Transmutations (1985)

aka Underworld
Article 4724 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-31-2014
Directed by George Pavlou
Featuring Denholm Elliott, Steven Berkoff, Larry Lamb
Country: UK
What it is: ’80s Horror

A prostitute is kidnapped by a gang of mutated humans. A crimelord hires a detective to track down the missing prostitute. It’s all tied to a mysterious drug that no one wants to talk about.

I really don’t have a strong familiarity with the work of Clive Barker at this point, but I’m aware of his reputation, and I know I’ve read at least one short story of his. This appears to be the first feature-length movie for which he wrote the script, so that makes it at least of historical interest. However, I’m aware that Barker himself has disowned the results, and the movie has a pretty low reputation; it’s rating of 3.6 on IMDB certainly doesn’t make it appear that the movie is viewed with great affection. As a result, I went into this one expecting the worst. Instead, I found myself liking a few things about it; there are offbeat touches to the story, and there’s the occasional moment I liked, such as the scene where the detective traps the thug who is tailing him… and invites him out for a drink. Granted, that doesn’t mean that the movie works; the movie is packed with an assortment of cliches, the pulsing eighties music is an annoyance, there’s a certain amount of silliness, and the direction isn’t exactly inspired. Ultimately, the weaknesses do dominate the movie, but that doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of interest; it’s a case of some good ideas having been badly handled. It’s bad, but hardly the worst I’ve seen.

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