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WARLOCK

Far dumber than average eighties horror. It has some fun elements but has dated extremely poorly, and anyway isn’t at all scary.

The Package
     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.

The Story
     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 powers considerably.
     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.

The Direction
     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.
 

Vital Statistics

WARLOCK
Trimark Pictures

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

     

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