Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions

 (45)1 h 48 min1995R
Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) stars as a private detective who gets more than he bargains for when he encounters Philip Swan (Kevin J. O'Connor), a performer whose amazing illusions captivate the world. But are they really illusions? Harry isn't so sure..
Directors
Clive Barker
Starring
Scott BakulaKevin J. O'ConnorDaniel Von Bargen
Genres
Science FictionHorrorFantasy
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English

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Supporting actors
Famke JanssenVincent Schiavelli
Producers
JoAnne SellarSigurjon SighvatssonSteve Golin
Studio
MGM - Film
Rating
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Drug usefoul languagesexual contentviolence
Purchase rights
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Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

45 global ratings

  1. 33% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 19% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 21% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 10% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 17% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Scream QueenReviewed in the United States on October 17, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
An overlooked gem!
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How on earth did I not know about this film? This is Barker at his best. An interesting story with lots of twists and turns so it never gets boring and the special effects are supreme. There is early CGI but what really shines are the practical effects. The film noir setting really works as well, but don't be fooled. This is not some Turner Classic murder mystery. This movie is full of violence and you'll love every minute. Here's a quote from Barker, "In Lord of Illusions, I got to do all kinds of shit that I wanted to do. The bondage stuff in there, the girl and the ape, all kinds of shit. It's very funny because Frank Mancuso was head of MGM/UA at that time, and he didn't like the movie at all. There was one shot of a dead child on the floor, and he said, 'This shot will never appear in an MGM/UA movie.' As it turns out, it did, because I took it out, and then when he wasn't looking, I put it back in. I knew he'd never bother to see the film again."
17 people found this helpful
D. LarsonReviewed in the United States on September 11, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Not the best of Barker, but OK
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It’d been a lot of years since I first saw “Lord of Illusions”, and it’s maybe not as good as I remembered it. Definitely not up there with “Hellraiser”, but then, what is, horror-wise?

“Lord of Illusions” has its moments but a lot of it is frankly silly. And not silly in a wink, wink, nudge, nudge way. There are some so-so special effects here and there, and the overall concept is pretty good. “I was born to murder the world!” is a line any supervillain would love to own. And Nix himself, played nicely by Daniel Von Bargen, a name I didn’t recognize at all but a face I associate with the military school commandant in “Malcolm in the Middle”, was a lot of fun. Von Bargen apparently was a character actor in a whole lot of TV and movie in the 80’s and 90’s.

Scott Bakula, aka Captain Quantum, was creditable enough as a tough P.I., a kind of macho version of John Constantine. Exorcisms a specialty, apparently. As a private detective, well, almost everyone he comes in contact with ends up dead, usually in some unpleasant way. He looks good enough in 1930’s style shoulder holster, waves a .357 around until someone takes it away from him yet again. If he had a snap brimmed hat, he’d fit right into a film noir pastiche. With the supernatural, he’s so-so. But he can absorb a beating every fifteen minutes or so, which is good since every evil guy around beats him like a rented mule. If I needed an investigator, I don’t know that I’d hire Bakula’s Harry D’Amour.

But Famke Janssen does. She lives up to her potential as a so-so actor with a first-rate name. Famke. Janssen. What’s not to like? Well, as the romantic lead, she’s disinterested at best. A strangely numb performance, as if she had no idea what sort of movie she’d signed on for. Apart from a totally awkward “love” scene with Bakula, she mostly stands around as if waiting for something to happen. And when she’s on screen, frankly, so do we. We came here for unspeakable evil and unstoppable magic boogity-boo, not Janssen swanning around in a filmy negligee. Never thought I’d find myself writing that. But she slows the movie’s momentum down when it needs to dig in and get moving.

Also, she has terrible fashion sense; generally, one does not wear a backless and bra-less red sheathe to one’s husband’s wake, however many weird buttons it sports. And maybe in L.A. it’s customary to show that much cleavage at one’s husband’s funeral. But that don’t fly in Minnesota, Famke.

