Tuesday, March 28, 2017

90’s Magic Pulls the Greatest Trick of All, or Thoughts on Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions

Once famously lauded by Stephen King as “the future of horror”, Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions (1995) was the author’s adaptation of one of his Books of Blood stories (The Last Illusion, 1986) featuring demonic rent boys and a post Quantum Leap, pre-Star Trek: Enterprise Scott Bakula in one of his early film roles as Harry D’Amour, Clive Barker’s hardboiled, hard drinking occult detective.  In Lord of Illusions Harry investigates the onstage death of Swann, a popular magician who used real magic because, you know, he used to belong to a cult in the 80’s and happened to imprison a demon in an iron mask and steal all his power.  What can I tell you, the 80’s were a fun yet complicated decade.
Kevin J. O’Connor, who you may remember was the Yellow Card Man in 11.22.63 (2016) is Phillip Swann the fake illusionist and real magician, while my favorite Bond Girl Xenia Onatopp and my favorite mutant Jean Grey, Famke Janssen portrays his grieving widow, Dorothea Swann.  Daniel von Bargen, Mr. Kruger from Seinfeld is Nix, the demon.
Stephen King to date has only directed one of his works; Maximum Overdrive (1986, the one with the killer trucks), while Lord of Illusions marked Clive Barker’s third adaptation, along with Hellraiser (1987), and Nightbreed  (1990).  There’s always a barely hidden sexual fluidity in his movies, competing with all the horror elements without adding to it.  It’s ironic because Clive Barker should be a stellar director; he has a background in theater, he’s an excellent writer and painter, he has a visual and descriptive eye, and yet all these considerable talents do not translate onto the silver screen.  His compositions on film are static and without artifice, his action scenes are weak and his casting decisions are questionable. 
Kevin J. O’Connor as Swann, Daniel von Bargen as Nix doesn’t match up with Scott Bakula and Famke Jannssen in terms of chemistry or even looks.  And i'm sorry, physical beauty is relevant, this is a visual medium we're watching a movie.  I mean he’s happy to fill the background with male models but unlike Pinhead, he fell short in Lord of Illusions in finding a villain that could hold his own against Famke Jannssen.  In the end the movie only serves to prove my point, much like The Illusionist (2006), the greatest trick a magician can achieve is getting the hot girl to marry you.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).