After watching the wonderful, thoughtful colonial period piece The Witch, I thought I’d sit down with a decidedly different take on 17th century sorcery: 1989s cult favourite Warlock. I’m pretty sure the pitch for Warlock went basically like this: “Did you like The Terminator? Well, how about we whip up a dark fantasy-horror version of that, and add in dash of humour?” That pitch certainly makes it sound like Warlock is low on creativity, but that’s selling the film pretty short – while, yes, fundamentally, this is The Terminator, it’s also really funny, has a cool 80s horror vibe, has some great actors, and it’s filled with inventions and ideas that flesh out its world of Satanic warlocks, witches, and their hunters.
In 1691, a warlock (Julian Sands) is sentenced to death. Before he can be executed, Satan appears and hurls him through time to Los Angeles circa 1989. Witch hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) follows him through the portal, and continues his quest to put an end to the warlock. Waitress Kassandra (Lori Singer) inadvertently gets in the way of the warlock and finds herself on the business end of a nasty curse, so she joins up with Giles to get uncursed and save the world from Satan.
Directed by Steven Miner (Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part 3, House, Lake Placid), Warlock feels 80s in a very good way. Big hair, getting onto a plane with a potential weapon, smoking everywhere. Given that we’re – shockingly, how-did-this-happen, it feels like yesterday – almost thirty years removed from the world of Warlock, watching it now makes me feel more than a little like intrepid witch hunter Giles – bemused, awed, were things really like this? Speaking of Giles, Richard E. Grant really kills it here – he goes for broke with the clueless-guy-from-another-time-speaking-old-English thing. He’s got great timing, and plays a great straight man; the ridiculous outfit he wears only adds to the absurdity. While Miner does a great job – the film looks quite nice, and the effects are mostly pretty cool in an awesome 80s practical effects way – it’s the two leads Grant and Sands that really make Warlock work. Grant and Lori Singer have a surprising amount of chemistry and play off each other well, and Sands seems to be having an absolute blast playing the camp, villainous warlock.
If you, like us at Rare Horror, love 80s horror movies and have somehow let Warlock slip by, trust us and give this one a watch. It’s cool, funny, super 80s, and has some great performances.