I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Warlock

tn_warlockWARLOCK is a fun, simple movie about a warlock (Julian Sands) who, as he’s about to be inquisitioned to death in 1691, does a magic spell that transports him to 20th century Los Angeles. A storm accurately referred to as “The Devil’s Wind” literally blows him through the window into the home of Kassandra (Lori Singer) and her roommate. Naturally they figure he’s a drunk and let him spend the night. Talk about a racial double standard! If it was a black guy who flew through their window they’d be going for guns. And that wouldn’t have helped here but it would’ve been the right idea at least. Next thing you know the warlock is cutting out the roommate’s tongue and devouring his life essence.

Suddenly a dude wearing furs (Richard E. Grant) is in the house too. Kassandra screams, tries to get away, he punches her, she punches back. He’s talking nonsense, wants to know if the warlock bled in the house. She cuts open her vacuum bag to give him the glass shards for the window, then tries to get away.

mp_warlockThis is Redferne, the witch hunter guy who caught the warlock and had him in toe cuffs back in the day. He followed him through the portal of time to stop him and avenge the loss of his fiancee. Kassandra follows his weird commands to humor him. But even after she witnesses enough magic to know it’s real she still wants to stay the fuck out of it, not play tour guide and technology-explainer for the time traveler. She’s young! She has a life to live! It’s only when the warlock does a spell that makes her age 20 years that she joins up. And then just until she can reverse the curse.

So it’s kind of a joke about youthful selfishness. She’s funny because she’s so disgusted by looking 40 (admittedly, an old 40, a been-through-alot 40) that you start to think she’s being a baby about it. Of course losing 20 years of life in an instant is completely tragic, but her concern is all about how she looks. Her brazen superficiality kind of makes her more likable though, and is a big part of what makes the movie so light and enjoyable. It’s serious but with a sense of humor. So there’s a big scene of Redferne talking about building a “witch compass” and Kassandra thinking he’s asking “which compass?” And since she’s the one form the 20th century she knows things he doesn’t and she starts to relish it. “Ask me anything,” she says. “I took two years of high school.”

The other big part of the fun is the extensive arsenal of witchcraft gimmicks: the flying potion (with Peter Pan wire effects), the eyeballs he carries around with him, a farmer bleeding just from making eye contact with him, being able to injure him by pounding nails into his footprints, the animated fireball he shoots into Redferne’s mouth that the poor guy then has to puke out…

still_warlock

And Singer’s bubbliness bounces well off Grant’s ernestness and Sands’s embodiment of pure douchey arrogance. It takes dedication to pull off one of these man-out-of-time premises. Somehow it feels more legit than BEASTMASTER II. Actually if you think about it it’s very similar to THE TERMINATOR: ordinary young woman teams with warrior from another era to try to stop a nearly unstoppable being also from that era. It even has some business with fate and timelines because they discover what appears to be Redferne’s grave. Even though he’s standing right here! WHAT THE FOCK?

It keeps going in different directions with our heroes and villain taking turns chasing each other and battling it out on a Mennonite’s farm, at a church and in a graveyard. They even take a commercial flight to Boston and since it’s pre-9-11 he’s able to take a huge spear-like weather vane as a carry-on. There’s a great shot where Redferne senses the warlock is nearby. The camera pushes in on his foot tapping nervously, then goes through the floor to reveal the warlock underneath with the luggage, roasting a bat or something with magic fire from his hand.

This is another movie that treats witchcraft as real and witch killers as heroes, which is one of my horror pet peeves since the witch trials are a real tragedy that happened and I hate pretending like the assholes who did it were right. But I think since in this one they travel through time and fly and stuff it’s so far into the realm of fantasy that it doesn’t bother me as. I’m not saying that’s correct, it’s just how my brain works I guess.

