I had to rack my brain for a moment when I recently reheard the film name ‘Warlock‘. Then, it all came flooding back.
Julian Sands. Time travel. Child murder. Lori Singer’s legs.
I think that’s the reverse order in which they came to me. I really enjoyed the first film when I watched it on video in the ’90s and I may have enjoyed it even more this time round.
Director Steve Miner, best known for his Friday the 13th work, does a great job of creating an entertaining exercise in escapism. Warlock’s script was written by David Twohy who wrote and directed the Riddick trilogy.
The first film’s story starts in 17th century New England where warlock (Julian Sands) is awaiting execution on charges of witchcraft when Satan transports him to 1988 Los Angeles instead. Witch/warlock hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) follows in time travel pursuit. (Yes, it kinda reminds me of Terminator, too.)
The Warlock is tasked with assembling the Grand Grimoire, a book of witchcraft that will reveal the ‘true name of God’. Speaking aloud that name will undo Creation and make him Satan’s ‘Begotten Son’.
Lori Singer plays Kassandra, a waitress and aspiring actress. She helps Giles on his quest because the warlock puts a spell on her that makes her age 20 years every day.
Watching it as a kid, I wanted more magic tricks, more flying warlocks and more bursts of green energy shooting through the air. Today, it seems that the director’s decision to limit the use of special effects that are laughable by the standards we have become accustomed to works in the film’s favor.
The original Warlock wasn’t really a horror movie; it did have themes of the supernatural but there were few scenes that could ever terrify anyone. Yet, it actually sowed more horror in real life than most other movies ever do – a copycat murder.
A young Canadian teen murdered a 7-year-old boy, then boiled and drank parts of his flesh in an attempt to gain the ability to fly, something Sands’s character does.
The murder and method are spoken of in the film but the scene was deleted from the versions released to the public. It does not make an appearance here, either, and I have mixed feelings about that.
Warlock II: The Armageddon
The second movie in the series, Warlock II: The Armageddon was released in 1993, four years after the original.
Besides recasting Julain sands as the title character, there is nothing here that has anything to do with the first film. This time around, the story involves Druids, who used six magical rune stones to avert the birth of Satan’s son every millennium when the sun aligns with the moon.
The rune stones were scattered in the medieval ages and when the celestial alignment happens in modern times, there is nothing to stop the birth Satan’s son, the Warlock.
He is born to a woman wearing one of the rune stones, immediately grows to adult age, kills her and sets off to find the other stones. Uniting all of them will free Satan and, as usual, cause the end of the world.
In a small rural town, a teenage couple have been born druid warriors to druid parents but do not know it. When the parents discover that the Warlock is on earth, they have a week to train the kids before he comes looking for the stone that they are keeping safe.
All manner of hilarity ensues.
Except by hilarity, I mean irritating subplots, gaping holes in logic, and atrocious acting that had me rooting for the Warlock all the way. There is more use of special effects here than in the first film but the end result is more accurately described as ‘special needs effects’.
Warlock II: The Armageddon is the weakest link in the chain by a long shot.
Warlock III – The End Of Innocence (1999)
The second sequel really has nothing to do with either of its two predecessors. The title character is played this time by Bruce Payne who does a great job of adding a bit more depth to the role.
Ashley Laurence of the Hellraiser series plays Kris, a college student who inherits a large mansion in the middle of nowhere. She and a group of friends travel there and stay overnight.
What Kris does not know is that she is descended from a good witch who had defeated an evil warlock (Payne). The latter’s soul is trapped in the mansion and one of her friends accidentally releases it, whereupon it takes human form again.
Over the course of the night and day, the warlock, through promise, bribery and deception gets each of Kris’s friends to betray her; this is the only way he can prepare her as a sacrifice which will allow him to father a race of evil.
This is a film made on a $2 million budget and the payoff is satisfactory. After the dip in quality with the second movie in the series, it was a good recovery.
As is almost invariably the case, the first installment of this series was definitely the best of them. I am probably biased in my love for the original but Warlock III: The End of Innocence comes a close second.