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Blu-ray Review: Rawhead Rex

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Brilliant Blu-Ray crafters Arrow Video have turned their attention to the 1986 adaptation of Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex. The screenplay is written by Barker himself, directorial duties are handled by George Pavlou (Transmutations), and the film stars David Dukes (Gods and Monsters), Kelly Piper (Maniac), Hugh O’Conor (The Young Poisoner’s Handbook) and Niall Tobin (Far and Away).

Howard and Elaine Hallenback are travelling across the Irish countryside photographing churches for Howard’s book with their two young children. Unfortunately for the Hallenback’s, they arrive at the village of Rathmorne just as the locals dig up a huge stone totem and resurrect an ancient evil: Rawhead Rex. The eight-foot monster begins running around smashing through farms and shredding the locals, and when tragedy strikes close to home, Howard tries to find a way to defeat the creature.

Rawhead Rex does not muck about. The film is only 85 minutes long anyway, but it barrels along, barely pausing for breath. Rex rises in the first five minutes, and after that there is a succession of cracking set pieces – including a farmhouse attack and a caravan site massacre – and some moments of Barker weirdness, such as the Hallenback’s excessive use of tongue in public, and the creature weeing on a priest who is crying out for Rex to “baptise” him.

This is all a lot of fun, and John Metcalfe (also director of photography on ‘Xtro’ and ‘Inseminoid’) captures some beautiful shots, playing with light and framing in interesting ways that totally elevate the look of the film. There are also a lot of far-out visual effects and wet and squishy physical visual effects that still look cool, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of Rex himself. Sort of loveably shonky, Rex is a big guy in a suit with an awful rubber mask that can’t help but elicit anything but laughter – even when he is mauling and munching down the locals.

As usual for Arrow Video, the picture and sound quality are top-notch, with the 4K restoration showing no signs of video artefacts even during particularly grainy or visually complex rainy scenes. There are two audio tracks: crystal clear uncompressed stereo, and a particularly lively and clear 5.1 DTS HD Master surround. English hard-of-hearing subtitles are also available, as is a short but cute director’s introduction to the film.

The bonus material is exhaustive with two separate full-length audio commentaries by Pavlou and a horror podcast, as well as six decent-lengthed interviews, a piece on the aborted Rawhead Rex graphic novel, trailer and image gallery.

Rawhead Rex is available on Blu-Ray in the UK now.

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