WARLOCK is a bit of an eyebrow raiser because

1) why did I completely ignore it in the video stores for decades

2) why doesn’t Steve Miner get more recognition for his impressive body of entertainment? He was the FRIDAY THE 13TH associate producer who graduated to director for parts 2 and 3, my favorites of the series. He also directed HOUSE, which I recently revisited and realized was a good one. And he did HALLOWEEN: H20, which in my minority opinion is the most worthwhile of the HALLOWEEN sequels even though I still don’t get why they couldn’t figure out how to make the mask look the same. And he did LAKE PLACID. All those combined with WARLOCK seal it, it can’t be a coincidence. He’s a good b-movie journeyman. I forgive him for his terrible DAY OF THE DEAD remake.

Let’s also acknowledge screenwriter David Twohy, who’s gotta be in the same category. As a director he did the RIDDICK movies and THE ARRIVAL and A PERFECT GETAWAY, all fun. As a writer he also has GI JANE, TERMINAL VELOCITY and THE FUGITIVE under his belt, among others.

Brothers and sisters, we are at WARLOCK!

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 at 8:20 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

47 Responses to “Warlock”

  1. That was an unexpected, but very welcome review.
    There was an interview with Steve Miner years ago (probably in STARLOG), where he talked about his career. This movie came up and he said it was very satisfied with it, except for one huge miscasting. Unfortunately he didn’t say who he was talking about and that shit still bothers me.

  2. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 21st, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I’ve only ever seen this once and can’t remember much about it. I did use to be a big fan of the sequel. It has classic bits like the warlock shooting people for real using just his finger and that girl that keeps annoying him while they’re driving in the car. At some point she asks “How’s my hair?” and he rips it from her skull and shows it to her. “See for yourself.”

    Gotta watch that one again, it’s been a long time.

  3. What a weird career Miner has had. After WARLOCK, he graduated into weepy melodramas, like that one with the blind girl jumping horses off a ramp into a pool and that one where Mel Gibson is in a coma or whatever. He also did SOUL MAN, which, holy shit, that movie could not be made today. Rae Dawn Chong forgiving C. Thomas Howell at the end may have set the precedent for racist apologia for the next 30 years. Yet somehow Miner became the most diverse of the early slasher directors. How did he get his shot at a Miramax-type prestige pic nearly ten years before Wes Craven? It makes no sense.

    This is all weirder than that time I realized the same guy directed FIRST BLOOD and WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S.

  4. C J, I remember that same interview and because I was a big fan of the work Richard E Grant had done at the time, I was a little pissed because I assumed he meant Grant. That bit still bugs me whenever I think about it. Pretty strange thing to get hung up on, but now to hear someone else mention it makes it seem even stranger. Lots of good ideas in the movie, but over all just doesn’t have that certain something to make it a real classic.

  5. This kinda sounds like it has some thematic similarities to Vin Diesel’s upcoming THE LAST WITCH HUNTER – you know, the one where he’s an immortal, medieval, uh, witch hunter who comes to modern day New York to…hunt some witches, I guess. I’m betting that THAT one will also play the “witches were bad for real, yo!” card.

  6. That WARLOCK cover art is definitely one of the most prominent visual memories from the early ’90s era of young me visiting video rental stores multiple times a week. Probably saw the WARLOCK preview a bunch of times at the beginning of other contemporary VHSes. And somehow I never bothered to watch the movie until like 2 years ago when I went on a Twohy-binge. I haven’t verified the historical accuracy of all the witchcraftisms, but it seems like he did his research, and Miner did a fine job keeping it light and classy with material that easily could have been turned into a z-grade laugher or, if it had been made 15 years later, a hideous Stephen Sommers-type cartoon disaster. I like WARLOCK. Long live effective low budget effects.

  7. In LaRonge, Saskatchwan in 1990 there was a kid who murdered another kid to boil and drink his fat so he could fly just like in this movie. Because of the incident pretty much everyone I knew was at least aware of this flick since I’m from Saskatchewan and we don’t see that sort of stuff happen very often.

  8. Here’s a link if you’re morbidly curious for more info.

    http://murderpedia.org/male.C/c/charles-sandy.htm

  9. Always dug this one. In Grant’s great memoir (With Nails) he talks about the crazy casting process he went through for the gig. The best part is him trying to bulk up to play a hero, force-feeding himself milk. He HATES milk, calling it “cow’s mucus” – which always tickled me.

