Rawhead Rex: A sort of tribute

Have you ever found anything under a stone? A bug? A woodlouse? What about a seven foot cross-eyed demon with a mullet?

Rawhead Rex is a 1987 monster movie with a difference, it is rubbish.

Based on a short story by Clive Barker which originally appeared in Volume 3 of his Books of Blood series. It features a monstrous pagan god’s bloody rampage through the Irish countryside. While the book had Rawhead as a demonic scary vision of evil, the filmmakers obviously had a different opinion and had Rawhead down as a pissed off Metallica fan circa 1987.

Just act scared, ok?

The film begins in Ireland with American author Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes) driving around a small town to photograph and research items of religious significance for a book he is writing. Across town, three farmers are trying to shift a giant stone that is stuck in the middle of a field. The farmers are having no luck with the stone and after many attempts two get fed up and leave as the stone is seemingly impossible to move. One farmer does not give up as easily as his companions, he still tries as hard as he can to rid his field of this stone. It begins to budge slightly and the farmer looks pleased with his efforts. Suddenly without warning the stone is struck by lightning and falls over. Out of the pit stands RAWHEAD REX, looking like a bad bastard with razor sharp teeth, claws, crossed eyes, seven foot tall (if he’s a day) and proceeds to eat the farmer and raw alot. This is the film in a nut shell, Rex raws and eats people while in the background Hallenbeck, while researching his stained glass windows, uncovers the details of what Rex is and where he came from. Meanwhile Rex carries on attacking caravan parks and farmers, not that there isn’t more to Ireland than this.

There are some genuine jumps and scares contained in this film (well, one), the trouble is they go hand in hand with genuine funny moments that I am sure were in no way intentional, however, if you have a giant monster urinating on a priest while the priest squawks in delectation over and over, you cant help but laugh. I suppose it doesn’t help having seen Father Ted since this film, as every instance of someone swearing just makes me think the creature is on the loose on Craggy Island.

The creature itself was a real mistake. The design of it is actually laughable. Had it not have been for the height of the man in the suit (Heinrich von Schellendorf) then you can only imagine just how more laughable it would have looked if it was Ronnie Corbett inside. It just looks awkward and unwieldy and I refuse to believe that this creature once ruled Ireland. It doesn’t look like it could rule a small room without falling over.

The acting is not exactly top notch either, David Dukes is obviously the only American they could afford to bring to Ireland. Consequently, his children are obviously Irish actors pretending to be American which grates every time you hear them speak. The mad verger in the film (Ronan Wilmot) is a performance to savour however as he is bat shit mad in every scene and that is genuinely worth watching if only to study for future generations.

As a monster on the loose film it is sadly lacking also, you quickly form the opinion that Rex is just bored and looking to cause trouble rather than having any kind of demonic agenda. It wouldn’t be a surprise to have a scene of Rex kicking over dustbins or smashing up phone boxes. A better example would be the sadly under looked Stan Winston directed 1988 classic Pumpkinhead (AKA Vengeance the Demon).

As a horror film, it is a bit of a slasher film without much thought or care. I am sure Clive Barker (who also wrote the screenplay) did not intend it to turn out this way. If you read the original story from the Books of Blood (or track down the excellent graphic novel) you would be pleasantly surprised by how good it is and just how bad a misfire this film really is.

In its defence, the film was just trying to compete with what was happening at the time. Slasher movies were big bucks and monster movies were too. Combine both and you would have a sure fit hit right? Well no. But they had a try at least. To give the film some kudos, it does catch you out as quite a few attacks happen in broad daylight, which is something you wouldn’t find in most other horror films.

In conclusion you would have to say that Rawhead Rex fits neatly into the “so bad it’s good” category. It is always a good laugh to watch and has some stand out performances from…actually, no it doesn’t.

But we have a lot to thank for this film. If not for Rawhead Rex, we would never have had Hellraiser. Barker himself said in 1992, “By that time, in my innocence, I had actually signed five of my stories to them. So I went on, in hope that things would get better, to script for them an adaptation of one of my favourite stories, a story called Rawhead Rex – which is essentially about a nine-foot phallus on the loose! And they locked me off the set. They wouldn’t let me anywhere near it. And, again, the movie is horrible.

“I was sort of starry eyed about the whole thing. I think people are starry eyed, I think writers get starry eyed about the movies with horrible frequency, painful, tragic frequency, and I thought, ‘This is it, I’ll have great fun’ and so on and, of course, all the classic things that happen to writers when they first encounter the movies happened. Because of both of those experiences I decided that there was no way forward as a screenwriter. I had to make movies for myself if I was going to do it and it was as a direct consequence of those movies that I made Hellraiser.”

So without Rawhead Rex, you would not have Hellraiser, sometimes you have to experience the rain before you get the rainbow I suppose.

Originally posted 2012-10-23 19:50:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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