Lord of Illusions
is a 1995 movie directed by Clive Barker
, based on his own short story "The Last Illusion." A blend of noir
and horror, the story opens in the early 80s at a run-down cult compound in the Mojave Desert. Nix, the leader who calls himself "the Puritan," wields magical powers he promises to share with his enthralled followers. Unfortunately for him, some of the group decide Nix has gone too far by kidnapping a teenage girl. Led by Nix's prize pupil Philip Swann, the rebels manage to overpower and subdue him. They leave him bound in an iron mask and buried deep under the sands of the Mojave, with the loyal followers scattered to the winds.
Thirteen years later, private detective Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula
) is working an insurance fraud case in Los Angeles when he witnesses the murder of Caspar Quaid, one of the group who helped Swann bring down Nix. With his dying breath, Quaid warns that the Puritan is returning.
Shortly after Quaid's death, D'Amour is approached by Swann's wife Dorothea to investigate the killing. He takes the job, and quickly finds himself neck-deep in a battle of magic, illusions, good and evil.
This movie contains examples of:
- A God Am I: Played straight in spirit, yet subverted in letter by Nix after his return.
Nix: A man who wanted to become a god...then changed his mind.
- Almost Dead Guy: Quaid survives just long enough to warn Harry of Nix's impending resurrection
- The Antichrist:
Nix: I was not born to show people the error of their ways, I was born to murder the world.
- Blood Magic: The mask Swann and the rest use to bind Nix's powers is screwed into his skull, secured with dabs of Swann's blood.
- Body Horror: Par for the course with Barker; especially noteworthy is the whammy Nix lays on Swann showing him "flesh through a god's eyes."
- Buried Alive: Nix does this to the cultists shortly after his resurrection by turning the floor into quicksand with his powers, and then solidifying it once they're buried in it.
- Conspicuous CG: The ghostly figure that attacks Harry after Swann catches him sleeping with Dorothea.
- Distressed Damsel: Dorothea falls into this role twice - once as a teenager, and again when Butterfield uses her to draw out Swann and D'Amour.
- The Dragon: Butterfield, to Nix.
- Faking the Dead: Swann tries this after Caspar Quaid's murder, staging his death as a stage illusion gone bad.
- Fatal Method Acting: In-story, Swann is gruesomely "killed" on-stage during an escape trick.
- Film Noir: Blends the traditional elements of a noir detective story with supernatural horror.
- Film of the Book
- Hollywood Exorcism: Harry's involvement in one of these is alluded to in flashback, and the experience continues to haunt him in the early part of the story.
- Infant Immortality: Averted in a brief scene in the director's cut, where a former cultist butchers her family, including her young children (though the violence is off-screen, we see the aftermath).
- Insistent Terminology: Swann's assistant Valentin is adamant that Harry understand his boss is an illusionist - he does not perform real magic.
- Left for Dead: Swann, Quaid and the rest thought they had managed to put Nix down for good. Turns out, not so much.
- Made of Iron: Butterfield's goon, who takes repeated blows to the head, crashes through a window, falls two stories and walks away.
- Maniac Monkeys: Nix keeps a vicious pet mandrill.
- No One Could Survive That: D'Amour knocks one of Quaid's attackers through a second-story window, but the thug shakes it off and disappears before the police arrive.
- Our Liches Are Different: Nix, post-resurrection.
- Private Detective: Harry D'Amour, of the worn-down, worldly-wise sort.
- Quicksand Sucks: The freshly-resurrected Nix kills his followers by turning the ground beneath them into this trope, and waiting for them to sink fully before solidifying it. One manages to survive but is trapped from the waist down.
- Re Cut: A director's cut was released after the movie landed on home video.
- Rescue Romance: Dorothea with Swann after he rescues her from the cult, and later with Harry following the final showdown with Nix.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The binding that should have killed Nix doesn't quite do the job, but it does keep him pent up for thirteen years.
- Stage Magician: Swann rises to stardom after the cult breaks up, using the skills he learned from Nix to juice up his "illusions" and ultimately to fake his own death.
- You Have Failed Me: Nix pulls this after his return, but not on the one responsible for his earlier defeat - rather he lashes out at the slavish, sycophantic cultists.
Nix: You're not worthy...You just waited like lambs. I'm not your shepherd.