In a damsel-in-distress thriller, when the heroine suffers a nervous breakdown and her shrink is reluctant to release her from psychiatric care, you know she's unlikely to celebrate another wedding anniversary with her husband. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to viewers of
ILLUSIONS that archaeologist Greg (Robert Carradine) is going to drive his wife Jan (Heather Locklear) round the bend with that old MIDNIGHT LACE treatment. Yet, even after viewing this murky thriller, the why and how of his actions remain baffling--not because of clever twists in the screenplay
but because the bogus plot points are so ineptly presented onscreen.
Why is Dr. Sanders (Susannah York) reluctant to release Jan from her institution? Who's that weird handyman Greg hired and why does he keep feeding nervous Jan all those ghost stories? And who's that sultry Laura (Emma Samms) who drops by unannounced and pretends to be Greg's sister? Judging from
their hot smooches she's either an impostor, or this film is actually about incest. Since viewers will figure out what's going on in record time anyway, it will not spoil anyone's fun to know Greg plans to wig out his wife with drug-induced visions that will lead her to "shoot" Laura. Innocently
using her own set of bullets, Jan actually does shoot Laura--and kills her.
In the interim, kooky George the handyman (Ned Beatty) demands more money for his part in the let's-get-Jan plot. Showing a remarkable lack of concern for his dead mistress, the cool-headed Greg next poisons George with a drug that makes the murder look like a heart attack. As this mystery builds
to its incredible climax, the drugged and whacked-out Jan pulls herself together long enough for a quickie "shotgun" divorce from her tormentor.
Whether it's the film-to-video transfer or its own shoddy cinematography, ILLUSIONS is an appalling-looking thriller. For these sado-masochistic exercises to work, an aura of glamour must pervade. Think of SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY and DECEIVED, two recent entries that weren't masterpieces but at
least sported attractive sheens. Since these films are merely soap operas with the stakes raised, the scoring, art direction, cinematography and costuming are all essential elements. Without that glossy Hollywood patina, the lady-in-danger movie falls apart. Combine this grave tactical error with
sloppy suspense plotting and mundane direction and you have a total failure.
Add Heather Locklear's (FIRESTARTER, THE RETURN OF THE SWAMP THING) stone-faced acting into the equation, and whatever minimal thrills the film musters quickly dissipate. Acting up a spritz instead of a storm, Locklear tries hard but always sounds like she's giving a dramatic reading for her
talent spot at a local beauty pageant. Her co-stars are scarcely above this level themselves. Without production values and forceful performances, this GASLIGHT clone grows dim rather quickly. (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: In a damsel-in-distress thriller, when the heroine suffers a nervous breakdown and her shrink is reluctant to release her from psychiatric care, you know she's unlikely to celebrate another wedding anniversary with her husband. Therefore, it should come as… (more)