Monday, 26 March 2018

Review #1,318: 'Rawhead Rex' (1986)

As well as delivering some of the shoddiest straight-to-video horror efforts ever made, the 1980s were also notorious for making stars of the real brains behind most projects - the writers. Popular authors such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz saw their names frequently advertised above the movie's title, used as the main selling point over any actors attached or the director in charge of the adaptation. One of the biggest names to emerge in the decade was Clive Barker, whose pull-no-punches approach and love of the stomach-churning side of sexuality provided a racier alternative to the milder King and Koontz. He would really make his mark in 1987 with his directorial debut Hellraiser, but before that came Rawhead Rex, adapted from a short story from Volume 3 of his Books of Blood series.

Just why Barker seemed so intent on bringing Hellraiser to the big screen himself is made perfectly clear after watching Rawhead Rex, a cheap, schlocky monster movie which Barker himself wrote the screenplay for, but quickly disowned after seeing the final product. Set in Ireland, Rawhead follows American Howard Hallenback (David Dukes), who drags his whole family to the cold, wet countryside in a bid to discover his roots and research sites that may be of religious and historical significance. But little does he know that nearby, a farmer has moved a sacred stone and unleashed the snarling demon Rawhead Rex upon the world. The peculiar priest Declan O'Brien (Ronan Wilmot) starts to act even more bizarrely when he encounters a strange vision after laying his hand on the church altar. Soon enough, mutilated bodies are being unearthed and citizens are vanishing, and with the police seemingly clueless, it's left to Howard to uncover the truth and send the monster back where it came from.

Directed by George Pavlou, Rawhead Rex is a terrible movie, losing points on everything from the camerawork to the acting (although Dukes actually isn't bad). The monster itself looks like hastily clumped-together paper mache school project, with a permanent open-mouthed expression unable to disguise the clear signs that the actor inside is struggling to see where they're going. It's offensive to the Irish, and just about anybody else with reasonable taste in cinema. Still, like many horror movies from the 1980s that receiving a pounding from the critics before gathering dust in the local video store, this is tons of fun for anybody with a weakness for tongue-in-cheek trash. It has a sense of humour, and certainly isn't afraid to have the most helpless of victims be dragged away by the rabid beast when you really expect them to turn up alive. Barker was understandably embarrassed but this certainly doesn't damage his reputation, and is enough to tide us over until Barker hopefully gets around to his long-planned remake.

Directed by: George Pavlou
Starring: David Dukes, Kelly Piper, Hugh O'Conor, Ronan Wilmot, Niall Toibin
Country: UK/Ireland/USA

Rating: ***

Tom Gillespie

Rawhead Rex (1986) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...