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Rawhead Rex

Rawhead Rex (1986) Movie Poster
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  •  Ireland / UK / USA  •    •  89m  •    •  Directed by: George Pavlou.  •  Starring: David Dukes, Kelly Piper, Hugh O'Conor, Cora Venus Lunny, Ronan Wilmot, Niall Toibin, Niall O'Brien, Heinrich von Schellendorf, Donal McCann, Eleanor Feely, Gladys Sheehan, Madelyn Erskine, Gerry Walsh.  •  Music by: Colin Towns.
       A humble Irish farmer decides that it is high time to move that big old stone in his field that has been there seemingly since the dawn of time. This gory horror film, an adaptation from one of noted British-author Clive Barker's short stories, follows what happens next. No sooner does he move the rock when out rushes an enormous, blood-thirsty pagan demon, Rawhead Rex, who immediately goes berserk and begins biting people left and right. Among the bitten is the son of an American professor of history and anthropology. His father immediately begins researching the angry old god and plotting his demise.

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Review:

Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Image from: Rawhead Rex (1986)
In a quiet town in contemporary Ireland, an ancient pagan monster dating back to pre-Christian times, and known as Rawhead Rex, is unleashed from the burial site where he was contained. He proceeds to kill at random, striking at country homes and trailer parks. An American writer doing research on ancient religious sites becomes involved in taking down Rawhead after the monster kills his own son.

Generally speaking, the acting is decent in the film, and the setting of the simple Irish town is well realized. The music, composed by Colin Towns, is awesome. As for the overall delivery of the story, well...like a lot of horror movies, it's a cool premise, and the story has potential, but a lot of problems end up marring the experience.

Part of the problem is the use of the monster. Rex is pretty much exposed in his full form just about seven minutes into the movie - no build up to the exposure, no suspense about this mysterious thing in the dark, nothing. He pops out of the ground, lifting up his arms and crying out right in front of the camera...and it's not scary. In fact, he looks like a professional wrestler making his entrance. I seriously expected John Cena's theme music to start playing in that scene. It's like taking out the build up of a joke and cutting straight to the punchline; there's something lost in the process.

Another problem is how the monster looks. For one, the reason he's called "Rawhead" in the original story is because his head looked like raw meat. The monster in the film, by contrast, looks like an orc from some fantasy movie. I can see why Clive Barker later said he was unhappy by how the monster came across in the movie. For another, the costume looks like something designed for quick close ups or mid shots, rather than prolonged long shorts or action scenes. In some sequences (such as when Rawhead attacks the little boy, or when Rawhead slashes about in the church), it comes across way too obvious that it's a guy in a suit, given how little Rawhead's face moves aside from his mouth.

Perhaps one surprising fault was all the clichés or tropes in this movie. You have the lovers out kissing who encounter the monster. You have the police who are annoyingly dense and hostile to the hero's common sense. You have a girl who gets her clothes ripped off by Rawhead for no discernible reason other than we need those bare breasts. And of course, the ending gives you the typical monster cliché of "OH HEY THE MONSTER'S NOT REALLY DEAD! DERPY DOO!" There's absolutely no purpose to the latter - it's like someone said, "Hey! We need to put that in there! Because if a horror movie needs anything, it's an overused jump scare at the end!" All these clichés were especially shocking for me because one of Clive Barker's other films, "Hellraiser," is one of my favorite horror movies precisely because it's so original and unique.

It also doesn't help that a lot of things explained in the original story aren't really explained here, or it adds things that aren't satisfactorily explained. Why does Declan automatically join Rawhead? Never explained. What's the deal with Rawhead urinating on people? Never explained. Why is Rawhead so afraid of pregnant woman, and what's the backstory of the special idol that can defeat Rawhead? Never fleshed out. Why is he called "Rawhead Rex" when they establish that he existed before the Roman Empire, and hence the Irish use of Latin ("rex" is Latin for "king") wouldn't have been utilized? Why does NO ONE at the Roman Catholic church know about the story of Rawhead and what lies in the altar, when most Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches out there openly claim to have the pinky finger of some saint from 2000 years ago? Never explained. At some points in this movie I imagined Clive Barker sitting next to me saying, "Yeah, uh...just go with it for now." I've heard Barker and others have thought of remaking this film. I say go for it! It's a cool story, and there's a lot of potential that could probably be realized in a refined second take.


Review by Machiavelli84 from the Internet Movie Database.