Combustible Celluloid
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With: David Dukes, Kelly Piper, Hugh O'Conor, Cora Venus Lunny, Ronan Wilmot, Niall Toibin, Niall O'Brien, Heinrich von Schellendorf, Donal McCann, Eleanor Feely, Gladys Sheehan, Madelyn Erskine, Gerry Walsh, Noel O'Donovan, John Olohan
Written by: Clive Barker
Directed by: George Pavlou
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 89
Date: 10/26/2017

Rawhead Rex (1986)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Beast with the Least

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the 1980s, Clive Barker changed the world of horror with the release of his masterful short story collections the Books of Blood. But the first movie based on one of those stories, Rawhead Rex (1986), didn't change anything. Although Barker himself is credited with the screenplay, he has distanced himself from the finished film and I can't blame him much. The original story is incredible, but actually showing the monster — a big guy in a suit with moving latex parts — onscreen was a mistake. The monster's monstrous inner thoughts from the story are reduced to eye-rolling in the film.

Even worse, the movie introduces the monster's victims just a minute or two before he actually attacks, so we have no chance to get to know, or care, about anyone. The main character is American Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes), who has dragged his family to Ireland so he can research religious artifacts. At the same time, a farmer unwittingly releases the beast from its century-old prison after removing a stone from an unplowed field. After much rampaging, Howard finds the beast's weakness. Director George Pavlou brings a chilly, ruddy look to the movie, and it at least feels like Ireland. It's gritty and smart in places, but it could have been much better. Colin Towns provides a strong musical score, in any case.

Kino Lorber released the movie on Blu-ray and their transfer is above reproach (and the box cover is great!). There are a ton of extras, including trailers, a director's commentary track, and several interviews, including one with comic book artist Stephen R. Bissette, who drew my all-time favorite comic, Alan Moore's Saga of the Swamp Thing, back in the 1980s; Bissette worked on an aborted Rawhead Rex graphic novel, and he discusses that here. Barker himself does not appear in the extras.

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