Directed by Steve Miner.
Starring Julian Sands, Richard E. Grant, Lori Singer and Mary Woronov.
A warlock comes from the past… to destroy the future.
If you’re a fan of cult horrors then chances are you’ll be familiar with American filmmaker Steve Miner. An associate producer on the original Friday the 13th (1980), Miner made his directorial debut the following year with Part 2, introducing the world to the deranged mass murderer Jason Voorhees. After establishing Jason’s iconic hockey mask look with Part III in 1982, Miner went on to direct a number of features such as slasher sequel Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), croc-horror Lake Placid (1999) and the atrocious George A. Romero remake Day of the Dead (2008), along with a few near-forgotten titles such as 1989’s cult supernatural horror Warlock, which comes to DVD for the first time courtesy of Second Sight.
Based on a screenplay by David Twohy (The Fugitive, Waterworld, Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick), Warlock stars Julian Sands (The Killing Fields) as the titular male witch, who finds himself transported forward in time from seventeenth century Boston to 1980s Los Angeles while awaiting sentencing for witchcraft. Communicating with Satan through a psychic (former ‘Warhol superstar’ Mary Woronov), the Warlock is charged with bringing about the uncreation by assembling the pages of The Grand Grimoire, a Satanic book said to contain the ‘true’ name of God which, if said backwards, will undo all of the Almighty’s hard work. Mankind’s only hope for salvation lies with the time-travelling witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) who teams up with a young woman, Kassandra (Lori Singer), to hunt the Warlock and prevent him from destroying the universe.
Sands delivers a competent performance as the evil Warlock, his ‘snobby evil English guy’ coming across as a mash-up of Harry Potter’s Lucius Malfoy and a Hunter Hearst Helmsley-era Triple H, but the standout turn belongs to E. Grant with his faux-Scottish witch-hunter Redferne – Kyle Reese to the warlock’s Terminator. Now apart from Withnail & I, I’m not really the biggest E. Grant fan but I’d forgotten (or never realised) how good he is here and it’s a shame that the filmmakers opted to play it straight as Redferne’s ‘fish-out-of-water’ act really provided an opportunity for some decent comic moments.
There are a few laughs to be had (both intentional and unintentional), but for the most part Warlock takes itself a tad too seriously, especially during some of the more ridiculous aspects of the narrative (I mean, I don’t know about you but if a guy dressed in seventeenth-century clobber with long blond hair crashed through my living room window and lay unconscious on the floor, I’d be too busy calling the police to think about putting him up for the night). There’s also quite a bit of violence considering its newly classified 12 rating, and an interesting subplot with the Warlock putting a hex on Kassandra that sees her age twenty years every day, which again is never really explored to its full potential and comes over as another missed opportunity.
Let’s be honest here, Warlock wasn’t the greatest film to begin with but I was surprised by how well the film holds up after all this time, especially when compared to some of its contemporaries. Of course it all reeks of the 80s, from the hideous fashions to near-laughable special effects (particularly the scenes of the Warlock in flight), but could you really expect anything less from a film produced by legendary low-budget maestro Roger Corman? Nostalgia-seekers should find enough to keep them entertained and if you’re already a fan of the movie then the quality of the DVD transfer means it’s time to upgrade that old VHS (even if it does come without any extra features).
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