In the meantime, can I get you a cup of tea?
Why don’t you go fuck yourself!
From the pen of famed horror scribe Clive Barker. When one thinks of film adaptations based on Barker’s works, titles such as Hellraiser, Candyman, Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions usually spring to mind. Few, however, think of Rawhead Rex, a completely ludicrous yet thoroughly entertaining cheapo of a film that predated the famed Cenobites by one year.
With a screenplay penned by Barker himself and based on his short story of the same name, Rawhead Rex tells the tale of American writer Howard Hallenbeck who takes his family to the small town of Rathmorne, Ireland. Howard is working on a book about something vague and wishes to photograph one of the ancient churches in the area, which is under the auspices of Reverend Coot and his assistant Declan O’Brien.
As Hallenbeck is receiving a decidedly inhospitable welcome from O’Brien, a local farmer is attempting to remove an ancient stone from his land. Unfortunately, a storm is a-brewin’ and the stone is struck by lightning just as it’s unearthed. What emerges is one of the most ridiculous, cheap looking creatures this side of Toho. With his pig-like face, mulleted mane, fanged incisors and bulging, glowing red eyes, the eponymous monster looks like a gigantic version of one of the goblins from Troll 2 crossed with a member of GWAR.
Rawhead Rex is some sort of ancient Pagan beast who has a bit of an anger problem. As soon as he’s unearthed, he immediately begins a murderous rampage throughout the town, killing and decapitating the townsfolk as well as poor Hallenback’s young son. The beast also possesses O’Brien who becomes the foul-mouthed Renfield to Rawhead Rex’s Dracula.
Rawhead Rex is all sorts of bonkers. The creature design is among the corniest we’ve encountered, which serves to completely nullify any sense of terror and puts the film squarely into high camp territory. And yet, there is much to love about this mangy flick. For starters, there is the scene where Rex pulls a female victim out of a trailer (or caravan as it’s referred to in Ireland) and also right out of her top. Or how about the ridiculous Rex atop a mountain holding a victim’s severed head aloft while howling at the moon.
In addition, we have multiple people running around ablaze, Reverend Coot being held overhead as if Rex is going to deliver a backbreaker before changing his mind and tossing the clergyman like a lawn dart, and a possessed priest cursing like a drunken sailor on shore leave. And yet, nothing, and we do mean nothing, can prepare one for the scene where O’Brien prostrates himself before Rex and the Neolithic beast urinates on him.
Despite, or maybe because of the lunacy, Rawhead Rex has a certain undeniable charm. Barker fans probably loathe it, but aficionados of cheap monsters and gonzo movies will adore it.
*** (out of five)