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SEPTEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : RAWHEAD REX
From x-entertainment.com

Rawhead Rex came and went without a sound in 1986, which was probably a good thing for Clive Barker's career. He handled the screenplay for this beast, and has since been quoted for his disappointment with how the project turned out. You can kind of see glimpses of what this flick could've been, but it's all lost in massive piles of misdirection and really bad acting. I'm willing to forgive the creature effects, since there's only so much you can do with a shoestring budget and a bucket of brown latex. Rawhead Rex plays out like a tenth grader's first try, desperately trying to fill out 90 minutes. Terrible acting aside, it's the story itself that throws this one into the river.

Yeah, that's Rawhead. For all intents, he's supposed to be the biblical Devil. I've always hated when movies use that gimmick, because in my view, making a 'Devil' character anything less than invincible seems pointless and totally off. Satan shouldn't be defeated by getting smacked in the face with plywood or shot with bullets, and while Rawhead Rex doesn't go that far, the creature's powers are nowhere near as insurmountable as his terrified victims would suggest. He's essentially a humanoid dinosaur who runs around eating people -- if they wanted to add a religious edge to this, they could've at least given Rawhead a crimson cape.

The film was based on a short story, and boy will you ever be able to tell. I'm assuming they translated the ten minutes worth of film from the written tale word-for-word, deciding to fill out the rest of the film (and there was a lot to fill out) with plodding, asinine conversations that creeped me out way more than that big ape in the above picture. By the way, just so you know what we're in for -- his eyes glow red and gyrate soulfully, allowing him to hypnotize and persuade certain inedible people into setting themselves on fire while screaming 'FOR YOU, FOR YOU!' And man, that ain't even the tip of the iceberg. When Satan walks on Earth, scary and shitty things happen. Let's examine...

Well, at least they didn't waste any time in bringing Rex to the fold. The movie's many minutes would've felt a lot longer if we had to wait half an hour for Rex to eat someone. As the story goes, the monster was buried deep underground centuries upon centuries ago, and through the misguided landscaping of some generic schmo, HE'S FREE! Rex's victory leap from down below is something to behold -- had he been holding pompoms, I'd certainly give him an 'R.' In a nearby and very old church, Rex's likeness is represented on one of the stained glass vanities. To make sure the audience understands this to be an important plot point, the window caricature's glass eye shines an ominous red beam. Gah.

Rex immediately begins his bloodthirsty rampage, which doesn't seem to follow any set method -- he just walks around picking out his next victims at random. You'd think Satan would have a larger cause, but then, you'd also think Satan wouldn't travel in a dyed-black jumpsuit cut up to look more Hellish. Effectswise, I honestly didn't think Rex was all that terrible -- an opinion I don't share with most who've reviewed this movie. To me, he looked like a combination of Predator and something out of Aliens, and had they not muffed it up with biker gloves and stupid eyes, it'd only be around 2,000 dollars off from looking halfway passable. Sadly, that's the best testimonial I could conjure up for Rawhead Rex.

 

The main human character is 'Howard Hallenback,' some kind of historian who's brought his family to this small town to complete his religious-themed studies. While visiting the church to photograph its holy windows, Howard meets O'Brien, the verger. (at least, I'm pretty sure he's named O'Brien, who cares) Now lemme tell you about this verger -- guy's a freak. Having sensed and seen the work of Rex, O'Brien casually switched allegiances and became a full-blown card-carrying Satanist, ready and willing to fulfill his evil master's wishes. In the most glorious scene of the film, Rex 'baptizes' O'Brien by pulling out his alien schlong and pissing all over his chest. Of all the things - and I do mean all the things I would've expected from Rawhead Rex, a golden shower wasn't even in the Top 50,000. I was a little worried that O'Brien would assume the role as star villain for the brunt of the film, with Rex taking a back-seat till the final moments. Luckily, the idiot resigns himself to sitting in the church, tearing pages out of bibles.

 

Meanwhile, Rex is on the rampage. After hiding in one of the locals' sheds, (...would Satan really feel the need?) the ugly tornado emerges to bite the face off his second victim. After this, the victim's wife stares at the camera, slowly hopping backward on one foot, and I could only assume this to mean Rex was after her, too. As the woman heads off to hide in the attic, Rex trashes her kitchen. Over and over again -- there's like two dozen cuts between the woman running to the attic and Rex smashing her fine China. Maybe there's some symbolism to it, I don't know. In the end, Rex notices that the woman's pregnant and stops short of killing her. I don't think Satan had a soft spot, so I guess Rex's weakness has something to do with knocking up women.

