre fans. The cast that he directs is quite good, and there are plenty of effective performances. I really enjoyed the film, and thought it was a fine achievement for Barker, who knows exactly how to create effective terror. This is a well crafted movie that will delight die hard Clive Barker fans. The film is edge of your seat entertainment from start to finish, and with a well written script, Barker conjures up some truly intense moments that will pull you into this nightmare. Clive Barker has the talent to truly create something that will terrify you, and with Lord of Illusions, he crafts something truly intense and creepy. He is gifted in giving the viewing audience something truly memorable. Even if this isn't his best work, Lord of Illusions is a good horror film definitely worth checking out if you love Barker's work. Lords of Illusions is a horror tale that is effective, and it is only a film that can Clive Barker could have created. Everything you'd expect from him is apparent here, and he has made his best movie since his impressive 1987 directorial debut, Hellraiser.More
I had such high hopes for this movie; based on a book by Clive Barker and with a good cast. I even liked the theme of real magic being resisted by one talented in the field but turned off by seeing its extreme. But this movie seems like a huge muddled narrative mess with ugly effects. Poor pacing and execution killed this movie. What a disappointment.More
You know when you're watching a film by Clive Barker, that you're in good-hands. When I saw this film 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, 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.
Its too bad we didn't get any more Harry D'Amour films or tv series that was talked about at one time. This movie was a great start to new horror/fantasy series. Maybe we will see D'Amour back on screen one day
Clive Barker's movie about a detective investigating a stage magician with real tricks, a series of grisly murders, and their connections with and a strange cult in the desert. Great special effects and plotting make for an enjoyable movie. There's plenty of gore to be seen in this often-forgotten horror gem.More
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