Barker asserts that the director's cut of this film is his definitive version, as the theatrical release does not represent his true vision.
In the Mojave Desert in 1982, a man named Nix has gathered a cult in an isolated house, where he plans to sacrifice a young girl that he has kidnapped. Nix calls himself "The Puritan" and has the ability to use real magic. A group of former cult members, including Swann and Quaid, arrive to stop him. After the initial confrontation with the cultists, Nix's assistant, Butterfield, escapes, and Swann is attacked magically by Nix. The kidnapped girl shoots Nix through the heart with Swann's gun. Swann fastens an ironwork mask over Nix's head, who appears to die, and declares that they will bury Nix so deep that no one will ever find him.
Thirteen years later, New York City private detective Harry D'Amour is investigating a case in Los Angeles. D'Amour has a long-standing interest in the occult, and has some renown from his involvement with a recent exorcism. During the investigation, D'Amour discovers a fortune teller shop owned by Quaid, where he is relentlessly attacked by a man with unusual strength. D'Amour finds Quaid suffering from multiple stab wounds. As he dies, Quaid warns D'Amour that “The Puritan” is coming.
Swann, now a famous stage illusionist, lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with his wife, Dorothea. When informed that Nix's followers have murdered Quaid, Dorothea suggests they hire D'Amour to investigate the murder. D'Amour agrees, and she invites him to Swann's magic show. Swann performs a new death-defying illusion which goes wrong, and he is killed on stage.
D'Amour goes to The Magic Castle, where he hears Nix being described as a legend, and that Nix was believed to have taught Swann. After getting into the Repository, a special room in the Magic Castle that supposedly contains every magic secret known to man, he discovers that Swann's "illusions" involved real magic.
Later, at Swann's house, Dorothea reveals that she was the girl that Nix kidnapped, and that she married Swann because of a sense of obligation. Dorothea and D'Amour make love; afterwards, D'Amour is attacked by a man engulfed in fire. Suspecting a ruse, D'Amour opens Swann's coffin and finds that the body inside is fake. Valentin, Swann's assistant, explains that he helped Swann fake his death. D'Amour agrees to allow Valentin and Swann's ruse to continue. At the funeral, D'Amour follows a suspicious looking man who turns out to be Swann, who, in jealousy, attacks D'Amour with magic. D'Amour convinces the emotionally hurt Swann to help him put an end to Nix's cult.
Butterfield kidnaps Dorothea, using her as a hostage to force Valentin to recover Nix's body. After finding Nix's corpse, Butterfield stabs Valentin and takes the corpse back to the old house in the desert. There, his cultists have returned to witness Nix's resurrection and follow him once again. Butterfield removes the iron mask and Nix regains consciousness. Swann and D'Amour, acting on information given by the dying Valentin, arrive. Swann attacks Butterfield and tells D'Amour to rescue Dorothea. Nix, instructing his followers to prepare to receive his wisdom, opens a hole in the ground beneath him and Dorothea and turns the earth into quick sand that swallows the cultists, declaring that only Swann is worthy of receiving his knowledge.
D'Amour finds Nix and Dorothea, and as D'Amour steps onto the hardened quicksand, Nix opens his eyes, says "You are not Swann!. . . I know what you want!" (referencing the earlier liaison between D'Amour and Dorthea). Nix then drops her into the hole; D'Amour rescues her as Swann enters the room. As they flee, D'Amour and Dorothea are attacked by Butterfield, whom D'Amour kills. Swann agrees to act as Nix's disciple, even answering "Yes" to Nix asserting that Swann would be killed by Nix after they destroyed the world. But when Swann admits to caring for Dorthea, Nix then attacks with magic and breaks some of Swann's bones and apparently kills him by destroying his brain. Dorothea finds D'Amour's gun and shoots Nix in his third eye after D'Amour points to the center of his forehead. Nix then begins to transform into a hideous creature. Swann turns out not to be dead and uses his last life energy and magic to help D'Amour deliver a final blow to Nix, who falls into the hole, which is shown to have no bottom. Dorothea holds Swann in her arms as he succumbs to his injuries. Dorothea and D'Amour escape the house and walk into the desert.Scott Bakula as Harry D'Amour
Kevin J. O'Connor as Philip Swann
Famke Janssen as Dorothea Swann
Ashley Lyn Cafagna as young Dorothea
Joseph Latimore as Caspar Quaid
Wayne Grace as Loomis
Daniel von Bargen as Nix
Jordan Marder as Ray Miller
Barry Del Sherman as Butterfield
Joel Swetow as Valentin
Vincent Schiavelli as Vinovich
Lord of Illusions received mixed to positive reviews, with a current approval rating of 61% at Rotten Tomatoes. Allmovie was critical of the film, writing that it "starts off strong with an intriguing premise, but then goes quickly nowhere".
Variety called it "much more conventional effort than Barker’s earlier outings", although it found it "more sophisticated and satisfying than anything the genre has offered since “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.”"Front Line Assembly uses samples from the movie on their album [FLA]vour of the Weak on the tracks "Autoerotic", "Colombian Necktie" and "Life=Leben" as well as on the single "Colombian Necktie" on Colombian Necktie (GOArge Mix).
Front Line Assembly side-project, Noise Unit, uses samples from the film on their album Drill on a number of tracks: "The Drain", "Dominator", "Miracle", "Eye Burner".