Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Rawhead Rex (1986)
Anonymous Irish farmer uproots an ancient engraved pillar from his property (where is the local historical preservation society when you need them?) unleashing a buried demon hell bent on slashing its way through anyone it may cross paths with. One might imagine that somebody in this quaint little burg would have noticed the stained glass image of a strikingly similar pillar trapping the demon beneath it, as this is readily displayed in the church and would have likely helped to avoid this situation altogether, but it was not to be. Meanwhile, a historian has come to town with family in tow to research the origins of cult practices in the area and is now called upon to write himself into his own story to stop the monster.
While not all that familiar with the fiction of Clive Barker, I have the distinct feeling that nowhere in his notes on Rawhead Rex did he suggest that the creature resemble a mutated Teddy Ruxpin. Hell, with big, dead eyes and a permanently goofy scowl on my face, I might go around clawing a few peasants myself. Perhaps Rex was the basis for the old wive's tale about children getting their faces stuck while acting out, but I am fairly certain that pre-dates 1986. Whatever the reason may be, the Rex-sized embarrassment that is the costume design in this film pretty well kills any shot of genuine tension. There is nothing intentionally funny about Rawhead Rex. I would not be quite so hard on the film if it was not clearly taking itself so seriously. Rawhead Rex is supposed to have you peeking out from between your fingers gripped to your face in terror, but the creature is so ineptly and cheaply produced that every scene with it is instantly laughable. The low budget wonders that get it right know that you have to put what little money there is into your monster and/or the gore and/or convincing a lass to peel off her scivvies, as all else can (and usually will) be forgiven. Of course, it was but a year later that Hellraiser proved how effective and gruesome a budget-conscious film could be so I would guess Clive got over this one quickly.
As well, the story is severely lacking as there is no attempt, at least which made the final cut, of mythologizing Rawhead Rex. We learn that he terrorized the area a few hundred years prior before being felled by some sort of talisman that drains its powers and apparently leaves Rex susceptible to being pushed into holes. But where does he come from? Were there others? What gives the talisman its power over Rex? Still, our hero really learned nothing from what little he did gather anyhow as Rex is again buried alive but in considerably looser digs than the first time with no towering stone atop his grave. It should come as no surprise as to who pops up out of the ground in the last reel. Unfortunately for Rex, it was not meant to be as no one cared enough to produce a sequel which may just be the only good way to vanquish a monster of its kind.
Is Rex taking style tips from the Crite hunters?