Thursday, October 13, 2022

#2,836. Rawhead Rex (1986) - Spotlight on England


Clive Barker, who wrote the screenplay for 1986’s Rawhead Rex, is not a fan of the movie. “Adaptations like Rawhead Rex were deeply disappointing”, he told Fangoria magazine back in 1992, “because the filmmakers didn't give a shit about the story's underlying psychology - they just wanted to make a monster movie."

To be sure, the veiled themes of sexuality that Barker intended were either glossed over or dropped completely, but as a straight-up “monster movie”, I think Rawhead Rex is exceptionally strong.

While researching his newest book on ancient cultures, writer Howard Hollenbeck (David Dukes) and his family, including wife Elaine (Kelly Piper) and their two young children, spend some time in a small Irish village, where Hollenbeck believes the local church sits on what was once, during the pre-roman era, hallowed ground.

His arrival coincides with the reappearance of a primeval creature, an evil entity that slaughters every man in encounters. When their paths cross, a tragedy occurs, leaving Hollenbeck determined to seek out and destroy this monster – known to the locals as Rawhead Rex – before it has a chance to kill again.

Directed by George Pavlou, Rawhead Rex is a bit confusing at times; without Barker’s intended sexuality (he saw the monster as a large phallic symbol, saying “Basically, I wrote a story about a ten-foot prick which goes on the rampage”), we have no idea why the creature attacks only men, and shrinks away from women (these undertones are implied, but not very clearly), and the final scene, though effective, is downright baffling as a result. Also, the creature itself isn’t the most impressive (played by Heinrich von Schellendorf, it looks every bit like a guy in a suit).

Still, Rawhead Rex features a handful of well-shot attack scenes, occasionally shown in their entirety from the monster’s perspective, and the blood and gore is pretty darn convincing for a low-budget creature feature. I also found the religious subtext quite interesting; Hollenbeck occasionally confers with Reverend Coot, played by Niall Toibin, and faces off against Coot’s subordinate Declan O’Brien (Ronan Wilmott), who has fallen under the monster’s spell (the church’s stained-glass window also helps Hollenbeck decipher what Rawhead Rex is, and where he came from).

Rawhead Rex may not be the best Clive Barker adaptation ever committed to film, but it’s a fun horror movie nonetheless, and I had a good time watching it.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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