By Nick Durham
Just recently it was announced that the 1986 adaptation of Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex is getting a surprise 4K Blu-ray remastered release this year courtesy of Kino Lorber. For fans of the film, and the source material it’s based on, this is wonderful news considering the only way to get your hands on a physical copy of the film thus far have been in the form of a super old DVD release (that up until now cost an arm and a leg) and various bootlegs (of which I own a pretty good quality one). It’s good to see this film get a well-deserved treatment, but it got me thinking about the original source material itself, and why it deserves to have another shot at getting a cinematic adaptation.
Clive Barker’s original short story Rawhead Rex first appeared in the third volume of his Books of Blood series, and is a visceral and nerve-wracking blast from beginning to end. It also manages to be a fairly simple horror tale with some very nasty imagery, and manages to be wonderfully enjoyable as well. It’s one of my personal favorite Barker stories to this day, and while the film adaptation is definitely flawed, it still manages to be enjoyable in spite of itself. The film, directed by George Pavlou and featuring a screenplay by Barker himself, suffers from its low budget and dull direction. While most low budget horror films of this era managed to do a lot with a little, Rawhead Rex suffered from an absolutely terrible monster design that has no resemblance to Barker’s original design (basically a walking phallus with teeth) and is literally a rubber-faced mask that never moves an inch. Not to mention the fact that the film’s climax is an absolute mess, and many of the death scenes and carnage are watered down mightily. Like I said though, the film still somehow manages to be enjoyable despite all these problems, but the more I think about it, it’s probably because of my love for both Barker and the source material that makes me see the best in this flick.
In my life, I’ve often been told I’m a remake snob, especially when it comes to horror films. I absolutely loathe retreads on horror films (I’d much rather see sequel number 12 to something than a remake of it), but Rawhead Rex is one film that I truly do think deserves to be remade. Hell, Barker himself (who was never happy with how the original film turned out) expressed interest in having a hand at remaking the film some time ago, but who knows if that would ever happen. In a perfect world, a remake of Rawhead Rex would feature more input from Barker, wonderful practical effects, a beast that looked more like how Barker envisioned this creature, and plenty of harrowing and nasty moments of bloodshed, destruction, depravity, and evisceration. Years back, there was a comic book adaptation written by horror stalwart Steve Niles, and it was absolutely wonderful; meaning that there are people out there that love and get this story. Hell, a new film adaptation could be released unrated direct to digital, Blu-ray, and DVD and would more than likely make its money back in little to no time just based on morbid curiosity. This needs to be a thing, like right fucking now.
Now granted, this all may end up being little more than a pipe dream in all honesty. However, the fact that there is renewed interest in Rawhead Rex, and even with a looming 4K restoration, there would never be a better time than now to kick the tires on resurrecting Barker’s story for a new generation of fans and filmmakers. Barker deserves it, the source material deserves it, and fucking hell, we deserve it. Make this happen somebody, and we’ll love you forever.