    For the record, I love milk.

  10. Yeah, this was in my bootlegged late 80’s, early 90’s VHS collection. I used to bring it out(the video, that is) at weekend parties/sleepovers to try and scare the girls. It never seemed to have the desired effect. Too light and hammy(again, the movie). So I’d have to pull out the big gun(no comment), THE EXORCIST, to get the party started. Good times.

  11. Also, I’ve always kinda liked LAKE PLACID. I wouldn’t call it great, and it might even be a stretch to say it’s good, but there’s a nice mix of witty banter and cheesy crocodile attacks to keep it entertaining enough. And Bridget Fonda is never not a welcome sight to my eyeballs.

  12. It also beat the Betty White renaissance to the punch by nearly a decade.

  13. Thanks for the David Twohy shoutout. I was a huge fan of THE ARRIVAL, which probably plays even better now that Charlie Sheen is a kitsch icon.

    Twohy also made a Jeff Daniels time-travel movie called TIMESCAPE which I once saw on TV. Not as good, but memorable for a hilarious scene where two different Danielses from different points in his timeline have an argument that actually escalates into a fist fight. Talk about self-harm.

  14. How have we gotten this many comments (which, for Vern, really ain’t that many) without anyone mentioning the sequel?

    I’ve always had a weird soft spot for the sequel. The trailer for the first film was mainlined at the video shop in my town when I was kid, but back then I hated “magic” and pretty much anything that involved it, including witch stories and the like. However, that trailer got me.

    It comes out pretty lame in the actual film but the warlock flying and chasing the car and landing on it, that stuff was cut really well in trailer and always stuck with me. A few years later, I picked up Warlock: The Armageddon off the new-release shelf based on the trailer that I’d seen on some other tape and the fact that it was directed by Anthony Hickox, who, at the time was kind of a God to me for Waxworks (one) and Two.

    They don’t work nearly as well for me now, but the Waxworks duology was fucking mind-blowing to a ten year-old and I held them up the way some metal T-shirted long-hairs would your Evil Dead’s and Friday’s and what-not.

    What? What am I getting at? Vern, you must watch and review Warlock: The Armegeddon (2). The hive-mind is stirred. The runes are right. C’mon, it was DTV at its height.

  15. The 3rd Warlock film has Hellraiser star Ashley Laurence in it.

  16. ^Boum!

  17. Also in part 3: Bruce Payne as Warlock.

    And Captain, I can’z speak for the others, but I didn’t talk about the sequel because I hope this one is Vern’s next review.

  18. The Original Paul

    January 22nd, 2015 at 3:47 am

    This is one of those movies that I keep hearing people mention but never think “Well I gotta see this”. But THE TERMINATOR played out with a warlock from the past instead of a machine from the future sounds just up my alley.

  19. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 22nd, 2015 at 5:11 am

    Captain: check the second post of the thread

    I”m not sure I’ve seen the third one with Bruce Payne. Maybe I have but forgotten all about it. Was it terrible?

  20. Thanks Gaul. I was drunk.

  21. grimgrinningchris

    January 24th, 2015 at 8:51 am

    The only thing I recall Bout this one was Singer’s “old age” makeup being really bad and looking like silly putty.
    I think I have to revisit it now.

  22. WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON” was not DTV. It actually had a moderately wide release by 1993 standards. I know this because I talked my Dad into picking me up from my college dorm so that we could go see it together.

    At the time, neither of us were happy about the decision. It was perhaps foolish going to the “WARLOCK” sequel expecting something good or at least cool, but it just seemed like a bad, bad movie.

    Flash forward to 2015: I own the dvd and find it to be an enjoyably quaint bad movie with the lousy-in-1993 analog effects actually kind of a blast in the digital era.

    One thing, however, which is clearer to me now than when I was 17 is Hickox’s taste for misogynistic sadism.

