|31 Days of Horror, post 12|
Lord of Illusions begins with a statement that there are two types of magic; one is illusions, the other is magic as reality, which can be powerful and make death an illusion. Which would then be the other type of magic, I guess? The story opens with a group of friends entering a secluded building in the middle of a desert. They are there to put an end to Nix (Daniel von Bargen), a cult leader who professes to have magical powers.
|Fire is nice, but real magic would give you a longer T-shirt|
And all of that was just the prologue! Jump forward thirteen years and meet Detective Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula), a hard-boiled private investigator with a nose for the supernatural. While working another job, Harry stumbles across a dead body and winds up fighting the presumed killer. It turns out that the corpse is one of the people who helped kill Nix. When news of his fellow murderer-for-a-good-cause dying reaches Swann, his wife, Dorothea (Famke Janssen), decides to hire Harry to investigate the death because they think that Butterfield and other Nix-lovers are behind the murder. And hiring a private investigator when you think you know the guilty party is better than telling the police because...? Oh, and in the future, Swann is the most famous magician in the world.
|Now you know where Criss Angel stole his act|
The acting in Lord of Illusions tends to be a little campy, but isn't too bad. Scott Bakula was miscast as the grim noir-ish hero; he works against his strengths here, trading his signature everyman charm for pseudo-tough talk. Famke Janssen deadpans most of her lines and wears inappropriate clothing for most of the film.
|...like her Scott Bakula stole|
|Fact: Evil is moist|
|Because if you're going to dress up, you've gotta go all out|
The reason I don't mind the acting in Lord of Illusions is because most of the actors fit the tone of the movie pretty well. Written and directed by Clive Barker, there are moments in this story that would have fallen completely flat if they were handled with utmost seriousness, but Barker managed to get the actors play their parts (except for Bakula) with a tiny bit of goofiness. The choice to camp this film up, just a little bit, is what saves it from being dreadful. This is kind of a film-noir-meets-neon-camp style, if that's a thing. As far as Barker's direction goes, the acting and sets were a little ridiculous, but I thought the violence and gore we handled pretty well.
|Maybe a little silly, too, but that's the price you pay for wearing rubber suits|
My biggest problem with Lord of Illusions was Clive Barker's writing. The story is inherently melodramatic, so I'm glad that he added some camp into his script. That doesn't forgive the poor focus or logic. It is obvious that Scott Bakula's character, Harry D'Amour, is the main character in the film. He gets top billing and is the point of view character for the audience to identify with as the story gets progressively weirder. And yet, Barker spends a lot of time making Kevin J. O'Connor look like a mysterious bad-ass. Heck, this story doesn't even adhere to the basic idea of having the main character play the hero; D'Amour is an observer when it comes down to Swann vs. Nix. I also don't understand the magicians in this film. Swann kills Nix and buries him, but is afraid that Nix may someday return from the grave. Shouldn't the script at least mention why dismembering Nix's remains and/or cremating him is not an option? And if you're going to hide a body in a desert, shouldn't it be harder to find? It seemed as though that was the easy part for Butterfield to accomplish. And what was up with Nix's followers?
|"Join us and get a free Summer haircut"|
Lord of Illusions doesn't quite work as a straight horror film or a campy one, but balances uncomfortably between the two genres. The strangest thing about Lord of Illusions is that it is not difficult to sit through; the sum of it's odd parts is actually halfway decent. I have an idea. Instead of remaking classic horror movies, filmmakers should look at a movie like this, one that has good moments but got the big picture wrong, and update this. I can imagine a version of Lord of Illusions that falls a lot closer to Angel Heart than Dracula A.D. 1972. Then, maybe, we could enjoy a horror movie about magic that isn't mediocre at best.