Rawhead Rex (1986)
Bow down. You are in the presence of a dark god. One that has no love, no mercy, no empathy at all for us mere humans. While bowing, this god, known to many as Rawhead Rex, just might take a massive piss all over you in your reverence. But don’t worry. You’ll like it. It’s Rawhead Rex after all. He is your dark master. Just be glad he isn’t chewing off your face.
Being a fan of monsters movies, this film really drew me into it when I first saw it sometime after its VHS release in the late 1980s. During this time period, I had yet to read any Clive Barker, but the man’s work was not foreign to me. I remember seeing the covers of the Books of Blood back then as they were released as six (I believe) volumes. Those book covers gave me a profound expectation of what reading Barker might be like and I was too afraid to delve into that world. They were disturbing, gruesome, and touched me in dark places I was only beginning to discover.
I wish I had picked them up, though. Those covers are awesome. And they weren’t all that far off the mark, I later learned, when watching another film by Barker, Hellraiser from 1987.
So, unlike Stephen King or Koontz, I came to Barker’s work movies first. I had no friends or anyone who read what I read during those days, and the friends I did have worried that listening to Guns N’ Roses was devil worship (welcome to a Canadian small town existence). After Rawhead and Hellraiser, though, I was hooked and began reading Barker. I remember getting excited when I was about to read Rawhead Rex and, as is typical, enjoyed it more than the movie. But the movie remains a benchmark in of my early days of horror fandom. It nested itself into my conscious and unconscious mind so deeply that I can, and do, still watch this movie today and get a kick out of it.
Clive barker has gone on record to say the hates this movie, despite his writing credit. I don’t know if the writing was messed with or if he simply loathes the creature effects, or perhaps the whole project was a bad experience and left a sour taste in his mouth (perhaps it’s a mixture of all), but this movie cannot, in my opinion, be left in the past to rot in the annals of forgettable movies.
I mean, really. It’s not that bad a movie!
The worst part of the movie, in my opinion, is the creature affects. Rawhead Rex is a man in a what would become a Cenobite-like costume and a bad 80s heavy metal mullet haircut. What’s worse is that sometimes Rawhead’s massive teeth jiggle like … oh I don’t know … like maybe they’re made of rubber or latex. And there are other times where our king of darkness is severely cross-eyed. In my mind this only enhances the movie, as it never truly takes itself too seriously.
There are a lot of positives to the film adaptation of Rawhead Rex, too. There’s a scene where the story’s hero, Howard Hallenbeck (played by David Dukes) is taking a late-night walk to clear his mind. While out in the wilderness, he sees the demonic figure of Rawhead Rex standing on top a hill in the distance. He blinks, rubs his eyes, but the vision is still there. He rubs his eyes again and when he looks back, Rawhead is gone. It’s very creepy, and if I had ever seen anything like that during a late night walk, I’d either question my sanity, or put a load in my pants (not the good kind). Either way, I’d be running back home.
At the time of this writing, there are 2,386 user ratings on IMDb’s page for Rawhead Rex. It’s average rating is 4.9 out of ten stars there. This is, perhaps, a fair rating, despite my own gushing nine out of ten rating. I guess it depends on who you are and when this movie came into your life.
And yet still, the second night time scene where Rawhead destroys a trailer park and kills a bunch of people still manages to get my adrenaline running.
Watch it for yourself, if you haven’t already. Make sure that you also read the literature, if you haven’t. Both in my opinion, are great pieces of story-telling and I can’t recommend this fun monster creation enough.
Four out of five Dweller Heads!