Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rawhead Rex (1986)

Rawhead Rex is one of the stories in horror writer Clive Barker's early collection of short stories, Books of Blood (from which also came Candyman and the more recent adaptations of Dread and The Midnight Meat Train). Aside from the broad strokes, the thing I remember most about this story of an ancient evil unearthed to run amok in a small countryside village, is its characteristically Barker-esque wicked perversity, particularly in the scene involving the beast's unholy baptism - which I'm happy to say is preserved in the film (though kept at a broad distance).

The story opens in a small Irish village, where a local is about to overturn an old stone artifact in a field, which bears a startling resemblance to one of the stained glass window designs in the local church, that depicts a devil being trapped underground by a divine figure. Meanwhile, an out-of-town historian is visiting with his family to research the pre-Christian, pagan roots of the town's religious traditions, and you can bet there's a connection between the two. Pretty soon, there's a towering manbeast rampaging through the countryside, wreaking havoc left and right, and the only hope of stopping him is deciphering the old legend to find its weakness.

The design of the monster is excellent. As far as the quality of the effects go, the mask does look kind of rubbery at times, and is devoid of much motion and emotional dynamics, which is a strike against it. But as far as the design is concerned, I think it looks great, and suits the creature perfectly. The story is pretty out there - it comes from the twisted mind of Clive Barker, after all - and I don't think very many people treat it seriously. The monster alone probably raises it above your typical slasher creature feature, and the writing (adapted for the screen by Barker himself) is solid, even if the one acolyte character does overact just a tad. Plus, some of the lightning effects are very cheesy in that lame '80s fx sort of way, and the final scene is pure cliche. In the end, it's not as bad as all that, but it doesn't quite succeed on the level of Hellraiser (which was brilliant).

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