Lord of Illusions

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Lord of Illusions
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Clive Barker
Produced by Clive Barker
Steve Golin
Joanne Sellar
Sigurjón Sighvatsson
Screenplay by Clive Barker
Based on The Last Illusion 
by Clive Barker
Starring Scott Bakula
Kevin J. O'Connor
Famke Janssen
J. Trevor Edmond
Daniel von Bargen
Joseph Latimore
Music by Simon Boswell
Cinematography Ronn Schmidt
Edited by Alan Baumgarten
United Artists
Seraphim Films
Distributed by MGM/UA Distribution Company
Release dates
August 25, 1995
Running time
109 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $13,249,614 (Domestic)[1]

Lord of Illusions is a 1995 American horror film written and directed by Clive Barker, based on his earlier short story, The Last Illusion (from Books of Blood Vol. 6). The film presents Barker's signature character Harry D'Amour onscreen for the first time. It stars Scott Bakula as D'Amour, alongside Kevin J. O'Connor, Famke Janssen and Daniel von Bargen.

Barker asserts that the director's cut of this film is his definitive version, as the theatrical release does not represent his true vision.[2]


In the Mojave Desert in 1982, a man named Nix (von Bargen) has gathered a cult in an isolated house. Nix calls himself "The Puritan" and has the ability to use real magic. He plans to sacrifice a young girl that he has kidnapped. While Nix is preaching to his followers, a group of former cult members –Swann (O'Connor), Pimm (Traylor), Quaid (Latimore) and Jennifer Desiderio (Tousey)– arrive to stop him. After the initial confrontation with the cultists, Nix's assistant Butterfield escapes and Swann is attacked by Nix. Nix uses his powers, inducing in Swann the vision of “Flesh with a God's Eyes", causing him see his friends as monstrous figures. The kidnapped girl shoots Nix through the heart with Swann's gun. Quaid and Jennifer shoot him until he falls. Swann snaps out of his vision and fastens an ironwork mask over Nix's head, who appears to die. Swann declares that they will bury Nix so deep that no one will ever find him.

Thirteen years later, New York City private detective Harry D'Amour (Bakula) is investigating an insurance fraud case in Los Angeles. D'Amour has a long-standing interest in the occult, and has some renown from his involvement with a recent exorcism. During the investigation, D'Amour discovers a fortune teller shop owned by Quaid, where he is relentlessly attacked by a skinhead with unusual strength. After finally killing his attacker, D'Amour finds Quaid suffering from multiple stab wounds. As he dies, Quaid warns D'Amour that “The Puritan” is coming. D'Amour reports the incident to the police, but they can't find the bald man's body.

Swann, now a famous stage illusionist, lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with his wife, Dorothea (Janssen). Swann informs Dorothea that Nix's followers have murdered Quaid. Dorothea suggests they hire D'Amour to investigate the murder. Swann's assistant, Valentin (Swetow), collects D'Amour, informing D'Amour that Swann is a performer, not a "real" magician. They attend Quaid's funeral, where D'Amour is introduced to Dorothea. D'Amour agrees to work for her and she invites him to Swann's magic show. Butterfield and the bald man are in the audience. Swann performs a new death-defying illusion, but it goes wrong and he is killed on stage. D'Amour investigates the accident backstage, and is attacked by Butterfield and the bald man. D'Amour impales the bald man on a prop.

D'Amour goes to The Magic Castle, where he meets Billy Inferno, another illusionist. Inferno has heard of Nix described as a legend, but he believes that Nix taught Swann to use real magic. D'Amour questions Dorothea, but she denies ever having heard the name "Nix". D'Amour learns that Jennifer Desiderio is now institutionalized. D'Amour visits her and sees that she is irrevocably insane. When he mentions Swann, she becomes violently agitated and screams warnings about Nix and "The Puritan". Jennifer flees into the street, where she is hit and killed by a car. D'Amour enlists Inferno's help to get into The Repository, a special room in the Castle that supposedly contains every magic secret known to man. After perusing the books there, D'Amour learns more about Nix and confirms that Swann's "illusions" involved real magic.

