Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

AN OLDIE BUT A GOODIE FROM MY FAVORITE AUTHOR THAT BEGS THE QUESTION - HOW IN THE WORLD CAN A MOVIE BE SO GOOD WHEN IT IS OH SO BAD?



Lord Of Illusions (1995)

Hi, I'm Miss Mayhem. Miss Murder is giving me a chance to do a movie review on a favorite that she says she's seen 'lots of times' and has her notes all ready for a review. She asked if I would watch the movie and then kind of take the notes and put this review together. Please bear with me, I'm trying to see the humor in horror. MST3K is helping, but I'm still learning.

When I saw it, I was actually surprised that, besides being a 'horror' movie, it actually had a good story to it. Trouble was, the story wasn't very developed as far as I could see. Yes, I know the movie comes from a short story so the fact that it was 109 minutes long was kind of impressive and stupid at the same time. And it starred Scott Bakula. I kind of remember him being in one of the Star Trek series although I don't think I ever watched that show.

For a horror movie, I think that Bakula's depiction of D'Amour was pretty neat and I wished they had made the movie just about him. He plays it like a detective-type movie but there's the supernatural part that means his cases usually involve possessions or other spooky stuff. His body is covered in tattoos and I wanted to know why but they didn't say much about his character at all. Here is how Miss Murder starts her review:



Wow, I didn't realize this was made THAT long ago. This is derived from a short story by one of my favorite horror writers, Clive Barker, taken from Books Of Blood, called The Last Illusion. The main characters are played by Scott Bakula, who is Harry D'Amour who we get the hint is an old hand at handling all things weird and/or demonic; Kevin O'Connor as Philip Swann, who promotes himself as an illusionist but is actually something much, much more; and one of my favorites, Famke Janssen, as his wife Dorothea.




I got my copies of the Books Of Blood waaaay back when they were first published in the 80's and I read them so many times they were pretty messed up. I was glad when they combined the six books into two, I needed new copies. In there you'll see where the following movies came from:


  • The Book Of Blood (First movie I ever saw that was made from the foreward and postscript of a book and not one of the stories)
  • Candyman (from the story The Forbidden)
  • The Midnight Meat Train
  • Dread
  • Tales From The Darkside's episode 'The Yattering and Jack' from the story of the same name
  • Quicksilver Highway (from the story The Body Politic)
  • Rawhead Rex


Miss Mayhem again. I liked this movie but since we complain about stuff, if I had anything bad to say about this movie, it's that nothing at all is explained. We don't know who Nix is, why he has powers, why he has a cult in the middle of a desert, why Swann is the only other one with powers, why Nix wants to sacrifice a young girl, why does Swann have this magic helmet that will defeat Nix and where did he get it, why blood is necessary to seal it onto his head... this could fill the page I guess. It's kind of like Barker just says 'Look, this is my story, don't ask any questions just watch it, okay?' And we're supposed to nod and just accept everything. I'm probably being too harsh but I had so many questions, and there's only this short story to read that doesn't explain anything either. Back to Miss Murder:




We start in 1982 in the middle of nowhere where a nasty man named Nix is leader of a strange cult in a house out in the middle of nowhere for no good reason. Nix uses magic to keep his followers - REAL magic. He wants more power and so has kidnapped a young girl for a sacrifice. Not all followers were mindless though - they try to stop Nix and save the girl. The group consists of four people -  Swann, Pimm, Quaid, and Desiderio.




During the fight, a strange looking guy named Butterfield escapes - he's got that 'one eye brown, one eye blue' thing called Heterochromia which actually is a more common than you think. Although the two actors who played the young and older Butterfield didn't actually have it (contact lenses work great that way), some other famous people that actually have different colored eyes are Mila Kunis (one brown, one green), Virginia Madsen (one green, one brown), Jane Seymour (one brown, one green), and Tim McIlrath's (Rise Against) eyes are blue and brown.



Anywho, Swann has some sort of 'magic helmet' he plans to use against Nix to imprison him and, of course, save the girl. This 'helmet' actually screws right into Nix's head and does not allow him to see or hear. He appears to be dead, and they bury him where he'll never be found. Why don't they just burn him up or something? Main problem with this movie - it raises a ton of questions but only answers a couple of pounds of them (get it?).

We skip ahead more than a decade and meet Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula) who lives in L.A. and is very schooled in occults. His body is a map of tattoos. This movie doesn't spend nearly enough time with this character, and neither does Barker's books - his first major appearance isn't until the book Everville published in 1994. I'd love it if he'd just do books about this character - although I guess he does appear in the Hellraiser comic books (haven't seen those).




Harry also gets the strange cases which involves possession and other weird stuff. He is investigating an insurance fraud case when he comes upon a fortune teller named Quaid who, moments before he got there, had been attacked and dies from multiple stab wounds. The attacker goes after Harry and despite Harry tricking him into plunging out the window onto the cement below, the body is gone by the time the police get there. Quaid manages to warn Harry that 'The Puritan' is coming right before he dies. Uh huh.



Miss Mayhem again. You probably realize by now that conveniently ALL the people who were involved with saving the kid from Nix are in L.A. so they can be found and killed one by one (although one commits suicide to save them the trouble). Way way too convenient. Swann and the girl he rescued, who he is now married to (Famke Jannsen) live there too of course - Swann being rich from being an 'illusionist' although we know by now that he is the real thing.




But this whole movie is one big coincidence and convenience - D'Amour happens to be in L.A. and Dorothea seems to have no trouble finding him to 'hire' him to protect her husband. Swann is almost immediately killed by a new 'trick' he's put together. Nice job D'Amour. After the funeral he does the natural thing: Immediately climbs into bed with Dorothea. Eww. Back to Miss Murder:



If I outlined everything in this movie this review would go on forever so let's sum up a little bit: Swann faked his death (of course), his, uh, manager I guess, knew where Nix was buried (why exactly?) and is made to go with Butterfield to dig him up and get the helmet off (how exactly?) so that Nix can defeat Swann.




Nix comes out of the 'hole' looking like bad bacon wrapped in rags. You'd think his followers would at least have chipped in for some fresh robes or something. D'Amour finds info about Nix and so knows that both he and Swann are the 'real thing' and so conveniently finds Swann right away - because the idiot attends his own burial. MASSIVE DUH. I hate complaining about a movie made by an author I really like but this movie was so ridiculous you couldn't stay in the story - I kept throwing my hands in the air, saying things like "What?" and, "Oh, of COURSE he did," every five minutes or so. It was a terrific story mangled worse than Kubrick mangled The Shining.

So finally we get the big battle scene between Nix and Swann with Dorothea's life hanging in the balance. Hmm? Where's D'Amour? Basically sitting on his hands, 'cause they gave him absolutely nothing to do. Geez. Hmm? The ending? Quick, pointless and unsatisfying. There's no way Nix could have gotten strong enough to battle Swann, who's been growing in power for years, and having Dorothea help by shooting Nix (AGAIN, since she did the same thing as a kid) was incredibly stupid, and D'Amour looked completely worthless 'cause, well, he was.

Swann gets killed, Nix is sealed in the earth (maybe) and D'Amour and Dorothea walk out into the desert. And that's the incredibly stupid ending to what should have been an awesome story. That's what happens when you try to force a 109 minute movie out of a short story. It's really hard. Just ask Stephen King.

❦❦❦ Miss Mayhem ❦ ❦ ❦