1691, Boston, a Warlock (Sands) is imprisoned pending execution by burning “over a basket of living cats”. The Warlock has been captured by witch hunter Giles Redferne (Grant), however on the eve of the execution he is able to escape, disappearing into a magical vortex. Before the portal closes Redferne dives through, leaving the missionary fathers fair scratching their heads.
The Warlock’s portal dumps him in 1980s Malibu. After spending some time dilly dallying causing minor havoc slicing off magic astrology mood rings from gay men’s fingers, frying tongues, and giving a fake psychic a shock encounter with actual possession, the Warlock sets about seeking the scattered sections of a Grand Grimoire which will reveal to him the hidden name of god and allow him to undo all of creation. Luckily for humanity Redfearne is soon in pursuit, along with a young 20th century woman Kassandra (Singer) whom the Warlock has cursed to age two decades in every 24 hours. Redferne wants revenge, Kassandra wants to break the soon to be fatal ageing spell. Together this mismatched couple are the only thing stands between the Warlock and his desire to initiate Armageddon.
Warlock is directed by Steve Miner (the producer of the original Friday the 13th, and director of parts 2 and 3, as well as Halloween H20, and Lake Placid) working from an early David Twohy script (writer and director of Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, and er Riddick). Produced by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, this is a classic example of enjoyable 80s cheese. Completely unoriginal, the plot is basically The Terminator given a supernatural makeover, but nevertheless enjoyable.
The presence of Richard E. Grant elevates the film, he has a whale of a time storming around California in a wolf skin overcoat, bursting through doors, cracking a whip and spouting incredibly hammy dialogue in the type of Scottish accent not heard since the cancellation of Take The High Road. He even has a few catch phrases, barking “Let’s tarry not”, and “you search hither, I’ll search thither” at a bemused Singer. A sceptical priest asks Redfearne what his interest in the Grimore is at one point. Grant, eyes bulging out of his head, replies “our interest is in stopping those who would see all good falter. It is in stopping the powers of misrule from coming of age. It lies in thwarting a beast of a man who shall not rest until God himself is thrown down, and all creation becomes SATAN’S BLACK HELL BESMIRCHED FARTING HOLE!!!” You have to really roll the R’s for the full effect.
Julian Sands has a reputation as one of Britain’s very worst actors, but he’s rather good as the villain. Camping things up no end and showing a boyish glee in committing appalling acts of sadism and evil (well as appalling as they can be within the confines of a 12 certificate). Singer (best known for playing the cello in the TV series of Fame) has to suffer from being buried under terrible puffy ageing makeup for much of the film, but does a reasonable pre-T2 Linda Hamilton impression. There are some sparse but reasonably impressive optical FX and a pretty funny flying sequence where Sands is clearly being swung from a crane.
There are no mobile phones to spoil the fun, and one is reminded that the eighties were a different time when Redfearne is able to board an airplane carrying a huge spear as hand luggage.
Undemanding fun, made by people who know they are making a low budget quickie but are still committed to make the best of it. Which is refreshing in this age of Sharktopus and the like.