My favorite was Barry Del Sherman as the mononymous Butterfield. I guess when you’re evil enough, you get to be like Beyonce or Madonna. No other name required. Del Sherman is great, just oozing malicious nastiness and creepy insinuation. And he really knows how to rock a pair of skin-tight pleather pants. He and Von Bargen really carry the whole picture. Things just crawl along when one or the other isn’t on screen. Serpent-like, Del Sherman gets a whole movie’s worth of insinuated perversity into a few hissed lines.

David Copperfield-ish stage magician Philip Swann is done by Kevin O’Connor, who’s also been in a whole lot of movies and TV, most notably the gawdawful police procedural “Chicago P.D.”. Here, he’s a good counterpart to Famke Janssen, since he, like her, seems to be playing someone mildly sedated and staring blankly into space. Of which he does a lot. He does sport one of the great foreheads in cinema, though. Seriously, if I.Q. is related to the size of the frontal lobes, O’Connor would be right up there with Blaise Pascal. That is some brain there, Copernicus! To be fair, Swann is supposed to be traumatized by the whole first encounter with super-evil magician Nix. I would be, too. Particularly if I’d begun to suspect that Nix isn’t quite entirely dead. Just mostly dead. It’d take a miracle!

Which we then get. The resurrection scene is a nice bit of practical effects. Something I like about these older pre-CGI movies; somebody had to build these animatronics and pulsating brains and quicksand and holes to the center of the earth. Seriously, we get to see a hole to the center of the earth! Cool! I wish we could’ve taken a better look at some of these puppets and gloppy peeled faces. I’m sure they represent the labor of months for the EFX people. In “Hellraiser”, the gory effects were half or three quarters of the fun and the camera lingered on their gooey glory. Why rush past them so fast in “Lord of Illusions”? And when’s the last time you got to see a mandrill baboon in a movie? That is one cool ape!

There’s a long and really pointless (and ridiculous) sequence where Bakula and some other guy break into the double secret magic room at the magicians’ clubhouse. It drags on and on, serves only to showcase a truly bad primitive attempt at a hologram thingie with a "Mars Attacks!" bulging bare brain. This and other shenanigans take up time that could’ve been spent with Nix and Butterfield and neat supernatural stuff. Suffice to say that Harry D’Amour is not much a burglar, the Magic Castle has no security system, and the Secret Door is lame-o. Cut that whole sequence and spend more time out at the Manson Ranch with the cultists, be my advice. Wacky cultists are way more fun.

Still, it’s enjoyable. Competently made on a smallish budget, it mostly moves briskly along from one set piece to the next. Philip Swann’s on-stage magic show is kind of hokey but kind of fun. And kind of gay; there’s this emphasis on buff shirtless guys all the way through the magic act, and through the whole movie. Nix’s minion Butterfield not only camps it up, but basically teabags a guy. And once Nix gets rejuvenated, what’s the first thing he wants to know? Much to Butterfield’s jealous pique, I might add?

“Where’s Swann?” Nix really has a thing for Swann. I mean, after the massively foreheaded Swann does show up, is Nix vexed about having that iron mask screwed onto his face? Or being buried for thirteen years? Or being shot a few times? Nope, all’s forgiven. All Nix wants is for Swann to keep him company in the dark after all the world murdering is wrapped up. They do magic stuff together, destroy humanity, braid each other’s hair. Now that is true love!

So when Swann admits he still has a thing for Mrs. Swann, well Nix goes all jilted lover on him. Jealous. Brain-exploding, wall smashing jealous. What happened to the love they said would never die? I mean, literally never die?

It died. Maybe it’s just me, but “Lord of Illusions” just seems a lot more gay that when I saw it decades ago. Except Butterfield, he always came off as gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it really works for him. Maybe it’s that the heterosexual romance between Bakula and Mrs. Swann is so utterly unconvincing and spark-less and off-putting.

