Far dumber than average eighties horror. It has some fun elements but
has dated extremely poorly, and anyway isn’t at all scary.
WAROCK was financed by the late New World Pictures and
completed in 1988, the year New World filed for bankruptcy. After
languishing for three years the film was acquired by Trimark Pictures.
It was a surprise theatrical success in 1991, and led to an inevitable
sequel, WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON, in 1993.
WARLOCK is also noteworthy as an early screenwriting
credit for David Twohy (credited as D.H. Twohy). Subsequent films
scripted by Twohy include THE FUGITIVE, WATERWORLD, PITCH BLACK, BELOW
and THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, the last three of which he also directed.
Boston, 1691: An evil warlock is about to be hung but
at the last minute somehow thrusts himself forward 300 years. He’s
followed by Giles Redferne, a witch hunter, who pursues the Warlock
through suburban Los Angeles. The Warlock is trying to find the “Devil’s
Book,” which is broken into three pieces. When put back together the
tome will reveal the secret name of God and so end the world.
Redferne teams up with the 20-year-old Kassandra, who’s
aged a further 20 years by the Warlock. The latter also manages to
successfully reunite two sections of the Devil’s Book, increasing his
Redferne and Kassandra take on the Warlock in a series
of goofy supernatural skirmishes that include levitation and voodoo-like
jabbing with nails (which when stuck in the Warlock’s footprints cause
him to feel pain). It all concludes in a cemetery housing the grave of
Redferne, where the final portion of the Devil’s Book is buried.
WARLOCK is at its best in the special effects
showdowns, which aren’t particularly exciting or even convincing (many
of the “scary” scenes are shot in broad daylight, which in this case was
not a good choice), but provide plenty of dumb fun. The sight of
the Warlock flying and/or shooting animated fireballs from his palms is
sublimely ridiculous, not unlike something out of the Eastern
horror/fantasy fests (like A CHINESE GHOST STORY or ZU: WARRIORS FROM
THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN) that evidently inspired WARLOCK.
As for the rest of the film, it’s largely a bust.
Director Steve Miner (of FRIDAY THE 13th 2 and 3, HOUSE and
HALLOWEEN H2O) gives the proceedings a wildly overwrought, melodramatic
sheen that makes the film feels even more dated than it actually is. It
also has a tacky look…and the acting?
If WARLOCK’S headliner Julian Sands has ever given a
decent performance in a movie I have yet to see it. Here he’s as hammy
as ever, matching his terrible acting in
BOXING HELENA and Dario Argento’s
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. The talented Richard E. Grant isn’t much better,
burdened by an overdone Irish accent and a silly costume. Lori Singer is
similarly hampered, spending much of the running time wearing patently
unconvincing old age make-up.
Director: Steve Miner
Producer: Steve Miner
Screenplay: D.H. Twohy
Cinematography: David Eggby
Editing: David Finfer
Cast: Julian Sands, Lori Singer, Richard E. Grant, Mary Woronov, Kevin
O’Brien, Richard Kuss, Allan Miller, Anna Levine, David Carpenter, Kay
E. Kuter, Ian Abercrombie, Kenneth Danziger, Art Smith, Robert Breeze