Opening in the year of our lord 1691 in the tiny new world hamlet of Boston an evil Warlock (the excellent and underappreciated Julian Sands from Gothic, Arachnophobia and The Great Elephant Escape) has been captured by witch hunter extraordinaire Giles Redferne (the equally amazing Richard E. Grant from Withnail and I, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Spice World).
Sentenced to death the Warlock summons up all his powers and transports himself away 300 years into the future arriving in 1980’s L.A in the home of quirky, spirited waitress Kassandra (80’s tastic Lori Singer from Footloose). There, he sets about on a quest to find the Grand Grimoire also known as the Devil’s bible, a book that has the power to destroy all of mankind.
Luckily for the world as we know it, Redferne the witch-finder also manages to travel through time after the sorcerer. With Kassandra in tow, he takes to trailing the wayward warlock, attempting to prevent the unmaking of the universe before the man-witch has his wicked way.
Okay, so having read that plot synopsis you must have already realised that Warlock is ridiculous. What you may not have worked out however is that it features two captivating and committed central performances that transform the film into a brilliantly fun and entertaining slice of 80’s horror well worth seeing.
Directed by slasher stalwart Steve Miner, whose credits include Friday the 13th Part 2 and 3 along with Lake Placid and the ‘not as bad as it could have been’ Halloween H20, and written by David Twohy who went on to write Pitch Black and A Perfect Getaway, Warlock is well written and well directed. It moves between comedy and horror without ever overplaying one or the other.
Obviously inspired by the popularity of Highlander in its time clash storyline, fantasy feel and Grant’s Scottish accent (and animal skin wardrobe) it combines a good slice of gore and frights with folklore, ancient rituals and old wives tales. All creating a solid world of its own and giving the magical elements much more believability.
The true joy and success of the film lies in the Grant and Sands performances, as both actors entirely commit to their ridiculous roles giving over to the plot and the dialogue and relishing the absurdity of it all.
Grant’s no-nonsense, blinkered, burly, moralistic, hunter hero who seems unfazed by being transported into the 80’s is balanced out perfectly by Sands sadistic, cold, heartless warlock whose disregard for human life is chilling. Both bring a gravitas and history to the characters which extends beyond the confines of the film, making their epic conflict seem somehow even more real.
Action packed with fist fights and magic spells, the effects – although cutting edge for the time – now seem pretty dated, although luckily it only adds to the camp fun of the film.
Warlock is silly but it knows it’s silly, and thanks to Grant and Sands’ commitment to the characters, it is an extremely fun frolic of a film perfect for horror fans, Wiccans and Eighties enthusiasts alike.
I wonder if we could get them both back on board for a 21st century reboot?