A few minor kvetches. The Magic Castle has less security than a Kwik-E-Mart despite all the dark secrets it’s got secreted. The police seem initially at least slightly interested in all the bodies dropping, but then the feisty detective vanishes from the picture completely. She seemed to have been dropped in from a completely different movie. Like the first half of a supernatural police procedural was mashed together with the back part of a body horror pic. When Swann does his death not-quite-defying finale, I’d have thought that maybe somebody backstage should be standing by to pull a circuit breaker on the sword dropping wheel thing if the trick started to go wrong. Safety measure thing. But then, no plot, so let it go.

We do see some nice old cars, a Chrysler LeBaron, Bakula almost gets a Buick dropped on him, big old Thunderbird of the reviled four-door variety. I kind of like those huge ungainly Fords, but I’m in a small minority on that.

Amazon’s streamed version looks pretty good, not HD good but not bad. And not the Director’s Cut version, for sure. I seem to remember some bits that didn’t make it into this edit. But, good enough. If you can appreciate a somewhat cheesy old-fashioned horror picture without many actual horrors, this one is a little more intellectual than most, and Nix is a great villain.
4 people found this helpful
KatReviewed in the United States on October 20, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Not the Director's Cut
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I'm not usually a movie snob, but sometimes the people at the top just make bad choices. Such is what happened here. Before release, the studio decided this movie just didn't horror hard enough, and so they sliced and diced it to get rid of...well, it turns out, it's heart and soul.

Feel like the main character isn't so much solving a mystery as just stumbling over paranormal events? Well, most of his scenes that show him actually investigating the mystery got cut.

Does the romance feel rushed and almost like a stapled on afterthought? Well, the sex scene along with other intense moments were all cut.

Do you wonder who those people cutting their hair off in manic glee are and where they came from? Bafflingly for a horror movie, they also took out some of the most horrific scenes in the film, scenes that are NECESSARY to explain who these people are and why they're important.

Basically, if the scene existed to forward the actual PLOT, it was cut.

What's left is a bland, somewhat enjoyable flick that has some baffling scene changes and if not outright plot holes, certainly lingering questions as to what the heck is going one, and what happened between scene changes to get us to the next scene.

I'm rating it three stars because the theater cut isn't actually bad, it's just...meh. It's probably better drunk or high, but even sober it's not a complete waste of my time. It's just...ultimately forgettable.

Do yourself a favor--if you have a choice between this and the unrated version, make a beeline for the unrated one. You'll likely enjoy it a lot more.
2 people found this helpful
Mr. P. BlockerReviewed in the United States on July 28, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
DARK, GRITTY OCCULT CRIME DRAMA
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This film was dark and strange in itself .

In the beginning of the film, a Cult leader in an isolated underground sanctuary in the desert, had found nirvana through his beliefs and had amassed a large following praising him as if he was a Messiah. The leader had amazing powers that was shown, merely 7 minutes into the movie. There were also a group of disbelievers , tipped off by a stray Cult member that sought to liberate a hostage that would be used as a sacrificial lamb of sorts for their Ritual. She was guarded by a fiercely wild baboon. As they make their descent into the lair to liberate the hostage, they encounter a rebellion of the Cult members and the subsequent betrayal, caused the Messiah to use his Magic to Astral manipulate the betrayer's thoughts, seizing his mind and placing inside of him an extension of his ego. They end up killing the Messiah, freeing the hostage, but took a few loses both in death and psychologically.

An Illusionist hires a Private Investigator to find a " Book of Spell craft " owned by the dead Messiah. The Magicians had a council and were sworn to secrecy. Seeing that the P.I. was an outsider, they did not readily work with him, however 1 in particular went behind the councils back and decided to join the search for the magical scrolls.

On the flip side of the spectrum, the Messiah had a few very interesting Minions that remained loyal to the Messiah even in death. It was unclear if they too sought out the Spell book, but they did manage at every turn to try to kill the P.I. and hounded him throughout the film. One of the minions was Androgynous, while the other was some kind of warped and modified side show freak with sharpened teeth.

