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Review: Rawhead Rex

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Treat: I got off work early enough to catch Film Forum’s interactive screening of William Castle’s The Tingler, starring the inimitable Vincent Price!

Trick: It was already sold out by the time I went to reserve a ticket…

That’s okay, though; while my hopes and dreams may have been thoroughly covered in raw eggs and TP, the disappointing situation gave me the opportunity to finally watch Rawhead Rex, which I bought when it was released on Blu-ray shortly after Halloween last year (kind of botched that release window, Kino Lorber).

Birthed from the twisted imagination of Clive Barker (who also created Hellraiser’s Cenobites), the eponymous monster is a pre-Christian Irish deity whose bloodlust and depravity know no bounds. The vile acts he commits onscreen (which include slaughtering innocent children and “baptizing" his corrupted disciples with his own urine) certainly leave an impression, but his physical appearance often fails to measure up to his fearsome reputation—and I’m not just saying that because the performer inside the costume obviously falls short of the advertised 8-9 feet tall. At the behest of the writer, director George Pavlou shows Rawhead as frequently and blatantly as possible, which isn’t always to the film’s benefit; sure, the latex mask looks serviceable enough from a distance, but the googly-eyed animatronic bust utilized for closeups is simply too goofy to be taken seriously.

Combine that rather severe flaw with a score that would feel more at home in a swashbuckling adventure movie and flat, made-for-TV quality cinematography (that nevertheless manages to capture the natural beauty of Ireland), and you end up with a decidedly mixed bag of Halloween candy. Rawhead Rex isn’t scary in the slightest, but it remains a fascinating cinematic oddity—a Frankenstein’s monster of gory ‘80s slasher flicks and campy ‘50s creature features. 

I only wish the finished product was as much of a delirious fever dream as the plot synopsis on Wikipedia…

[Originally written October 31, 2018.]

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