Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WARLOCK (Review)

WARLOCK (1989)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by Steve Miner

Starring Julian Sands, Lori Singer and Richard E. Grant
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Back in 2011 while Harry Potter fever was gripping video stores upon the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I, I decided to turn my attention to a different tale of witchcraft and wizardry: Warlock.

Released in 1989, Warlock was a film I never had much opportunity to see as a kid although my friends who rented it used to talk about it at school. 22 years later, I finally delved into Warlock courtesy of the bewitching magic that is Netflix. After all this time, has Warlock's magic waned? Did it have any to begin with?

I'm so pretty, oh so pretty...
In the 17th century, an evil Warlock (Julian Sands) is sentenced to death. Before the expert witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) can carry out the sentence, however, the Warlock opens a rift in time and space that transports them to Los Angeles in the late 1980s. Clearly, the late 1980s must have been a very backwards time for fashion when you stop to realize that the Warlock's dress and behaviour raise so few suspicions in 1989 despite the fact that he literally crashes through someone's window. Surrounded by other 80's hipsters, the Warlock's ponytail, shoeless feet, and black frock seem ultra-modern. It's even hard to distinguish the Warlock from other late 80's yuppies. Both are arrogant, pretentious, and self-serving, but whereas 80's yuppies might be violent while on a coke bender, the Warlock is wicked by definition: he lives to curse and kill people who get in his way. His satanic mission: locate the separated pages of the Grand Grimoire, an evil book that contains the true name of God. If spoken in reverse, the name of God will reverse all of creation. It's up to ditzy Kassandra with a 'k' (Lori Singer) and time-displaced witch-hunter Redferne to stop him. What begins as a promising supernatural thriller devolves into a dumb road movie full of lifeless time travel jokes and a story that is more interested in developing a lame-duck romance than any kind of horror.
Warlock say, "Why put soup in a bowl when you can eat it right out of the can?"
In terms of violence, which I always recall my friends describing, the Warlock manages to do his fair share of damage. Basically, the Warlock is a dick: he'll kill you just for the fun of it. Some tongues are ripped out and some eyeballs are plucked, but all the extreme violence (the killing of a child) happens off screen. Most of the time Sands is on screen as the Warlock he's not terribly scary. Prissy and hammy, the Warlock starts to lose credibility the moment he floats through the air like Peter Pan and is twarted by a weather vane. The mild horror he wrought is essentially negated. Something tells me he's not Hogwart's material.

The Warlock only has eyes for you
In additon, the time travel angle makes Warlock insufferably cheesy.  The movie spends way too much time trying to develop an awkward love connection between Kassandra and the hairy-vested Redferne. He's a fish out of water in the modern world, but hilarity certainly does not ensue when the script tries to turn Kassandra from a self-absorbed and annoying airhead into a viable love interest for Redferne by making her bond with him over his bewilderment at modern technology. These scenes completely drag and essentially killed this movie for me.

The Past and Future of Fashion Crime
On top of this flat romance, Redferne isn't much of a character: he spends most of the film simply explaining a number of silly old-world rules about witches and warlocks with which to fight Julian Sands. On the one hand, it's neat that the film abides by (and surely invents) some archaic beliefs about witches (such as that milk curdles in their presence). This gives Redferne plenty of avenues for tracking the Warlock. On the other hand, these same rules also make the Warlock vulnerable to a silly degree. No matter how strong he becomes, he's extremely vulnerable to salt. Just plain old salt. Dump a bucket of tears on him. Push him into the ocean. Trick him into eating french fries at McDonald's. All this will kill him. How scary or impressive can a villain be when the very powers of Satan he wields can be bested by one of the most common of all food seasonings?



For a movie about a killer man-witch, Warlock is insufferably dull. If not for the somewhat quirky witchcraft rules and the mildly amusing violence that follows in the Warlock's path, Warlock would be a complete pass. As it stands, however, the Warlock could stand to take a seriously harsh lesson from Voldemort in what it means to be a real badass magic man.

A version of this review originally appeared on monsterchiller.blogspot.com

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