Earlier this week it was announced that Clive Barker would be stepping behind the camera for the first time since 1995 to write and direct Zombies vs. Gladiators for Amazon Studios. While I’m in desperate need of a break from zombie movies after the glut of corpse-centric media in the last decade, it will be nice to see Barker make a new film. Hellraiser remains one of the single-best horror movies of the ‘80s – a near-perfectly constructed film with gorgeously goopy special effects and a couple of really memorable villains. Barker’s next film Nightbreed should have been the launching point for a beautiful franchise (speaking of which, has anybody else read the Nightbreed comic book series that Marvel’s Epic line put out in the ‘90s? I picked up a collection of back issues recently and the book is a lot of fun).
While Barker’s film work has been limited – and too often the victim of studio tampering – the man remains a stalwart visionary in the horror genre. To celebrate, this June the Graveyard Shift, the Alamo Drafthouse Houston’s classic horror movie series, is screening two great films that have their origins in Barker’s imagination. Up first is a 35mm screening of Candyman this Saturday at our Mason Park location. Based on Barker’s short story “The Forbidden” (from the fourth volume of his excellent Books of Blood collection), Candyman is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. A seriously spooky exploration into the idea of urban legends and the power of myth, Candyman was also responsible for giving black audiences their first real horror icon since the days of blacksploitation. Besides Tony Todd as Candyman, the film features a young Virginia Madsen, the always watchable Xander Berkeley and a fantastic score by Phillip Glass. Growing up in the wake of Candyman's release, I was always amused by how many of my classmates truly believed in Candyman. More so than Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, Candyman really reached that boogeyman status for my generation – becoming as much a fixture in myth as the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. I had a friend in high school who thought Cujo was a true story, though, so maybe I just went to a school full of dummies.
On June 24 we will screen a 35mm print of Lord of Illusions, the last film Barker directed. Okay. I know. Lord of Illusions isn’t the obvious choice for a movie to screen in celebration of Barker’s career. So what? It’s a damn fun movie. It’s not like we’re showing Saint Sinner or anything. Scott Bakula stars as Harry D'Amour, a private eye character who pops up frequently in Clive Barker’s short stories and novels. In fact, D’Amour has long been rumored to star in a new novel Barker has been working on that would pit the character against Pinhead, the star of Barker’s Hellraiser franchise. In Lord of Illusions (based on Barker's "The Last Illusion" short story), D’Amour is caught up in the war between a group of magicians and fortune tellers and a honest-to-god mage who has assembled a death cult out in the desert. The story has a touch of Cast a Deadly Spell, a sprinkle of Hellblazer and a couple of great performances by character actors Daniel von Bargen and Kevin J. O'Connor. Sure some of the CGI may be a little dated and hokey but the story is tight and the film’s noirish take on the world of magic is a lot of fun. We’ll lead off this screening with a real-life magic show!
If you’re in the Houston area and looking for a good scare this June, stop by one of our screenings. Or join the Graveyard Shift Facebook page. We’ve got some good stuff coming up – including a 35mm screening of From Beyond next month!