    And this is typed by someone who gives Clive Barker a lifetime pass for his own brand of fetishistic art. The thing with Barker is that his fetishism is all-encompassing and applied across a wide spectrum of people, genders, races and experiences. With Barker, it’s as philosophical as much as it is his personal kink.

    Hickox, on the other hand, seems to have some kind of weird taste for being sadistic to women, occasionally with overtones of bondage. It’s an unmistakeable deep, dark rabbit hole with his work that once it clicks, you can’t stop noticing it. Although, I suppose he should be given some credit for his “know thyself” awareness, particularly by casting himself as the guy who likes to watch the Marquis de Sade do his thing in “WAXWORK,” and it also adds a bit of personal vision to his shlocky movies.

    “WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON” is not as overt as “WAXWORK” or “HELLRAISER III,” but it’s in there. The defense, of course, is that WTA is much more of a slasher movie than its predecessor and everybody, male and female are fair game for getting warlocked, usually after making a seriously stupid decision.

    But the circumstances surrounding the Warlock’s rebirth (easily the best scene in the movie) are fascinatingly gruesome and weird. It’s kind of like black magic body horror and Hickox really digs into it and comes close to crossing the line into making a borderline good horror movie. Even the weird black magic fetishism works.

    And then you remember that Hickox cast himself as the black clad dude who puts an arrow through the head of the innocent woman in bondage during the opening credits and remember to temper your admiration.

  23. I remember WARLOCK took a loooooooooooooong time to come out. I worked in a Bayside New York movie theater that had the trailer playing before movie after movie for months. There was some kind of serious hold up, but the film did eventually open at the theater. Another was LAST RITES with Tom Berenger and Daphne Zuniga…we had that trailer for months before they realized it was pulled and basically went straight-to-video (never opened in N.Y., anyway). I didn’t like Warlock so much then, kinda bored me. I’d recheck it now. SOUL MAN isn’t as bad as I think some people insist it is, Armond White, while not thinking it great cinema, defends it as an honorable effort.

  24. “This is another movie that treats witchcraft as real and witch killers as heroes, which is one of my horror pet peeves since the witch trials are a real tragedy that happened and I hate pretending like the assholes who did it were right.”
    So no HANSEL AND GRETEL review any time soon?

  25. Did you enjoy it? I have considered watching it.

  26. I thought it was an okay stab at a studio movie with an earlyish Sam Raimi vibe (the whole movie might as well be a remake of the “Yo, She-Bitch” scene). Of course, most people nowadays confuse “purposely ludicrous” with “soooooo stooopid OMG like worse mvoie evar” so naturally I know not one person who liked it. I did not care for DOD SNO at all but I think this Swedish guy more or less pulled off what he was going for this time, thanks in no small part to the committed, straight-faced performances of his two leads.

  27. Yeah, I think it’s a pretty fun, intentionally silly film that has some great gore effects and the historical witchcraft problems you have may be mitigated by how it doesn’t even really try to be realistic of historically accurate, what with all the American accents and a minigun being used at one point. I also really appreciated having a mainstreamish movie where the male and female leads have no chance of getting together because they’re brother and sister, which is a relationship very under-explored compared to those between siblings of the same gender.

  28. I also appreciated the brother/sister relationship. Too often filmmakers don’t know what to do with brothers and sisters, so they make their relationship too clingy and it just comes off creepy. Hansel and Gretel seemed very matter of fact about it. I don’t remember anybody getting jealous or overprotective or any of the things movie brothers and sisters do that real-life brothers and sisters almost never do. They were equals, too, which was nice after so many movies where one of them is just old enough to be more of a surrogate parent than a sibling. (Cue inevitable “You’re not my father!” speech) I have three sisters myself, and while we’ve never gone witch-hunting together, I imagine it would be a little something like this. Hopefully with mini-gun.

  29. P.S. I apologize to my Scandinavian brethren for calling Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola “this Swedish guy.”

  30. Mr Majestyk, it was barely noticed. Everybody knew instinctively that a movie like that couldn’t be made by a Swede. Have you seen DØD SNØ 2, by the way?

