Rawhead Rex is a 1986 British and Irish horror film directed by George Pavlou and written by Clive Barker. The film is about a monstrous pagan god's bloody rampage through the Irish countryside, and based on the short story by Clive Barker that originally appeared in vol. 3 of his Books of Blood series. Barker had previously worked on Transmutations (also known as Underworld).
Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes) travels to Ireland to research items of religious significance. He goes to a rural church to photograph some graves. Meanwhile, three farmers are attempting to remove an ominous stone column from a field. Two of the farmers head home. A thunderstorm appears out of nowhere, and smoke pours from the ground. Lightning strikes the column. The monster Rawhead Rex rises from the dirt. Howard meets Declan O'Brien (Ronan Wilmot), who directs him to Reverend Coot. The curious O'Brien approaches the altar and places his hand on it. Images flash before his eyes. This experience apparently destroys O'Brien's sanity. Afterwards, Howard inquires about the church's parish records. Coot says he can arrange to have Howard look at them.
When Dennis goes into his shed to see why it's opened (he had locked it earlier) he is ambushed from behind some boxes by Rawhead. After a short chase the monster catches and bites into Dennis' neck and kills him. Jenny witnesses this and Rawhead notices her and breaks into her house to chase her. He corners her in her bedroom; but Is strangely stopped by Jenny being pregnant and spares her (possibly a hint at his weakness). Later, a man arrives at the home of locals Dennis and Jenny. He discovers a clearly traumatized Jenny and the Police arrive. Rawhead drags Dennis's dead body through the forest and comes upon a trailer park. A teenager named Andy Johnson is trying to make out with his girlfriend. After leaving his younger brother behind and taking his toy robot (which Rawhead later finds and smashes) He follows them into the woods. There, he finds Rawhead eating Dennis' suspended corpse. He tries to sneak away but Rawhead discovers him and he escapes to the trailer park. The two teens head into the woods for privacy; but they come across Dennis' half eaten corpse. They try to run back to the park, but Rawhead finds them and gets Andy. Soon after, Howard sees Rawhead on top of a distant hill with Andy's head in his hand. His mutilated corpse is found by a search party.
Afterwards, Howard speaks again with Coot, who tells him the church's parish records have been stolen. Declan O'Brien destroys his camera. He takes his family on the road again.
On the road, Howard's daughter needs to go to the bathroom, so Howard pulls over and lets her go by a tree. Hearing her suddenly scream, Howard and his wife rush to her; Howard's son stays in the van, alone. Rawhead kills Howard's son and takes the body into the woods. Infuriated by the police's unsuccessful efforts to track down Rawhead, Howard returns to the church. He discovers that there is a weapon shown in the stained glass window that can be used to defeat the monster. After Howard leaves, Coot curiously touches the altar but resists the temptations and images it shows him.
Back at the trailer park; a group of people are talking about what happened in the woods when Rawhead tips an RV over. An old man attempts to escape through a window but is killed when Rawhead bites into his neck. He assaults several more people before appearing to be driven away by a man who shoots a fuel tank.
Rawhead arrives at the church to baptize O'Brien by urinating on him. A bewildered Coot goes outside to investigate the noise and sees Rawhead. Horrified, Coot flees inside the church and into the basement while Rawhead destroys everything inside. Coot finds the missing parish records, showing what appears to be some kind of blueprint of Rawhead himself. The insane O'Brien catches Coot and forces him upstairs to be sacrificed to Rawhead. The police arrive at the church and prepare to open fire on Rawhead, but they hesitate because he is carrying Coot. The brainwashed inspector dumps gasoline around the police cars and ignites it just as they begin to shoot at Rawhead, killing all the police, including himself.
Howard leaves his wife and daughter and goes back to the church where a dying Coot tells him that Rawhead is afraid of something in the altar. Howard goes inside where O'Brian is burning books and is overpowered by Howard. Howard, by using a candle stick, opens the altar and gets to the weapon. O'Brian retreats to Rawhead to tell him, leaving Rawhead displeased. Howard tries to use the weapon, but has no effect. In anger, Rawhead kills O'Brian by tearing out his throat, much to his pleasure, and Howard's wife's terror.
As Rawhead tries to kill Howard, his wife picks up the weapon, it activates, stopping Rawhead from killing Howard. A ray of light comes out of the weapon and hits Rawhead, hurting him. Howard realizes that it has to be a woman for it to work. Then the form of a woman appears from the stone and shoots electric rays through the stones and into Rawhead's body, knocking him to the ground. After a few more blasts, Rawhead is drained and weakened to the point where he has no hair, has aged, and is ill and dying. Finally he falls through the ground with Howard's wife dropping the weapon in with him. Rawhead is smashed under giant stones and finished. Both Howard and his wife cry in light of it being over.
In the end, the boy from the trailer park places flowers on Andy Johnson's grave. As he walks away, Rawhead emerges from the ground and roars.
- David Dukes as Howard Hallenbeck
- Kelly Piper as Elaine Hallenbeck
- Ronan Wilmott as Declan O'Brien
- Niall Toibin as Reverend Coot
- Niall O'Brien as Detective Inspector Isaac Gissing
- Hugh O'Conor as Robbie Hallenbeck
- Cora Lunny as Minty Hallenbeck
- Heinrich von Schellendorf as Rawhead Rex
- Donal McCann as Tom Garron
The film was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by Empire Pictures in 1987. It was later released on VHS by Vestron Video that same year. The film was released on DVD in the United States by Geneon on 5 October 1999. It was later re-released by Prism on 29 July 2003.
Critical reception for the film has been mostly negative. Cinefantastique gave the film a negative review, criticizing the design of the title monster as being more laughable than frightening, and the film's dull finale. It currently has a 33% "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 4.5/10 from 6 reviewers. In a 2010 interview with ACIN, Barker discussed a possible remake of the film. He talked of a Tortured Souls adaptation, as well as a remake of Rawhead Rex. Barker was not happy with the result of the original, mainly the creature's look in the film (he describes Rawhead as a 9-ft. tall phallus with teeth). While it's not confirmed that Barker will remake the film, mainly due to his role in the Hellraiser reboot, he still has expressed interest in directing a remake.