I appreciate what Clive Barker set out to do with “Lord of Illusions” by introducing us to Harry D’Amour, a reluctant private eye who’d be thrown in to horrifying situations that far outstretched mobsters and cheating wives. In “Lord of Illusions,” Scream Factor gives Barker the chance to present audiences with the director’s cut. This new cut is longer, re-edited, and given a heavier emphasis on the neo-noir crime investigation by D’Amour that leads him to the front door of a satanic wizard that intends to destroy the world, and everything in it. I really wish I could have seen what D’Amour would get in to in future cases. Perhaps the cenobites? Something Lovecraftian?
Back in 1995, I thought “Lord of Illusions” was a pretty crummy and forgettable horror film, but re-watching it in Barker’s vision really gives you an insight in to what he intended. Daniel Von Bergen is one of the more horrific villains from the Barker gallery, playing the monstrously powerful Nix, a man who identifies himself as “The Puritan” has built a loyal cult, and is intent on showing them what his real magic can do. A group of former cult members, including Phillip Swann, infiltrate Nix and are able to keep him from sacrificing a young girl for his cause. Subduing him and fending off his followers, Swann confines Nix to a magical prison with a binding metallic mask that covers his entire face. They then secretly bury him deep in an undisclosed location.
Almost two decades later, a loyal follower named Butterfield begins murdering the people informed of the burial spot where Nix resides, and goes for Swann. Swann is now a world famous magician who uses his own powers for fortune and fame. Kevin J. O’Connor is great as Nix’s adversary, who fears his foe immensely, but has no choice but to accept the inevitable battle that will consume him and his adversary in their own powers. Barker successfully evokes his own twisted noir aesthetic, turning Harry in to something of an occult Sam Spade. Bakula plays D’Amour the way he intended, with an inadvertent role in these horrifying and demonic plots that he’s an unwitting player in. He doesn’t come with quips or one-liners, but has a surefire determination that makes him one of the more admirable heroes of the genre.
The cast that Barker assembles provides strong performances, especially O’Connor as Swann, and Famke Jannsen as Dorothea, the link in the entire master plan by Nix. Barry Del Sherman is also very creepy as Nix’s disciple who does whatever it takes to find his grave. Sadly, while “Lord of Illusions” is much more entertaining and coherent in its director’s cut form, a lot of the finale is pretty anti-climactic, with Barker and seemingly having nowhere to go but down. There’s almost an expected showdown between Swann and Nix, as well as a greater display of his power, and Barker follows through with none of it. Granted, he attempts to compensate with great special effects, but the ultimate power discussed by Nix and Swann is almost never displayed to consider the climax satisfying. In either case, like “Nightbreed,” Barker’s version of “Lord of Illusions” is a notch above the former, and well worth a watch by Barker fanatics.
The Double Blu-Ray brings the original theatrical cut of “Lord of Illusions” we as well as the Director’s Cut. The Director’s Cut is thirteen minutes longer and given new edits and a new score. There’s also a text introduction from Barker explaining his intent with the original theatrical cut. On Disc Two, there’s a commentary by Director Clive Barker, who is very meticulous and informative with his commentary, supplying interesting anecdotes, and memories of shooting that will really entertain fans. “A Gathering of Magic” is an eighteen minute behind the scenes featurette with looks at make up applications, and garners neat interviews with the cast and crew. There are three minutes of Deleted Scenes with a commentary by Barker, and a New interview with Storyboard Artist Martin Mercer. In “Drawing Boards,” Mercer discusses the very under appreciated art of story board art and how they help bring a film together for the director. Finally, there’s a fifteen minute photo gallery.