The once Follower that lead the team that liberated the Hostage, was the one that was Astral manipulated, had acquired a new persona, even more serious than he was naturally in the movie. He also had developed Powers that allowed him to defy all of the Laws of Physics . To the audience, he was a Magician, he was actually using real magic, levitation and spells as well , passed through that mind meld earlier in the movie.

The P.I. finally finds the Spell Book and unbeknownst to him, set into motion the Resurrection of the Messiah by his Androgynous Minion and his cult members still loyal awaiting his return to the flesh. In the end the Messiah returns, powers renewed and even stronger than before, he seeks to finally rid himself of all problematic foes , only to be killed again and returned to the pit from whence he came.

This Film is Suspenseful and a Thriller at best. It will keep you intrigued, has some interesting plot twists too. Scott Bakula really nailed his role and made his character as believable , gritty and edgy as they come. Spectacular Cinematography from the 80's. I would recommend this movie to anyone that appreciates dark horror movies.
2 people found this helpful
WALTReviewed in the United States on July 7, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
ONE OF CLIVE BARKER’S MASTERPIECES, WHO DID THE HELLRAISER SERIES
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NO SPOILERS. I HAVE THIS PHENOMENAL MOVIE 🎥 BUT VIEWED IT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN GLORIOUS HD COLOR. IT BEGINS IN
A DESERT IN CALIFORNIA WHERE A MAGIC RITUAL IS BEING PERFORMED. CUT TO THE MANSION IN LAS VEGAS AND LOS ANGELES,
WHERE SWANN, THE FOR REAL MAGICIAN, DOES HIS ACT TO AN ALWAYS SOLD OUT AUDIENCE. THE CULT LEADER, WHO IS BURIED
HAD SHOWN SWANN SOME TRUE MAGIC, AND HIS NIGHT CLUB ACT IS SPECTACULAR. THE MISSION OF OUR GREAT PROTAGONIST,
PLAYED BY SCOTT BAKULA, IS TO FIND SWANN AND SAVE A HOSTAGE, A YOUNG GIRL, HELD BY THE VILLAIN.....THE PURITAN.........
SO MUCH ACTION AND GORE OCCUR UNTIL THE FINAL SPECTACULAR DENOUEMENT, I.E. UNRAVELING, THAT THE CONCLUSION
WILL LEAVE YOU BREATHLESS. THIS 🎞 IS NOT DATED AT ALL AND IS A CULT CLASSIC. GET OUT THE 🍿 & 🍕AND ENJOY THIS GREATEST OF HORROR MOVIES.
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Todd M.Reviewed in the United States on October 27, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
It’s a good movie that suffers from some bad casting choices.
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Scott Bakula is just one of the weak casting selections and though the movie is interesting it just doesn’t rise to the occasion as a highly rated horror movie and since it’s from the 90’s that doesn’t help. It’s rather predictable and perhaps the Director’s Cut adds enough material to improve it but there are more than enough actors that are hard to watch and just aren’t that good which places a lot more strain on a good story to compensate for it and it seems many of the more positive reviews are for the longer version. There’s little to no sexuality to it and though some of the effects are good it’s just not all that compelling of a movie in the theatrical version… which is often the reason for a Director’s Cut.
3 people found this helpful
RavencadwellReviewed in the United States on October 15, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
I was born to murder the world!
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I have missed this movie. Written and directed by the master himself, Clive Barker. It is highly underrated, but nothing short of another classic.
5 people found this helpful
SagittarianReviewed in the United States on October 14, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Not what I expected from a Clive Barker movie.
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The only reason I was generous and gave this movie 3 stars was because of the blood and gore that is expected from a Clive Barker film. Other than that, this was a total mess. From the bad story line to the bad acting from everyone. I usually like Mr Bakula, but not here. Combine the horrible acting with the horrible writing made this almost unbearable to watch. This is one movie that I will not waste my time and ever watch again.
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