As the monster continues pillaging, Howard and his wife, Elaine, kiss. FOR A REALLY LONG TIME. Seriously, this is like a four minute kiss, it never ends. And even after they're done, they go right back to it, with Elaine playing the aggressor and using a 'seductive' voice straight out of the pages of Mona Robinson's diary. It's lewd and gross, and there's plenty of tongue involved. There's a place for old lady tongues, but it's not my television screen at 1 AM.

 

Look, more tongues. Lots of tongues in Rawhead Rex -- British cinema knew what sold. This time around, the lucky lovers are just some throwaway victims who don't know horror's cardinal rule: you fuck, and you're gonna get fucked. After getting in a fight with his little brat brother pictured on the right, the smooth talking ('bloody kiss me, girl!') jive brutha leads his lovely wench into the woods.

Hey, wait a sec -- why is Satan eating his victims? They seem to alternate between the idea that Rex is a religiously ambitious creature of terror and a big, hungry alien dog. I don't think Satan could be both, but there he is, stringing up his dead meat and chomping away. Gore fans, take note -- it actually gets pretty gooey and gutsy in here. Not 'realistic,' mind you, but if you're itching to see a bunch of pig hearts thrown across the forest floor, Rawhead Rex is your personal Casablanca. For everyone else, well, what'd you expect? You couldn't have paid more than a buck fifty for a week-long rental. Use the video to prop up an inflatable coffee table for a week. Gotta be worth 75 cents or so.

 
   

Actually, we only see Rex eat this guy's hand off. Still, he does it with the glowy eyes, so everything balanced out. Previously, Rex was a thing of legend. Nobody really believed that he existed, much less that he was the cause of all these missing bodies and fairly in-the-broad-daylight massacres. Now that the body count is raised, people are starting to take notice. Even our dear Howard Hero sees the creature...

 

Thank God Satan likes to stand atop well lit cliffs to show off the decapitated heads of his victims, otherwise Howard would just have no idea about who's murdering all these fools. His glimpse is obstructed and only lasts a moment, but Howie's convinced that he 'saw what he saw.' In a less thought-out move, he drops by the police station to offer his insight: 'hey, I just saw this bloody alien bloke on the mountain and damn I say this must be the thing that's gone and did killin to all these Irish people.' Unfortunately, that's way too close to verbatim. Clive writes so much better for devil priests and inhuman psychopaths. That's why he's Clive, I guess.

At this point, the movie really begins to feel tedious. They were definitely ill-prepared to fill 90 minutes, which is the standard to make any money on a flick like this. If Rawhead Rex was 50% shorter, it might not -- no, it'd still suck. But at least it wouldn't suck for an hour and a half, which is a lengthy and unforgivable crime. You've also got to remember that I'm only showing you the bits that seemed partly interesting -- take a look at this next example for a lesson in how not to pump extra minutes into a film...

 

Okay, so one of the cops was sent to interrogate the little boy who went nuts after seeing Rex in the woods. Fair enough. The boy wouldn't speak, being in shock and all, but managed to draw what he saw on that fateful night. Fair enough. The cop wants to show his superior, who'd previously denounced any chance that THE FUCKIN DEVIL was to blame. Again, fair enough. This scene should've taken up, oh, ten seconds of the movie. Instead, this is the conversation we get, and while not exact since I didn't sit to transcribe, it's very close:

Cop: Sir, I have something I think I ought to show you.
Sergeant: Well I'm not bloody sitting here waiting to have my bloody bum waxed, let's have a look.
Cop: Well, remember how you told me to question the boy?
Sergeant: I bloody Hell remember that, bloody yes.
Cop: I went there, but he wouldn't speak. The doctors said he was still in shock from the experience. I tried talking to him, but he wouldn't respond.
Sergeant: And what's in that bloody briefcase?
Cop: You mean this briefcase? Because there's two briefcases in the room. I'm guessing the other one is yours? Well, the doctors gave the boy some things to play with. You know -- paper, pens, all the big ones.
Sergeant: Did he draw a duck?
Cop: No.
Sergeant: A gun?
Cop: No.
Sergeant: The what the bloody Hell did the bloody boy bloody draw?
Cop: Well, I left the room for a moment to get a drink of water, but they only had one of those coolers, and you know how I feel about those. Never know if it's tap water or the real shit. So I headed down to the mart and fixed myself a drink. When I returned, as I always do when I forget my coat, I noticed that the boy had gone and drawn something, well, rather peculiar.
Sergeant: Two ducks?
Cop: No, but he drew it on this piece of paper, which I'm about to show you. The paper is an off-white, nearly parchment in hue but not quite as grainy. The ink was black, but for a slight twist of fate, it could've been indigo. There were several pens on the table, you see.
Sergeant: Three ducks?

After sixty-seven hours, he finally presents the boy's artwork. It's a crudely drawn picture of Rex. Amazingly, this is enough to convince the police force that the devil exists and is eating the town's citizens. I think I'm gonna head down to the local precinct, smack myself in the face with bricks, and start drawing monkey/lizard hybrids when the cops wake me up. If that's all it takes, I'll cause such a stir.