D'Amour questions Dorothea again. She reveals that she was the girl that Nix kidnapped, and that she married Swann because she felt she owed her life to him. Dorothea and D'Amour make love. Afterwards he is attacked by a man engulfed in fire. D'Amour suspects that the attack was Swann's attempt at revenge, so he opens his coffin and finds that the body inside is fake. Valentin explains that he helped Swann fake his death. D'Amour agrees to allow Valentin and Dorothea's ruse to continue. D'Amour spots Swann in disguise at his own funeral and follows him. Swann, who knows about their tryst, attacks D'Amour again with magic. D'Amour convinces Swann to help him put an end to Nix's cult.

Butterfield attacks Valentin and kidnaps Dorothea. Butterfield uses Dorothea as a hostage to force Valentin to recover Nix's body. Butterfield stabs Valentin and takes the corpse back to the old house in the desert. There, a new group of cultists are gathered to bring about Nix's resurrection. Butterfield removes the iron mask and Nix regains consciousness. Swann and D'Amour, acting on information given by the dying Valentin, arrive. Butterfield attacks D'Amour. Swann attacks Butterfield and tells D'Amour to rescue Dorothea. Nix, instructing his followers to prepare to receive his wisdom, opens a hole in the ground beneath him and Dorothea and turns the earth to quick sand that swallows the cultists. He declares that only Swann is worthy of receiving his knowledge.

D'Amour finds Nix and Dorothea just as Nix is dropping her into the hole. D'Amour rescues Dorothea. As they flee, D'Amour and Dorothea are attacked by Butterfield, whom D'Amour kills. Swann agrees to act as Nix's disciple in an effort to stall for time. Nix sees through the ruse and attacks Swann with magic. Nix invokes "Flesh with a God's Eyes" on D'Amour. Dorothea shakes him back to consciousness. She finds D'Amour's gun and shoots Nix in the head. Nix uses his powers to fling Dorothea aside, and then begins to transform into a hideous creature. Swann uses magic to help D'Amour deliver a final blow to Nix. Nix is distracted and falls into the hole, now filled with lava. Dorothea holds Swann in her arms, as he succumbs to his injuries. D'Amour sees that Nix, hideously injured but alive, is summoning a whirlwind, which ends up sealing the hole. Dorothea and D'Amour escape the house and walk into the desert.



Barker attempted to resurrect the film noir style, merging it with contemporary horror so as to make a film with a fresh feel to it.[3] One of the elements used for this was the music; for example, the song played as the credits roll is a rendition of the classic Dancing in the Dark, performed by Diamanda Galás.[clarification needed]

Cult leader Nix is explicitly compared to cult leader Charles Manson in the film. Like Manson and his family, Nix and his followers believe he has the power to return from the dead. Both Manson and Nix have followers who live in an unpleasant place out in the desert and cut off their hair at their leader's request.[original research?]

Critical reception[edit]

Lord of Illusions received mostly positive reviews, with an approval rating of 62% at Rotten Tomatoes.[4] Allmovie was critical of the film, writing that it "starts off strong with an intriguing premise, but then goes quickly nowhere".[5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Front Line Assembly uses samples from the movie on their album [FLA]vour of the Weak on the tracks Autoerotic, Colombian Necktie and Life=Leben as well as on the single Colombian Necktie on Colombian Necktie (GOArge Mix).[6]
  • Front Line Assembly side-project, Noise Unit, uses samples from the film on their album Drill on a number of tracks: The Drain, Dominator, Miracle, Eye Burner.[7]
  • Heavy metal band Nevermore uses word samples from the movie in two tracks from their album Dreaming Neon Black.
  • Speedcore artist Lord Lloigor uses dialog samples from the movie in his track Ray Of Darkness.
  • Magician Criss Angel demonstrated the falling swords scene in an episode of Criss Angel BeLIEve.


  1. ^ Lord of Illusions, Box Office Data at The Numbers
  2. ^ Clive Barker, Lord of Illusions
  3. ^ Clive Barker, ibid.
  4. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lord_of_illusions
  5. ^ Karl Williams. "Lord of Illusions (1995)". Allmovie. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "mindphaser.com Samples". Retrieved September 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Mindphaser 3.0 Noise Unit Samples". [dead link]

External links[edit]