31 Monsters in 31 Days: Rawhead Rex

A mixed bag, this one. Scripted by Clive Barker (as an adaptation of his story of the same name) and directed by George Pavlou, RAWHEAD REX is a frustrating example of mismanaged storytelling; for everything this 1986 film does right it screws up twice as much.

Several of Barker’s more daring, borderline sacrilegious elements are carried over from their original source material, but Pavlou ignores them in favor of a standard cliched creature feature. There are a couple of standout sequences to be had–the awakening of Rex, for one, and the early scene in which he attacks an isolated farmhouse manages to be quite nerve-rattling–but these moments are rare; Pavlou seems to have more fun staging dunderheaded attack scenes, like Rawhead’s assault on a mobile home park, peppered with exaggerated pyrotechnics and gratuitous nudity (seriously, there’s a topless shot in this film so far from left field it’d embarrass Russ Meyer).

But one thing RAWHEAD REX does get right is its monster, a hulking beast of demonic strength and ferocity. He’s quite a sight to behold–that is, in the shots when he doesn’t resemble a dead-eyed, barely articulate puppet head.

The Irish locales are rather evocative and the cast (headed by the late David Dukes) does what it can; and even if the pace is somewhat languid and the action sometimes stupid, at least the filmmakers don’t back out when it comes to killing off child characters. They do, however, happily succumb to the dreaded “Thank God, he’s finally dead–oh no, he isn’t!” ending that marred many an ’80s horror film.

But perhaps the best thing about RAWHEAD REX is that Barker was so dissatisfied with Pavlou’s handling of his material (Pavlou also directed Barker’s little-loved UNDERWORLD, aka TRANSMUTATIONS) that he decided to make the next one himself, resulting in the following year’s HELLRAISER.

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