Interview: Clive Barker re 1995 feature film “Lord Of Illusions”
Transcript excerpts, plus a link to the complete audio, of the interview recorded 18th October 1995 by phone with Clive Barker in Los Angeles by John Frame for the Queer Radio program on community radio 4ZZZfm, Brisbane, Australia. Clive refers to this interview transcript on his own site at http://www.clivebarker.info/ints95c.html
Clive had asked his publicists to particularly seek out LGBT media for him to chat with. Not only is Clive an openly gay man, but he also includes in this film some quite apparent queer sensibility which he wanted people to notice. “Lord Of Illusions” features the “very sexy” Scott Bakula in the lead role as darkly brooding private detective Harry D’Amour in a very confronting mystery thriller involving magic, cult religion and unbridled blood splashing evil. The recording quality is very good, as a transfer from cassette – though there are the occasional unavoidable long distance call “beeps”.
The 25minute special opens with the audio of the film’s trailer and concludes with Diamanda Galas singing “Dancing In The Dark”
Topics discussed include (in order): Skott Bakula (brave, bright, talented and sexy); Diamanda Galas; on making a horror film which genuinely horrifies the audience while they’re watching it – letting them enjoy the thrill, not making them afraid to go out at night; the importance of creative control in his films; on the “man on man” action in this film which he says is virtually a “homoerotic manage a trios” (Clive says that the film has drawn a few very homophobic reviews); on the straight and queer readings of this film; on being openly gay and having no negative responses from readers; Lux and Ivy of The Cramps and their attitude of embracing “blood boiling life”; Clive says he is proud as hell of this movie, and so happy to hear that all the queer elements which he deliberately put in Lord Of Illusions have been noticed and appreciated.
"Wusses! Wusses! If you’re gonna make a horror film, I say scare people! You know – push people’s buttons. One of the things I think the movie does is stir people up - and I’m a little weary of seeing horror movies that have their tongue in their cheek. I think if you’re going to make a horror movie, then horrify people.
Yeah, and one of the things that makes horror movies interesting is there’s a sort of "rite of passage" element to horror movies. There’s a kind of initiation quality to horror movies. I think one of the reasons why they’re so popular with young people is that you almost dare a horror movie to do it to you. You go into a horror movie and if it’s half worth anything there’s a little tussle going on constantly with the movie in which the movie is trying to outwit you, the movie is trying to blindside you. And my job as a director is to put these images and these ideas and this dialogue and this music together in a way that constantly keeps the audience on their toes.
The first ten minutes of Lord Of Illusions are very intense. The stuff before we even get to Harry (the Scott Bakula character) is deliberately constructed to be a very intense sequence of images and ideas, so that the audience is, I hope, intimidated. So that by the time you get to the eleventh minute and Bakula appears, you say "Wow, thank god – somebody I can hold onto in this storm of distressing images".
It’s one of the things we enjoy about horror movies – those of us that enjoy them – is that they’re providing these dark thrills. There’s something forbidden, something taboo about much of the material that horror movies deal with and I think that’s part of their pleasure.
I think that’s important. I think that’s basically true of all the movies I’ve made. It’s true of Nightbreed. It’s true of Candyman. It’s true of Hellraiser. They’re "movies" – they’re things you go and see, you have a good time with it, you jump (hopefully), you hide your eyes a couple of times maybe. But because of the fantastical or supernatural element to all these movies, you’re not gonna check the closet when you get home to see that there isn’t somebody waiting with a cleaver there for you. And I think that’s important. I’m making movies that are going to give people the pleasure, the thrill, the rush of adrenaline that comes with being blindsided. I have no interest whatever in making people afraid to go out at night – that’s just not fun.
It’s one of the reasons why I’m not interested in so-called "psycho" movies. Almost everything I’ve written, almost everything I’ve made in film form, has contained the supernatural or fantastical element. For me that immediately releases the audience from the requirement to connect what they’re seeing on the screen with their lives. You don’t come out of Lord Of Illusions thinking "I could be the one with ten swords in me dropped from a great height" You know? In a way it should be strangely exhilarating. It should not be something where you say "Oh my lord, that could happen to me". I’m providing entertainment here, I shouldn’t be giving people reasons to go and see their therapist.
Right, well I haven’t had any negative response and I trust readers. I think that the act of reading requires empathy and I think that readers, by and large, tend to be a much more empathic bunch than the people who are watching television or seeing movies. And I’ve never had anything but a solid and a confirming response from readers. You think of the horror genre, and you think of fantasy and too often people paint a picture of those readers as being just interested in the violence or just interested in the "weird stuff". But in actual fact there’s a lot going on in this kind of fiction, which is rich and complex and ambiguous. And it feels as if those readers are there everywhere. They just really want to be given the material to see and to read.
I love that! I like that a lot – and it sounds faintly sexy too, which I also approve of.