Rawhead Rex (1986) isn’t terrible and that really annoys me.

There is a truth, often spoken uncontested, that Rawhead Rex is an utterly shitty film. Much like James Corden, it has become a byword for badly made, uninspired, and derivative trash. Thus, as a fan of all flavours of cinema (including the super-sour), I never bothered to track it down and only watched it because it was free, I had nothing specific to watch, and the algorithm spotlighted it for me. I was expecting a mild hate watch, and instead, I was just angry at all those who had pointlessly berated this perfectly acceptable film for internet points.

The untold dangers of masturbation

Don’t panic, I’ve not totally lost my mind. This isn’t a great movie, it’s just not noteworthily bad and has plenty of fine moments. It’s even got a bit of social commentary going on if you squint hard enough. It’s certainly not the worst case of badly adapted books in film, that falls to Atlas Shrugged as it managed to make a very crap book into an even worse film trilogy.

“I never knew you could fit something that far up there…”

The setup is that American Smart Guy (David Dukes) is in Pig-Knuckle, Ireland, because, fun fact, the Christian Church did something vague to the indigenous gods of the area and there is now a church where the stone circle used to be. The Reverend (Niall Tolbin) thinks it’s interesting, Verger O’Brian wants to chin the cunt. That’s possibly because the Verger notices he’s a smug American, but probably because he’s been possessed by an Elder God.

“I can’t help it, I’m just a very angry man”

This is the titular Rawhead Rex, who looks perfectly fine as a monster (other than his rather goofy blinking red LED eyes). Okay, so it’s not as much fun as the literal penis monster Baker envisioned, but it does the job well enough; although not at all well enough for how many full day-light, full-body shots we get of it. Anyway, he’s hungry and American Smart Guy has some kids that need eating.

“Oh no’h! My pohtatoes!”

He also has a wife (Kelly Piper). She’s mostly very well played as an intelligent and self-motivated strong female character, but functionally she’s there to show how cool American Smart-Guy is and do that whole girl thing of crying when one of the children dies. She also gets to show how backward the locals are, as they have old phones and think it the height of immorality for a married couple to share the same bed. Well, that and a homage to Don’t Look Now which came across as very twatty.

At least it’s eyes aren’t blinking red LEDs…

The bulk of it is the monster running around and killing people in a variety of exciting ways. It’s informative because I never knew what cinema average people in Ireland at that time were like. It’s also funny because this film has an indulgent joy in its violent scenes, and its demon-pissing scenes, that give it all a thematically appropriate earthy, inappropriate humour ambiance. It even manages to hold itself together when it hits nihilistic-abandonment-of-hope moments.

Random bloody violence: always funny!

Again, none of this is amazing. But it’s done with sufficient care and attention to frame and pace to keep you interested. The silly bits are silly, but the whole thing has a sufficiently smug charisma to ride you through them. There are many films doing worse things, and plenty doing at the same level. I appreciate Baker’s disappointment with how he was treated, but he himself said it was damn close to the original script and it’s unfair to let his negativity dictate the terms of the assessment of the film.

“Did I leave the gas on?”

It is an uneven film, both in terms of production value and script quality. But it does the job well enough and often enough, and, most importantly, with enough reference to themes Baker explored in his other works to keep you engaged. Interesting rather than inspiring, but even if it ends up near the bottom of your watch list, this Treasure deserves to be there.

The Raggedyman

BTW – If you’ve read all the way to this point, why not consider joining me for Paul and Andrew Watch All Of Hellraiser, alternating Tuesdays over on my not-very-used Twitch Channel

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