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Reflections in a Private Eye

No shirt, no service: Scott Bakula (right) and Kevin J. O'Connor (reposed) in 'Lord of Illusions.'

'Lord of Illusions' Finds the Trickster Behind the Trick

By Richard von Busack

In Clive Barker's latest film, Lord of Illusions, private detective Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula) is hired onto a supernatural case involving a famous magician (Kevin J. O'Connor), his beautiful wife (Famke Janssen) and a vicious killer (Daniel Von Bargen) with a cast in one eye. Having a detective in a horror plot is a clever way of handling the problem of strained credulity. The detective voices all of the crowd's skepticism, and it's a gift for the slow kids in the theater who need things reiterated.

Still, Lord of Illusions would have been more fun if D'Amour were slightly mystical and ready to meet supernatural evil half-way. Bakula, a monotonous, born B-movie actor with a big square jaw like Steve Canyon's, weighs the film down, and the

Anti-Christ-like villain, Nix, a.k.a. The Puritan (who, as we see in the beginning, taught the magician everything he knew), isn't diabolical enough to levitate the picture. As a horror director, Barker has some inspired ideas: a palm reader is found near-dead, bristling with knives, just like the image on that grisly Tarot card, the ten of Swords, which is lying on a table in front of him.

Barker isn't squeamish, and he doesn't rely on cheap pop-up frights to jolt the audience. Even so, Lord of Illusions misses the pleasure the characters had in getting skinned in Hellraiser. And it's always better to suggest unspeakable horrors than to try to reproduce them with computer graphics, especially computer graphics of a quality no better than the monster suits on which you can see the zippers.

Lord of Illusions, directed and written by Clive Barker, photographed by Ronn Schmidt and starring Scott Bakula and Kevin J. O'Connor, plays at selected theaters valleywide.

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