Scott Bakula. If that doesn’t do something for I don’t know what will. Who doesn’t love Dr. Sam Beckett, time traveler extraordinaire, and star of 97 wonderful and heart-warming episodes of Quantum Leap? The dude is a national treasure. And here he stars in a Clive Barker written and directed film about the mysterious and deadly world of illusionists.
Bakula is a private eye with a knack for the weird stuff, like exorcisms and other scary junk. He is sent to L.A. on a case and quickly falls into all the stereotypes known to man regarding private eyes. For example: Falling for the beautiful client, getting in way over his head, and eventually saving the world. It’s a tried and true formula and with Barker’s mind at work the ride is a relatively enjoyable one.
The film lacks any real punch, though. Maybe it is a bit long in the tooth (director’s cut is 2 hours) and there are several boring scenes that add nothing to the film – like the first 30 minutes. I mean, hell, it takes almost 50 minutes for the true plot to be revealed, which is something that if jumped into sooner might have made this one more memorable. By the time Bakula realizes that magic is real and that a creepy dead guy is coming back, as a super powerful deity, bent on killing his client’s husband, I had almost lost interest. But at that point the film really kicks into gear. Barker’s imagination and style come to fruition in a way that only he can illustrate.
The deity, played excellently by Daniel von Bargen (Silence of the Lambs, Basic Instinct) has some excellent make up effects and a certain chemistry that makes him a truly frightening guy. Not unlike Mr. Pinhead from Barker’s seminal piece of work. Lord of Illusions is morbid, gross, and disturbing – just like you would expect from Barker. It’s those twisted and sick factors that make his work unique in a landscape of copycats. And, unlike some horror, Barker is able to keep his surreal stories, this one included, in a world that we are all familiar with. A world that could be real. The added sense of realism goes a LONG way in creating memorable dreamscapes for viewers.
There a several layers of depth in this film exploring a whole host of topics, but primarily focused on religion. Even though the film is setup like an old private dick movie, it really is about life and death (and their meanings or lack thereof) without playing to the obvious trappings. It’s an interesting concept for a horror film, though it does fall a little flat. Maybe it was too much for one film to attempt – even if it involves the dream team known as “The Barker-Bakula Bunch.”
Rating: 6/10 (Bonus point for Bakula sighting)
Snore Factor: ZZZ