  31. I have not. I really didn’t like the first one but the presence of Martin Starr has me intrigued. If the whole movie takes its cues from his top-shelf deadpan, it’ll be a massive improvement over the original.

  32. But what about EVIL ED? That’s a movie very much in the DØD SNØ vein, and it was made in Sweden. By Swedes, no less!

  33. Yeah WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON was theatrical. I saw it at the flicks since I used to love the original so damn much as a kid. Still one of the most fucked up opening scenes to a movie that I’ve ever seen.

  34. It´s funny how people seem to screw up Scandinavian nationalities. If John Carpenters THE THING has tought us anything is that people outside Scandinavia are easily confused about who or what Scandinavians are. On the one hand you have MacReady calling Norwegians for Swedes, but also one of the so called Norwegians in the film speak in some weird ass tongue that echoes more Icelandic than any Norwegian I have ever heard. I find it peculiar and in my mind quite entertaining and non-offensive as far as I am concerned. Everyone knows that Norwegians are poor mans Swedés.

    By the way, Mr Majestyk. I appreciate you defending Swedish genre-films in my absence. Thanks,bro.

  35. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 2nd, 2015 at 2:58 am

    Same thing happens with Dutch and Germans. I remember in Assassins with Sly and Banderas at some point there is a group of criminals who are described as Dutch… cue a scene where they’re speaking to each other very obviously in German! Or Austin Powers: Goldmember, where again, a Dutch accent sounds suspiciously like German…

    I guess it’s because a Dutch accent is very hard to do, it’s so weird and specific. I never fail to notice it though, especially in Carice Van Houten performances. In her defense, I hear they actually asked her to keep her Dutch accent for her role on Game Of Thrones because it made her sound more strange and exotic. Annoys the hell out of me though…

  36. And suitably for this thread, in GoT Von Houten plays a…WARLOCK!

  37. I imagine it happens with countries whose languages sounds indistinguishable for outsiders. Therefore they think can get away with it. The movie-making process even today is still highly americanized considering how important foreign territories are today for Hollywood, especially China. Do you think they would fuck up mandarin or cantonese dialogue? No, they wouldn´t.

  38. At the same time actors from Scandinavia are seen everywhere these days. And they speak reasonably good English. It sounds as if it’s a lot harder for French, German and Chinese stars to make the transition.

  39. I haven’t seen GAME OF THRONES. Is Carice related to Milhouse?

  40. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 6th, 2015 at 2:03 am

    Who’s Milhouse?

  41. Gaul>>

    The Simpsons, man. Millhouse Van Houten is Bart Simpson’s best friend, and the only exposure Americans have ever had to that last name in popular culture before Carice van Houten came on the scene.

  42. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 6th, 2015 at 4:22 am

    I was thinking of The Simpsons but didn’t know that characters last name (never been much of a fan, must’ve been ten years since I watched an episode) so I thought I was missing something. I get it now though. They have the same last name! Ha!

  43. Damn. I thought I was being witty, but instead I just personified the stereotypical ignorant American! Or are Simpsons references just cliche?

    Either way, I should go back to lurking.

  44. But your mom says you’re cool. That’s the important thing.

    Everything’s comin’ up Mulhouse!

  45. “NOBODY LIKES MILHOUSE!”

  46. I saw this back in the day in the theaters. Pretty good fun. The comparison to The Terminator is more then apt.
    Vern, you forgot to mention the pretty good movie score by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith.

  47. For those wondering who Miner was talking about in that Starlog interview, it was most likely Singer. I have yet to read that article myself, but read another one where he basically stated the exact opposite. That Warlock was a mess and that he accepts the blame for it. As for the Starlog comment, I have heard him say nothing but good things about the two male leads. Lori was a different matter. She was difficult on the set and destroyed all the make-up effects that were prepared for her as she found them too uncomfortable in the heat. Of course critics complained that what was left was dismal. So Miner took a hit on that one. Her performance is criticized as being the worst as well. I doubt Miner will ever confirm it though.

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