 

Oh, then Rex eats Howard's son. Great, now at least the guy has some personal stock in this little war. Watching Rex -- Satan, by all means -- attempt to open a car door with those misshapen paws is by far the most entertaining part of the film. Even better is the fact that Howard doesn't notice what's going on inside despite the car very visibly shaking up and down as if two rhinos were copulating in the back-seat. In the end, Nameless Son is dead and gone, and you know what that means...

 

 

Howard the Historian does his best to summon the spirit of Randy 'Macho Man' Savage, mustering up all his past angst and remorse about his DEAD KID HA HA HA in preparation for...the final battle.

 

Elsewhere, Rex is still on the rampage. Guy never stops. Now he's attacking a trailer park, leading to scenes where he eats old people and rips the clothes off the one girl around who's young enough to still have her supple tits intact. And yes, they show 'em. I'm betting that the producers felt somehow accomplished by including the nipple shot, but really, I've gathered more eroticism from watching my cats clean their assholes. The sequence does have a small point to it, though -- now Rex is official. He's there, everyone's seen him. Problem is, how do you stop Satan? Bullets don't work, knives don't work. Nothing seems to work. Looks like it's up to Howard to find that one special thing that works, and holy mother of God and pearls, wait till you see what it is.

Skipping along, Howard believes that the stained glass church window holds they key, and this brings him into conflict with Madman Verger O'Brien again. For those keeping score, this is directly following the aforementioned 'urine baptism,' which didn't translate well enough to screencap but wow did it ever make me happy and satiated. Rex eventually lands himself inside the church as well, but instead of killing Howard, he eats the reverend and claws at a few framed pictures of Jesus. I'm absolutely serious. Rawhead Rex grows more and more ridiculous as it progresses, and we seem to be mounting to one bloody Hell of a climax scene. Between the vergers getting pissed on and the kids getting eaten and the glowing red eyes spinning like satellite antennas, they better have something flat out awesome up their sleeve. Trust me, they won't let us down.

 

In some convoluted way I can't express in words, Howard uncovers the secret weapon with which to defeat Rex. In an enchanted foot locker (really) inside the church, a boiling hot and spooky red interior (really) hosts a statue of a woman. More specifically, it's the statue of a giant vagina attached to a comparatively small women. Yes, Rex's Achilles Heel is A GOD DAMN CERAMIC POON.

What happens next would've been legendary if more than six people saw Rawhead Rex. In a graveyard, Howard confronts his son's killer with the puddy wuddy statue, but it doesn't seem to do anything. Rex smacks it away and proceeds to kick the shit out of his would-be slayer, leaving the audience to wonder what's up. We're getting closer, be patient...

 

Oh, before I explain it -- remember O'Brien? Mad verger? Rex decided to eat him, too. The oil burst of fake blood was phenomenal, though nowhere near as satisfying as watching Rex juggle his head for half a minute. I told you, this movie loves killing time.

While Howard couldn't use the statue, his wife could. Arriving just at the nick of time despite having no idea that her husband was at the graveyard or even where the graveyard was since they don't even live in this country, Elaine holds the well-chiseled happy clam over her head, causing an electrical storm to flow through the field. Not just any electrical storm, though -- the longest electrical storm in history. Making matters worse were the cheapo effects used to create this majestic climax, which completely obstructed the view of what was happening onscreen. For five minutes, this is all you see:

 


I'm not really sure what any of it means, but it weakens Rex long enough for Howard to smack him in the face with a curiously present ax. As it's explained, only a woman can control the power of the magic pussy paperweight. So, Rex/Devil is dead, all's well, and our heroes sign off for new adventures that annoy people on a much smaller scope.

Overall: Rex was goofy looking, but an otherwise adequate monster. The story had larger holes than that fabled statue, but it's otherwise interesting. So where did Rawhead Rex go wrong? Direction, plain and simple. I'm not pretending to know any more about the filming process than the next guy, but anyone could see that the sequences were lazily constructed. I mean, they'll literally show Rex destroying kitchens and church living rooms for ten minutes, expecting the audience to buy it when they need the hero characters to do whatever they're doing. Still, the acting was pretty atrocious and no director was gonna get a money performance out of them anyway. The movie is flawed beyond comprehension, but I kinda like 'em that way. Recommended for fans of satanic monster movies, but definitely not recommended for everyone else. And I do mean everyone else.

By the way, just before the end credits roll, Rex pops back up from his death pit...

   


He looks pissed. You'd be too if you were Satan and someone suggested that you could be defeated by a vagina-shaped lawn ornament. Rawhead Rex will be avenged.

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