Posts Tagged ‘Rawhead Rex’

Transmutations was written by Clive Barker, and that’s fairly surprising considering how terrible the plot is, along with the very poor characterizations of almost every single player in the film. But this is not the only time someone butchers Barker’s stories. Remember “Rawhead Rex“? Yeesh!

Mutant NinjasMutant ninjas

As introduction to what we might expect from this movie we see some sort of ninja-resembling characters running around  in hurry at night without any particular goal. Later, on a closer look, it turns out that they are just an ordinary people with duct tape tied around their heads. Urgh…bear it with me. Duct tape people then, accompanied with couple of freaks, crash in some high class orgies and from there they kidnap high class hooker Nicole (played by Nicola Cowper) who was laying in her bed dressed in curtain. Oh yeah, and they had butler beaten up. Nice start!

Sid ViciousSid Vicious as albino man-ape

When you are short of one hooker what do you do? You hire a detective. So Roy Bain (played by Larry Lamb) is called in to investigate a case of a missing hooker by rich businessman Motherskille (played by Steven Berkoff). Why him? Well we can just assume that Bain has had connections with Motherskille and Nicole in the past; the film does a particularly poor job of giving the viewer any sort of back-story towards the beginning, and after the plot has begun to meander, it really makes no difference anymore. All we know about him is that he is the usual arrogant self-employed detective cum painter, and he performs his duties with a reticence that might not really be acting at all, but instead Lamb’s hesitance to star in this movie at all. Anyway, after a bit of convincing by Motherskille, he decides to accept the case. He went to the crime scene where he talked to Madam Pepperdine (played by Ingrid Pitt) and another hooker Bianca (played by Irina Brook). Apart of Pepperdine’s teasing her butler Ricardo (played by an established actor Trevor Thomas) by saying that the only thing that got hurt was his pride (despite the fact that the poor fellow’s neck was almost broken), Bain didn’t get much information out of her. But he did find a lead – a bottle of some drug under Nicole’s pillow. When he pressed Bianca about it she told him that he should check it with Dr Savary, whom Nicole used to visit often. On his way back he meets Darling (played by Brian Croucher), a GUY who was sent by…someone…to look after him (I certainly wouldn’t want someone named Darling to watch my back) .Darling tells Bain that Motherskille and Savary are together into business with strange drug. But what kind of drug? We’ll find out soon.

He has a golden heartHe has a golden heart

After being scanned with futuristic metal detector you can see on the picture above, Bain meets with Dr Savary (played by Denholm Elliot) and confronts him about drug. Doctor didn’t let himself crack under the sarcasm and irritation Bain evokes at all times and he denied any knowledge of such substance. But Bain took an opportunity while Savary was briefly outside the office to take a look around. He finds a key and strangely shaped figurines. This is the point when viewers should start connecting some of a strings in the plot but I doubt that any of us could do such thing, given so little info about everything. Anyway, Savary is back and kicks out detective as politely as he could. Meanwhile, freaks somewhere conduct experiments on Nicole. They are giving her the same
substance Bain found at her room. Apparently, according to freak doctor Nygaard (played by Paul Brown), she is immune to dreams which drug should cause. Nicole wakes up disoriented and starts asking questions. To calm her and show they mean no harm (apart of poking and probing her), freaks, who happens to be very nice and polite, introduce themselves. Besides Nygaard there are also Oriel (played by Miranda Richardson) and Dudu (played by Paul Mari), who enjoyed sniffing her hair and is very proud of his nickname Shitface. Another freak storms in and explains that he had lost two men (men? hm) while breaking in to Savary’s office. It turns out that freaks need regular doses of drug in order to…I don’t know what. And by lost he meant it literally since one of them called Red Dog (played by Gary Olsen) was taken over by dreams and gone wild. Still no idea what kind of dreams those are. Anyway, Red Dog seems to have a crush on Bianca and gets infuriated after he finds her in Bain’s bed. Battle commences consisted of shooting, wrestling, balls grabbing and similar gay techniques followed with Bain chasing Red Dog throw the dark alley. Bain finds freak laying on the ground but to his surprise another freak shows up and drags Red Dog to sewers. Could it be some new race of C.H.U.D.? Everything is possible with script writer like this.

Clive Barker approves thisClive Barker approves this

We are now at night club watching a gay performance. Bain there finds Motherskille enjoying the show with his retarded thugs and presses him about the drug. Motherskille at first wouldn’t admit anything (he was even swearing on life of his children), but after some police brutality he had no other option than to admit he occasionally manufactures things for Savary (though, he still denies any knowledge about the drug). So back to Savary it seems. Bain sneaks into doctor’s office and finds a tape with the test subject. As it always happens to be our hero gets captured by Savary when he was about to unfold the mystery. But wait, more of clichés are incoming! While holding Bain at point of his gun, Savary decides to do what every criminal mastermind does in that situation –
reveal everything. Apparently, the drug in question is euphoric, an powerfully hallucinogenic and painkiller, which gives a feats of strength to it’s users. And like every other drug it is addictive. The only side effect is that it turns humans into mutants. Hm, didn’t see that one coming from the first moment Motherskille hired Bain… Anyway, you can’t expect that a main charracter gets killed when he is about to solve a mystery, so Bain somehow manages to trick Savary and escape his office.


