Directed By: Steve Miner
Starring: Julian Sands, Lori Singer, Richard E. Grant
Tag line: "He's come from the past to destroy the future"
Trivia: The film was originally completed in late 1988 and was one of the last films completed by distributor New World Pictures before they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Everything about 1989’s Warlock, from its plot to its trailer filled with ‘80s special effects, led me to believe I was in for a movie I’d probably enjoy, but more for the nostalgia it stirred than any real appreciation of the film itself. This makes Warlock a genuine surprise. Sure, the movie screams 1980s, yet it also relates an exciting tale of 17th century witchcraft set loose in modern-day America.
Boston, 1691. A dangerous warlock (Julian Sands) is imprisoned for performing witchcraft. But before his death sentence can be carried out, the warlock conjures up a vortex that helps him escape 300-odd years into the future. At the exact moment he leaps through time, his chief rival, a witchfinder named Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant), tries to restrain him, thus inadvertently tagging along to the 20th Century. Rendered unconscious by his time jump, the warlock comes to in a house occupied by a young woman named Kassandra (Lori Singer), whose kindness is rewarded with a curse that makes her age 20 years in a single day! Promised he'd become Satan’s “Chosen One” if he re-assembled the pages of an ancient Satanic bible, the warlock sets to work tearing the modern world apart. But Redferne, assisted by the cursed Kassandra, is doing what he can to destroy his nemesis before he can complete his hellish task.
Right up front, let me state for the record that the effects in Warlock are painfully dated; the scene where the title character escapes from the 1600’s, with its storm clouds and spinning vortexes, doesn’t look nearly as impressive today as it might have in 1989. What does hold up, however, are the moments featuring Julian Sands’ warlock. Aside from a key sequence in which he visits a medium (Mary Woronov), there’s a truly creepy scene involving a young boy (Brandon Call) who has something the warlock desperately needs. While I did enjoy other aspects of Warlock (The rapid aging of Lori Singer’s Kassandra brought a sense of urgency to the film, and Grant is excellent as the holy man who follows his adversary into the future), it’s in the warlock’s quest for ungodly power that the meat of this story lies.
Warlock does try to generate a few laughs, centered mostly on Redferne’s experiences with the modern world. Shortly after his arrival in the 20th century, Redferne finds himself surrounded by the police, and when he attempts to intimidate them with a whip, he’s taken down by a taser gun. Such sequences aside, Warlock is a grim motion picture, with disturbing violence and a deliciously diabolical performance from Julian Sands. Far from the slice of ‘80s cheese I was expecting, Warlock proved an unsettling delicacy that left me entirely satisfied.