Clive Barker was famous pro­claimed the “the future of hor­ror” by Stephen King in the mid-‘80s. However, that doesn’t mean he had an easy time trans­lat­ing his style of hor­ror to the sil­ver screen. Despite a killer debut with Hellraiser, he expe­ri­enced a stum­ble with the unwieldy Nightbreed — and as for oth­er filmmaker’s adap­ta­tions of his sto­ries: the less said, the bet­ter. 1995’s Lord Of Illusions is Barker’s last direct­ing ven­ture as of this writ­ing — and it occu­pies a flawed but inter­est­ing mid­dle road between the trans­gres­sive charge of LordOI-posHellraiser and the epic aspi­ra­tions of Nightbreed.

The hook of Lord Of Illusions is that it weds Barker’s oth­er­world­ly take on hor­ror with the film noir style of detec­tive sto­ry. The pro­tag­o­nist is Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), a pri­vate eye who has had some deal­ings with the super­nat­u­ral. While on a case in Los Angeles, he finds him­self caught in a bat­tle between Butterfield (Barry Del Sherman) and Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor, a pair of magi­cians with all too real abil­i­ties. He also finds him­self get­ting roman­ti­cal­ly entan­gled with Dorothea (Famke Janssen), the wife of Swann. The solu­tion to the rival­ry has to do with the mys­te­ri­ous death of leg­endary magi­cian Nix (Daniel Von Bargen), who mighMSDLOOF EC073t not be as dead as he seems.

Lord Of Illusions is an improve­ment over Nightbreed in that it has a tighter sto­ry­line and a con­sis­tent tone. However, once you get past the inter­est­ing fusion of hor­ror and noir, the storyline’s a bit too sim­ple for its own good: the noir ele­ment relies on famil­iar, oft-pre­dictable tropes and the hor­ror com­po­nents are sur­pris­ing­ly straight­for­ward for a sto­ry that gives a lot of lip ser­vice to the mys­ter­ies of mag­ic. Barker doesn’t always know who to cast or what to do with his actor­ly resources: Bakula is decent but mis­cast as a dark pri­vate eye while Vincent Schiavelli gets too lit­tle to do in what amounts to one-scene role. Janssen fares bet­ter and Del Sherman makes a mem­o­rably unnerv­ing weirdo-vil­lain.MCDLOOF EC276

That said, Lord Of Illusions can be fun for the view­er who is more inter­est­ed in tex­ture than sur­pris­es. Barker’s direc­tion is con­fi­dent and focused, main­tain­ing a decent pace as he off­sets sce­nes of noirish dia­logue with bom­bas­tic shocks that are perked up by freaky make­up effects and Simon Boswell’s bom­bas­tic score. It’s a slow burn to the finale but there are some nice set­pieces along the way, includ­ing a magi­cian show that takes a grim turn. The best moments are the pro­logue and finale that book­end the film: Barker gets to delve into Hellraiser-esque ter­ri­to­ry in the­se places and unleash­es a bar­rage of freaky imagery and make­up effects that make up for some famil­iar sto­ry beats.

To sum up, Lord Of Illusions is not as vision­ary as Barker’s pedi­gree sug­gests it could be but still shapes up as an inter­est­ing gen­re-ben­der with a few mem­o­rably strange sights to please his fans.