Lord of Illusions - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Lord of Illusions Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 14, 2015
Prophesied by Stephen King to be the new savant of horror, novelist Clive Barker doesn't laxly embark on big-screen descents. For Barker, the scariest concept is the mundane depravity of people via occult influences ala Candyman and Hellraiser. To that extent, the disciples of Nix "The Puritan" (Daniel Von Bargen) are the most frightening components as they skin human and animal carcasses in a hypnotized daze of worship. It could be contended that Lord of Illusions is his most ambitious with its emphasis on FX-augmented black magic and Phillip Marlowe film noir. With a five-o'clock shadow and Budweiser-gulping, self-loathing style, Scott Bakula is a chiseled 50's detective but he is too passive to be the grizzled hero. Barker can conjure phantasmagorical visuals that seep into the subconscious (ex. A fortune teller with scalpel acupuncture through his midsection and hourglass sand pouring through a body.). The most dastardly of which is Swan's (Kevin J. O'Connor) macerating death on stage in front of a packed auditorium from falling swords on a rotating chandelier. Bargen, in his resurrected form, is chilling with the piebald outline of an iron-maiden mask around his face and his pineal gland throbbing on his forehead. His voice is now a baritone rumble as he preaches about "wisdom from beyond the grave". Most hocus-pocus flicks err on needless gore but Barker is too thought-provoking for such a fate. He intelligently asks whether the messiahs utilized trickery for their miracles and if demonic spirits are responsible for true acts of mysticism. The special effects are not faultless. For instance, a holographic security guard and triangular origami are too artificial and rudimentary in a post-1995 world. But the gooey reanimation of Nix is a symphony of pulsating ectoplasm like Frank in Hellraiser. Mindless sycophancy is a spine-tingling area to explore and Barker really taps into the terror of a group of brainwashed lamb under the spell of a supernatural deity. In his repertoire, Lord of Illusion is Barker's operatic sorcery opus.
Super Reviewer
August 1, 2013
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.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2009
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.
Super Reviewer
July 2, 2007
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
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2007
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.
Mace R.
Super Reviewer
August 14, 2012
Visual masturbation, pure and simple.
Super Reviewer
½ July 26, 2007
Pretty good effort from Clive Barker. It had a really cool concept and Clive Barker has always been good at creating some very dark and creepy imagery. Unfortunantly there were a lot of questionable decisions made in the Special Effects department, some of which were laughable. The acting was acceptable, but no one really blew me away. I definently prefer this to more recent efforts like The Presitge or The Illusionist. I thought both of those were mind numbingly dull and I actually put off seeing this for so long becuse the concept sounded too familiar to those two films. Worth seeing, but just above average in my opinion.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2007
½ January 10, 2007
This has been a favorite of mine since it was first released, in spite of the flaws that I know are in there. I really love the Noir/detective/supernatural mash-up, and for the longest time this felt as close as we'd ever get to a Hellblazer movie.

Still a fun watch for the forgiving audience who can love it warts and all.

½ February 27, 2014
2.5/5 Better than I was expecting, but can't really recommend it. If you do watch it then make sure your get the unrated version.
August 8, 2013
I guess a lot of people would find this movie written and directed by Clive Barker sort of hokey, but it's always creeped me out. I love Scott Bakula, and it's nice to see him in the unusual role of Harry D'Amour, Barker's perennial character, an ecumenical private eye with an affinity for the strange and preternatural. On an assignment in LA, he stumbles onto a conspiracy to bring a deranged cult leader with malevolent powers (Daniel von Bargen) back from the dead. Cult murders, impalements, skinnings, and various other parlor games are placed alongside 40s noir tropes in a heady, sexy mixture that will appeal to fans of Barker, but may prove a bit too baroque for casual tastes. With the exception of Bakula and Bargen, and Barry Del Shannon as an especially devout member of the death cult, the characters are either uninteresting or miscast (Kevin J O'Connor is not a sex symbol, which is what the part really needs). Moreover, there is some wonky CGI on display. The finale really delivers though; Barker throws everything at you but the kitchen sink, and by god, he makes it work. It's pretty great stuff if you're into horror. Check it out!
November 4, 2013
the illusion is that this thing is worth seeing. pure junk. nothing remotely entertaining, enticing, pleasing or redeeming.
½ May 30, 2013
Maybe I have to see this again as it could have been ok but I thought this pretty much sucked and had nothing going for it. I'm normally indifferent to horror movies made in modern times that try to be noiry.
January 22, 2013
How the mighty have fallen... Clive Barker used to make such good films too. Nonetheless, you have to see it. Scott Bakula as Harry D'Amour is a letdown to Barker fans... Well, I'll forgive it and Barker when "The Scarlet Gospels" is published!!!! XD
June 23, 2008
Clive Barker's visuals and ideas help hold together a clunky and awkward effort with a unique twist on a detective story. It's originality and execution of ideas makes it stand apart even if you have to suffer from an extremly uncomfortable Bakula sex scene.
January 30, 2012
creepy horror film from clive barker, it contains a lot of disturbing elements, as do all of barkers stories, tho this one is probably the least fantastical of his works, its more of this world than other worlds, its an effective thriller that builds slowly, that kept me intrigued throughout, tho it kinda faltered at the end a bit, the acting is good, and janssen looks as hot as ever, definitely worth seeing for all clive barker fans
½ October 9, 2011
This was a pretty decent film. The story line was good but went way over the top by the end and it almost ruined the whole thing. The cast is class A. Scott Bakula is great and funny in the film. Kevin J. O'Connor is good and comes off kind of creepy. Famke Janssen is a good female lead. Daniel Von Bargen is really crazy in this film and was a good evil lead. There are many good side characters as well, but my favorite is played by Barry Del as Sherman. Talk about one messed up creepy character. The film has some decent special effects for its time and it may not make you jump out of your seat, but you will still mentally feel scared. It really does have that creepy feeling. Clive Barker really did a decent job on this film.
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