“Lord of Illusions” -Director’s Cut
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31 Days of Horror Challenge: Movie #29
While on a simple insurance scam case in L.A., New York private investigator Harry D’Amour happens across members of a cult who are trying to resurrect their leader, a magician known as The Puritan. 13 years prior, The Puritan was killed and bound by a small group of former followers, lead by his very apt pupil, now world famous illusionist, Phillip Swann. D’Amour, a regular guy with a knack who is drawn to the dark side, is hired by Swann’s wife, Dorothea, to protect Swann after one of their friends is murdered. D’Amour’s investigation, and unique insight, draw him into the mysterious world of illusions and the dangerous world of magic.
This director’s cut is a visceral treat of noir, mystery, fantasy, horror, filled with powerful performances, detailed set decoration, costuming, subtext (so much subtext I could write a thesis paper rather than a review), and tons of details, from master of horror, Clive Barker. I’ve seen this several times and always come away feeling satisfied. (I did start watching this with the commentary track this viewing, which had some interesting information, but the apparent disdain Barker appears to have for his viewers – at least in this commentary- made me turn it off and start over without it.)
Featuring Scott Bakula, as our hero, and yeah, he really is rather heroic in this, D’Amour; Kevin J. O’Connor, does a fantastic job as morally ambiguous (though maybe the problem isn’t so much ambiguity, rather simple fear), jaded Phillip Swann; Femke Jansen as both femme fetal and girl next door, Dorothea Swann; Daniel Von Bargen as the man who wanted to be God, then changed his mind, Nix, The Puritan; but the true gem in this film, and every time I see it, I am more convinced, is Berry Del Sherman as Butterfield, Nix’s most flamboyant, fanatic, and loyal believer. He brings a life and passion to the character that, as much as Butterfield is very much a bad guy, he truly loves and believes from the pureness of his heart, in Nix.
The prologue-like beginning set a strong tone of death, violence, desperation, and fear, that carried through out the film. I don’t revisit this often, but I am always pleased when I do. Even though the special effects/CGI of the mid-90s aren’t great (perhaps someday a digital remaster can update them), they are creative. It may not be as loved by Barker fans as some of his other films, but I count it among my favorites.