Clive Barker directs Scott Bakula, Famke Janssen and Daniel von Bargen in this supernatural mystery where a detective investigates the strange deaths of members from a stage magician’s old cult.
Something that these days would be described as “horror adjacent”, this is ram jammed full of disturbing gloopy imagery in the service of a wayward private eye narrative. Noir where you can expect a generous serving of gore or creature FX work every other scene. The bookending sequences with the Manson-esque desert cult are deliriously overblown, everything else makes for good trailer and Fangoria shots. The plot itself is wobbly and overpacked. There are flashy loose ends that never go anywhere (detective Harry D’Amour’s flashbacks to an exorcism, a baboon). You’d struggle to say our protagonist does much more than turn up and bear witness to whatever weird shit or fated death is waiting behind each door he kicks down. He has very little interactive affect on the plot. Which is a shame as this was one of Scott Bakula’s rare attempts to convert his Quantum Leap stardom into a big screen career. It is the only studio film I can think of where he was the name above the title. He makes a good fist of being the Indiana Jones or Sam Spade of the uncanny but alas the film was unloved by the studios who traded it between themselves during a catalogue sale. It also is the last time Barker directed a feature. Fair to say his storytelling is still too raggedy to really fit the mainstream, the master of horror prefers shifting dream logic to tight Robert McKee structure. You can’t help but wonder what might have happened if a friendly collaborator (producer, editor, anyone) gave him the note to put his hero in more direct peril, with some kind of invested presence within the grand evil that unfolds? Would have helped Bakula make more of an impact and elevated Lord Of Illusion from being a mere eye catching curio to a genuine lost treasure.
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We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/