Sometimes I confuse myself. About a month ago I declared myself ‘done’ with anything witch/vampire/zombie/ghostie for a while. Then last week while wandering aimlessly down the video shop aisle killing off a lunch hour I spied the Warlock – Trilogy, that’s all three in one pack.
Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in.
Like The Prophecy, Warlock was a low budget film that proved to be reasonably successful in the VHS market in the late 80s and 90s. Both films were also quite inexpensive and obviously easy enough to make to demand similarly cheap sequels, and a ready-made, albeit pasty and socially awkward, market to justify them.
The confusing part is that I remembered Warlock from my teens as a serviceable but hardly mind-blowing flick, I also (more vaguely) recalled the sequel as a cash-in crapfest – but the only bit I could actually remember was someone ran over a rabbit in their car. The third I didn’t even realise existed until I saw the DVD cover!
So in essence I am betraying my own promise to myself to watch three films that I know at best are average (we all know the third of anything isn’t going to be incredible)…
In a brief intro set in 1691 Boston we are introduced to two of the three main protagonists in the film, the Warlock himself (Julian Sands) and his captor (at the time) Redferne (Richard E Grant).
This brief scene establishes that yep these two guys will be talking funny for the rest of the film – get used to it. (A couple examples “I’ll search hither, you thither” and “Let’s tarry not!”) It also tries in vain to give credibility to the film, justifying some of the more silly stuff to come.
With the costume budget already blown the Warlock escapes to 1988 via some magical portal or something, somehow dragging Redferne along with him to Los Angeles. Why not Boston? Why LA? Well that’s where they make movies silly!
The Warlock has been charged with the task of finding the three missing parts of the Devil’s Bible which are conveniently all located in America. By Devil’s Bible contains various nasty spells and secrets, and by re-combining the three parts the Warlock can learn the true name of God and as a result can un-make existence.
This is bad for us, but apparently good for the Devil and the Warlock, who gets a promotion if he is successful, and will be recognised as the Devil’s son.
The first stop on the Warlock’s round trip of evil finds him visiting “Kassandra with a K” (Lori Singer) and her gay flatmate.
Kassandra is one of those cinematic reminders that harkens to a time when every actress didn’t actually have a tit job or major plastic surgery (sorry Lori, just the facts). After the Warlocks visits pausing only to suck the tongue out of the gay roommate and to put a spell on Kassandra that ages her 20 years every 24 hours off he goes. Of course Redferne shows up shortly afterwards – still rocking the 1600s togs – and using a witch-locating sat-nav device he sets off on the trail of the Warlock with Kassandra in tow desperate to get her 20 years back. (She wasn’t that hot to begin with, it wasn’t the 20 years that was holding her back.)
The ensuing chase is pretty straightforward; a visit to Amish country alerts the Warlock to the pursuit, and then it’s on to Boston for the finale which takes place in a graveyard.
Richard E Grant does his best with a role that requires him to spout ludicrous dialogue in an earnest fashion, Kassandra is essentially supposed ‘comic relief’ and a counterpoint to the serious business (in theory anyway) going on around her.
Julian Sands fares a little better, he is creepy at the best of times. He also doesn’t have as many inane lines and gets to do hammy Warlock stuff that basically consists of pointing at things, squinting and pursing his lips while he waits for the shonky (even for the 80s!) special effects to kick in. And where else do you get to have a convo with a young boy before cutting away to reveal that you have not only killed the boy but plan to drink his boiled body fat to give you the gift of flight! It turns out that in this case it isn’t just Red Bull that gives Warlock’s wings!
Warlock is actually worth a look if only for the fact that they never take it all too seriously – whether they thought that at the time I am not sure – it is basically a chase movie used as an excuse to show some Warlock-ey stuff, with a couple of British guys speaking British-ly as they chase each other all over the America countryside. If nothing else it’s better than 10,000 Twilights.
But so are a lot of things.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. They don’t hand out Oscars for this stuff, but you could do a lot worse on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Warlock 2 on the other hand eschews any semblance of care and attention in favour of ramping up the gore quotient and introducing a little nudity to the mix, and while neither of those things are bad in isolation the fact is that this is considerably more low rent that its predecessor.