Bain decides to get to the bottom of problem. He enters sewers and there he finds mutants’ secret headquarters. Just like that! And Nicole, who tells him that this is now her home and mutants are her friends (despite the fact that she is immune to the side effects). They leave him tied just to be found by one of Motherskille’s crooks, a guy who wears ridiculous sunglasses throughout the entire film. He takes a bit of his time from the mission to kill all of the freaks just to inject drug into Bain. Could this be the end of our hero detective?

A happy bunchA happy bunch

Killing a bunch of mutated freaks turned out not to be an easy task. Led by Nicole they manage to capture Savary and right when they were about to make doctor tastes his own medicine (oh how poetic), Motherskille shows up with his goons and another shooting takes a place. Obviously he wants the entire place wiped out, including mutants. Why? Well here is how I see the plot at this point: Motherskille hired Bain to find Nicole, for whom he already presumed has become a mutant. He sends someone to follow Bain. Why? Because when Bain finds Nicole that means he will also find so-called Underworld, a place where all failed experiments reside, which he seeks to destroy. And for what reason? I guess to wipe out any remaining traces that could lead to his connection with drug. Keep in mind that I am writing this using a logic since film itself doesn’t give any background story nor the explanation. Ok, now we are back to movie. While I was bringing out my thoughts, Motherskille lost his own in shooting duel with Bain. Still, the final confrontation is between Nicole and Savary , where she uses her newfound superpowers (?) to burn mannequin dressed as an evil doctor. At the very end, she announces that it is not over yet (we certainly hope it is) and walks away with the only surviving mutant Dudu, thus leaving Bain with dumb xpression on his face.


Conclusion: The script is quite bad, but it’s managed fairly well by the actors, who do the best with what they have. Fortunately, most of the actors are very good, and that means that Transmutations is at least watchable. It’s following the storyline that becomes the killer here, because it’s a horrible maze of characters switching back and forth between good and bad guys while Bain tries to tell the difference. The story is simply a mess of ideas that do very little of anything, and not even the dark wave, saxophone-riddle soundtrack can make this film any more interesting. Nicole’s role as the damsel in distress is both boring and generic. There are some other characters who are supposed to be more important, like Motherskille (how can that name not cause you to foreshadow his role as supreme villain?) and his  crooks. Transmutations even makes note of the terrible character writing by referring to one of the goons as a parrot; it’s a generous compliment. As for the mutants, at first, the viewer might question why the “monsters” of Transmutations aren’t really that scary. Sure, they growl a lot, and some have glowing eyes while others get bulbous growths on their faces, but there’s nothing about them that seems overtly threatening. See, it’s fine and good if Transmutations wants the monsters to be misunderstood. It often works for films of this nature. But not when the movie spends little time with them, and barely tries to develop them beyond their physical characteristics alone. This film wasn’t easy to find and maybe that’s a good thing, because a film this bad will die out without its lifeblood – the audience. The movie isn’t an evolution of the horror genre, but a mutant that is doomed to die off because of its fatal errors.

In 1985 then young Clive Barker published Books of Blood, six volumes of hard- hitting, splattering and traumatizing collection of horror short stories. They proved to be true game changers and waives that they created can still be felt in genre fiction ’till this day. Unfortunately that also meant bunch of movie adaptations that ranged from well made to passable genre flicks to absolute abomination of film-making. Unfortunately we will keep the attention on the latter. (It’s not easy being in the WM Crew some days)

Rawhead Rex with script and even some producing duties by Barker himself was shot on a shoestring budget in rural Ireland … with cast of shockingly primitive villagers that tried to pass as actors and some of the most god awful special effect, design that ever graced the silver screen. When the author of the short story/ script himself calls the final look of the titular monster” a 9 ft tall phallus with teeth”- you have some idea what you’re getting here.

Yep, that’s it!

Movie begins with an extremely old and ugly villager trying to knock over some sereosly monolithic looking piece of rock. Some equally old friends are there to help him but they give up after two seconds and after a bit of laugh leave him to face his trouble alone. Why he suddenly decided that he must plow the part of the field with a freakin’ giant rock in it just now we will never know.

In the meantime American Writer(?) Howard Hallenbeck searches the Ireland for obscure religious items. Heading into a rural church in hope of finding something interesting he bumps into the Vicar O’Brian who doesn’t like him very much straight of the bat. After trying to ignore him he finally gives up and sends him to the Reverand Coot who is willing to cooperate but seems to be one of those men who don’t know their head from their ass. O’Brian touches the altar and after placing a hand on it strange light appears and he seemingly looses his sanity (not that he looked like a sane man before).

Suddenly incredibly dark clouds gathers above the field and a halo of poorly animated lightnings strike the monolit and a giant rock crushes realizing the evil that
it kept hidden for centuries, the evil that is… RAWHEAD REX!

