Posts Tagged ‘Lord of Illusion’

Lord of Illusions (1995)

October 28, 2020

I have been reading and watching things about cults a lot more lately. Cults are absolutely terrifying whether they worship Satan, Cthulhu, or just a single man. For example, the cult of NXIVM was one of psychobabble which caused each member to subvert the self in service to the founder. There was also a cult within a cult called DOS (Dominus Obsequious Sororium or Dominance Over Women) which created literal sex slaves out of women. Scientology has long been described as a cult that worships author L Ron Hubbard and dominated by David Miscavige. Of course, the above cults are dangerous but have not proven to have been directly responsible for deaths. When I was a teenager, I learned about the Heaven’s Gate cult which resulted in mass suicide of all of its members. This is similar to the Jonestown cult which similarly led to mass suicide. Then there are the actively dangerous cults like the Manson Family which gleefully murdered people in California. We tend not to hear about these cults until something bad has happened and then it is often too late.

The best example I can think of that combines stage magic with horror is, of course, Alice Cooper concerts. During his tours he would create a lot of set pieces and stunts that required hiring magicians as consultants. One of those magicians was the recent deceased James Randi, a guy I have looked up to since I was a teen. However, the connection kind of extends past that. Stage magic and horror are eternally entwined through the use of practical effects. Anytime you are presenting something in person or on film that is gruesome and especially if it looks fatal, it is basically stage magic. Haunted houses in particular have to use a lot of tricks similar to stage magic shows in order to provide advanced scares. The art of the illusion is integral to the visuals of horror and making our minds think that horrible things are happening.

The first thing I noticed was the excellent set design. In the first scene we see a twisted junkyard-like setting that really comes alive. The setting at once speaks of dark magic and cults and gangs. There are a lot of set pieces that are absolutely astonishing in their design. The special effects are pretty neat as one would expect in a movie with the word “illusion” in the title. There are some very real looking body horror effects and other digital effects that look very well-done. The movie does a really good job at making magic and horror both special and a part of everyday life. Characters know it exists but it is still something to be very wary of. The costume and character design really make people look otherworldly. There is a lot of gore from the start and it is all very well done. The movie also features a visit to the Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

The hero of the movie is Scott Bakula who is so good at playing characters who are capable of both light comedy and dark drama. In this, he is a hard-boiled private detective with an eye for the occult. Famke Janssen plays a wealthy woman caught up in a chaotic war that she never wanted but . Kevin O’Connor plays a stage magician and Janssen’s husband who just may be something more. Daniel von Bargen plays the villain, a truly monstrous cult leader and his performance is definitely unhinged. There are plenty of great character actors in the underworld that Bakula delves that definitely make for a fun ensemble cast.

Overall, I really loved this movie as a dark horror/fantasy story. It is basically a film noir story with horror and fantasy elements in it. It is a fun, dark story with an interesting mystery and bloody deaths.

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