Castor’s Underrated Hallow’s Eve Gems – Rawhead Rex (1987)

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Though the adaptations are less frequent, Clive Barker’s book-to-screen translations have been much more consistently spectacular. Movies such as Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions, Candyman, Midnight Meat Train and of course, Hellraiser all range from ghoulishly copacetic to magnificently depraved. Rawhead Rex is not one of the more celebrated titles despite Barker receiving solo credit for the script and it is festooned with his bitingly wiseacre wit (“How can you be bored? This is the land of your forefathers” “Yeah and they left.”).

George Pavlou isn’t entirely deprived of rococo style. For instance, the stained-glass mosaic of Rawhead in the church is radiated by the incandescent, crimson glow of his eyes while parishioners are in the midst of worship. Much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster, Rawhead is resurrected by a chain reaction of electricity, the uprooting of a Stonehenge-like pillar and the arrival of Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes), a research photographer.

As far as the screenplay from the author is concerned, Rawhead’s rampage and the motif of vengeance for religious desecration are surprisingly broached with Barker’s signature, irreverent breadth with a few bohemian touches as well such as when Rawhead micturates on a priest as an act of baptism.

The creature design is where the detriments are for most viewers. The head mold for Rawhead would be if it were malleable yet it is vulcanized into a permanently agape expression. When Rawhead is sprinting, the performer in the suit is clearly myopic to his surroundings and his gait is cumbersome due to the platform shoes on his feet.

The fact that the story is circumnavigating around Ireland is uniquely foreign. Furthermore, the film doesn’t languish from sophomoric acting either (Dukes is an anchoring force behind the anarchy). While a minor footnote in Barker’s catalogue, Rawhead Rex’s rather addlepated appearance is only a trivial counterweight to the film’s success as a hyperliterate, rip-roaring sleeper (“Is there any connection between the murders? Yes, they’re all dead.”).

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