Julie Sands returns as the Warlock in spectacular fashion. How about this: when a woman dons the wrong necklace during an eclipse the usual process of impregnation, gestation and delivery are amalgamated and fast tracked to a 40 second process – I wouldn’t be surprised if the Japanese were involved they make everything run more smoothly – imagine her surprise (if all that wasn’t shock enough!) that her new child is immediately adult sized and can speak.
In a further miraculous turn she instantly regains her pre-baby body (Hollywood stars = JEALOUS!!), only to have the unfortunate news that she is about to die and have her own skin turned into a map.
The upshot of W2 is that once again the Warlock is trying to bring about naughty things, this time the birth of Satan’s son. He has but 6 days after his ‘rebirth’ to collect 6 precious stones in between eclipses while God ain’t looking.
Of course he can’t have it all his way, two “I know that guy from somewhere” character actors and an old guy turn out to be modern day druids hellbent on stopping the Warlock from succeeding, only they can’t do it alone so they conscript two young teens named Kenny and Samantha to be Druid-Warriors (what a combo that must be in Dungeons and Dragons) to do most of the leg work for them.
So again we have a situation where the Warlock fangs around collecting things while the good guys prep his downfall from a remote location. This is because realistically there is no way known that two kids could take on a Warlock, so they must keep the two sides apart until the finale, by which time the audience no longer cares and will believe anything if it helps end the movie.
Training for the young witch-fighting duo consists of learning to deal with dodgy CGI – seriously this was made in the 90s and Star Wars puts it in the shade as far as FX go – and tension is created by them repeatedly being told the same facts about the Warlock… he’s dangerous, he’ll kill you, blah-blah-blah.
The amusement on the other hand is created unintentionally by a Reverend and father of Samantha, through his overacting and hamming up every scene that he appears in. I know this was never going to be a serious drama but surely someone better than him was around?
Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. All that aside if there is one thing to take from this review it is don’t watch Warlock 2: The Armageddon. It is less than not very good.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to find this was a script for a totally different film that with a few clips and revisions was turned into a ‘Warlock’ pic. In fact for much of the running time I was reminded frequently of The Prophecy films, even the music was pretty much a rip of the early Prophecy stuff.
The short version has a young woman with no immediate family inheriting a large run down home in the middle of nowhere. Initially she goes alone to sift through the home hoping for clues regarding her family heritage, but her boyfriend and boneheaded friends – among whom is a part-time witch and an S&M fetishist couple – show up unannounced to join in the fun.
Imagine our surprise when around half way through the film a pasty guy in a big black coat shows up to talk just like Julian Sands (but is really some guy named Bruce Payne, even Sands didn’t need the cash this bad) and to look at people through his eyebrows in menacing fashion for a while. That surprise is short lived of course, and once the paint by numbers plot is mechanically laid out and we realise what the Warlock is intent on doing the film becomes nothing more than a serial killer flick where vacuous teens are outmatched by a calm killing machine with supernatural powers.
Why the Warlock is really there is irrelevant – it’s about Chris’s bloodline and a certain amount of human sacrifice is involved – in reality it is an excuse to throw every el-cheapo horror film cliché against the wall and see what sticks.
Not much this time.
We have mirrors that provide a distinctly more eerie reflection, banging shutters and whispered voices, visions and dreams with Hollywood production values (!) and of course the turn, turn, turn, there he is 2 inches away from you scare.
It’s all very perfunctory and altogether unnecessary. I must admit thought that even though this was san-Sands I kinda enjoyed this more than the lazier W2, perhaps it was the Prophecy allusions?
Warlock 3 is a better effort than Warlock 2, which was in itself a pale imitation of the only so-so original. When considered by themselves they are little more than dodgy B movies and a dated reminder of what direct to VHS horror once represented: a couple scares, some nudity and gore (come to think of it things ain’t that different). But when considered as an overall work they are a prime example of how one mediocre movie can be converted into three – with the sequels both lousy – and yet still be extracting money and over 4 hours from this bozo almost two full decades on.
I am sad.
Final Rating – 5 / 10. Another lousy sequel, though this is slightly less lousy than the last.