Retro Review: ‘Warlock’
In 1989 a low budget horror film was made which has become a cult hit and guilty pleasure for many movie fans. Mixing time travel with the occult, and a fantastical concepts, Warlock is nothing short of an entertaining horror film about a time travelling warlock and the man hunting him down.
A Warlock from the 16th century finds himself in the 1980’s with a plot to find a lost book which will reveal the true name of God. Once he recites this name backwards he will successfully unmake all of creation. Trailing him from his own time is Redferne the man who imprisoned him while in their own time. Redferne joins forces with Kassandra a woman who has crossed paths with the Warlock and suffered for it.
Made on a hilariously tiny budget Warlock‘s success as a cult classic rests entirely on the talent assembled to make it. A great mix of those who were movie mainstays like director Steve Miner and those destined for Hollywood success, like the screenwriter David Twohy. A veteran Miner was know for two things in the movie business; introducing audiences to Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13 Part 2 and putting him in his iconic mask in Friday the 13th Part 3. He had a certain prestige in the genre which gave this movie a sense of credibility it would not have otherwise. The legendary Jerry Goldsmith helped him by providing the memorable musical score for the picture. They worked on the first movie script from writer, David Twohy who would go on to give audiences the Riddick films with Vin Diesel.
With so much talent behind the camera it was bound to attract great talent to be in front of the camera. Julian Sands had been offered roles in horror movies before only to turn them down, but the dark humor of Warlock attracted the acclaimed actor to this flick. While other actors of his esteem would have phoned it in, Sands delivers a truly memorable and villainous performance. He dominates every scene he is in, oozing malice and arrogance while crafting a truly captivating character. Not to be outdone, Richard E. Grant is the heroic Redferne and plays this character as the kind of stalwart hero usually reserved for fantasy epics. Sands are Grant are both performers of high esteem and both of them deliver great performances in what was simply a low budget horror flick. The weak link in the cast was easily 80’s icon Lori Singer as Kassandra who completely phones it in and contributes nothing memorable.
The biggest reason Warlock is not remembered as a masterpiece of the genre today is due to the lackluster visuals. Halfway through production they were forced to switch special effects companies to one that was much cheaper and provided work to match that price tag. Even for its time the visual effects on the movie look laughably bad with rotoscope animation and obvious green screens throughout. Another notorious flaw in production was the old age make-up used when Kassandra was cursed by the Warlock to age rapidly. The artists crafted a detailed and believable make-up for this but Lori Singer refuse to don it, forcing them to instead rely on wigs and shading to try to show aging to poor results. Despite these flaws Warlock is nothing short of an entertaining and original horror film well deserving of its growing cult following. There are shortcomings but there are also huge upsides to the flick thanks to the talented artists behind the scenes as well as a incredible performances by Julian Sands and Richard E. Grant.