Rawhead doesn’t waste any time and starts scoring a kill-count immediately. First killing a said farmer that was guilty of awakening him and then attacking locals Dennis and Jenny in their own home. He discombobulates horrified Denis but has doubts when he discovers that Jenny is pregnant and decides to leave. Monster afraid of pregnant women- that’s a new one! Next victim is a horny teenager Andy who’s rude to his brother as he desperately tries to make out with his girlfriend. He finally leaves his young brother and despite the severe cold heads into the woods with his girl. And I think all of us watched enough horror movies as kids to know what happens to horny teenagers alone in the woods…eminent death! Well, they did make a valiant try to run away and save their lives but in the middle of the run Andy kinda… lost his head… and I mean really lost his head. Rowhead was on top of the hill with Andy’s head roaring from the overwhelming happiness. Damn!

See what I got!

Howard is settling in a lousy hotel room with his family, his small and cute daughter, son who seems disinterested in anything but comicbooks (I can understand that- I would try to ignore everything in this
shithole myself) and his incredibly ugly and sex craved wife. Thank God enough horrible stuff happens during this movie that the possibility of any horrible sex scenes with her is reduced to nothing. Looking through the window of his car he catches a glimpse of Rawhead and naturally he goes to the police. Despite the enormous number of dead bodies they ridicule him and drive him away.Than he visits the old church again but the old Coot (pun intended) explains that mysteriously all the records he asked for disappeared. He the notices strange creature in the stainglass window not unlike the one he saw and he even tries to take a picture but Vicar looses his shit and smashes his camera to bits! He bearly gets out alive. Angry and confused Howard takes his family back on the rode (which in retrospect is a smartest thing to do). Unfortunately they had to take a break rather soon because his daughter had to pee- and that proved fatal! Howard and wife leave her in the bushes for just a second but she starts screaming, they rush to her but in doing so they leave their son alone in the car. Rawhead uses this opportunity to kill the poor kid and then drag his body into the woods. Ok, this was unexpected I give you that, I mean kids never die in horror movies right?

    Rest in peace… you had a fine choice of comics you poor little thing

Coot has a heated argument with Haward about the nature of evil that is Rawhead but he heedes some advice and starts looking into things. Finally! He touches the altar but  successfully refuses the strange visions in red. Then he goes out searching for Vicar, ends up in the seemingly abandoned basement and shockingly finds the missing documents. But that’s not all. He witnesses the scene you never think you’ll witness in your lifetime- the freakishly tall monster baptizing the Vicar in his evil ways by PISSING ON HIS FREAKIN’ CHEST… and Vicar seems really into it. This is seriously disturbed! And incredibly funny at the same time…

I am not sure I like this religion

Vicar tries to have Coot “baptized” by Rawhead Rex too but he doesn’t seem to be into that sort of thing, monster piss and all. He runs back at the church and surprisingly discovers that Rawhead is unable to fallow him. Instead he sand the crazed vicar and after him. Coot confronts him and starts going at the monster with crucifixion while vicar laughs hysterically. Unfortunately for Coot it turns out that Rawhead has no fear of crucifixion or hollow ground being the pre-Christ diety, instead the key for destroying him was buried in the altar all along- somehow completely unnoticed all this time!

Rawhead crushes the crucifix, and then crushes the poor Reverand too. He also does that in front of the newly arrived police- he may be old but he still has a flair for dramatics. You would think that he would end up in the halo of bullets right that moment but ovbiasly police is incapable as it gets (+ Rawhead had help from inside, it seems he’ve been busy pissing on people these days, when he wasn’t murdering them of course).

With his dying breath Coot tells our hero Howard that monster is afraid of something in the altar and he hurries to find it before his arch-nemesis Vicar does.Two of them get into the fight but Howard somehow manages to push him away and after opening the alter red light and smoke effects appear. Mysterious object is finally found! Vicar rushes to Rawhead trying to warn him and finds him in the local graveyard but he is displeased with his performance and O’Brien get mauled. Howard comes with a mysterious object not unlike Venus of Willendorf  high in his hands and for a moment it seems that his plan is working but Rawhead gets even more mad and start throwing him around. Stone venera slips away from him and it seems that finally the evil has won!

“Fat naked lady! AAAAAAAA!”

But NO! Howard’s incredibly ugly wife appears, takes the statue and then it’s true power gets unleashed- you see, Rawhead is afraid of some fertility goddess of all thing!!!
And only a woman can wield that kind of power. Ridiculous shiny effect fill the screen and no matter how hard he tries they drain him of his live energies and bury him… Once again the world is safe.

Or is it? The trailer park boy places flowers on the grave of on Andy, his brother. As he walks away, Rawhead suddenly emerges out of nowhere and roars like and idiot. The End.

Verdict: It’s incredibly fascinating that the author like Clive Barker even in the beginning of his career would try so hard to get something of the ground and so gloriosly fail. Hopefully we will see a new, impoved adaptation of his story but in the meantime we can enjoy what he calls “a 9 ft tall phallus with teeth”- ’cause you really don’t see those very often, do you?

…if you (like us) have a sudden urge to yell RAWHEAD!

PS Trivia: Clive Barker himself wore the Rawhead Rex costume in most of the scenes, that’s like adding an insult to the injury.