Rawhead Rex (1986)
Film review #519
Director: George Pavlou
SYNOPSIS: Howard Hallenbeck has taken his family on a trip to rural Ireland to do some research for a new book about the pagan deities of the area. Unfortunately, while he is there, the very kind of monster he is researching is released from it’s prison, and goes on a murderous killing spree. It becomes a race against time to stop the monster before everyone in the small town is slaughtered…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Rawhead Rex is a 1986 horror film, based on the short story of the same name by Clive Barker. The story centres around Howard Hallenbeck, who is visiting a rural town in Ireland with his wife and two children to research ancient folklore there for a new book he is writing. If this sounds like the opening plot to countless horror films, then you are spot on. you can also extend this to the rest of the film, as the whole experience feels very familiar and formulaic. Basically, an ancient demon is released from it’s prison and starts killing people in the village, leaving the authorities and the main cast to figure out what is going on. The plot unfolds very predictably: the monster kills, the cast try and figure out what goes on, and there’s very few surprises. Most of the kills are characters that haven’t been established or introduced properly, so there’s little investment in what happens to them. The lore behind the monster is never gone into in any real detail, and the occasional bit of gore and one brief bit of nudity just don’t leave any impact, nor do they escalate or build towards anything. The film feels like it has the fundamental building blocks, but never builds upo0n them, nor draws them together.
The monster, Rawhead, is based on a fictitious monster of the same name, but apart from said name, there doesn’t seem to be any real connection between the two. As mentioned, there could have been a lot more done with building the lore and have it impact the plot, but it essentially boils down to a mixture of paganism vs Christianity that offers little insight into either. Rawhead’s design is probably the thing that will ultimately make a viewer not take this film seriously: it is a pretty silly rubber mask which no real prosthetics or moving parts, and it never seems convincing. It also never seems too threatening either, since no one ever really has a chance to fight it, and just surprises people who can’t fight back, so we can’t really gauge it’s strength and ferocity. This is also true in the ending, in which the monster is simply resealed by a stone…thing, and the big twist is that a woman needed to use it (?), resulting in a climax which is just a bunch of CG chain things flying about and slowly imprisoning the monster. Again, there’s no real face off with the monster, so we don’t get a sense of it’s power and why we should fear it.
Other than the bare plot and monster design, the acting is for the most part fine, but there are a number of slip-ups, particularly with the accents, which you will undoubtedly notice at least once or twice. Apart from that, everything else is fine, just bland and unoriginal. Clive Barker, the writer of the original short story and the screenplay version, did not like the outcome of the film (unsurprisingly), and so took more control over the next film he wrote: which was the very successful Hellraiser. If you’re interested in Barker’s filmography, maybe you could give this a watch, but it has no other distinguishing features to mention.