Written by Shannon McGrew
The “Warlock” films are the perfect example of those movies that seem to have amassed quite a cult following since the first ones release in 1989, and just like when I reviewed the “Wishmaster” series, the “Warlock” films seem to have always flown under my radar. That being said, when I had the opportunity to review Vestron Video’s latest release, the “Warlock Collection”, I jumped at the chance and prepared myself for the onslaught of entertainment I was going to experience.
The first film in this installment, “Warlock”, is directed by Steve Miner and stars Julian Sands, as the Warlock, Lori Singer and Richard E. Grant. The film centers around a dangerous and powerful Warlock who has used his magic to escape the 17th century, landing him straight into the 20th century, where he finds himself being pursued by a determined witch-hunter (Grant). Though I didn’t end up loving this film, I did appreciate a lot of what it had to offer. Julian Sands, for one, does an exceptional job of bringing the Warlock to life and I found myself very drawn to his character and his ability to be somewhat charming (when he wasn’t trying to kill you).
In regards to the special effects, well, it’s the 80s, so I’m sure you can imagine the quality that was presented. Though the effects were sub-par at best, what I did really like was the animated fire that they used in place of real fire. At first I thought it was kind of cheesy, but ultimately something about it grew on me and it seemed to fit perfectly in place as a quirky addition to the film. I also found the moments where the Warlock was flying to be exceptionally hilarious since the special effects didn’t really make the Warlock fly so much as he kind of just hovered in the air. I’m sure the budget for the film didn’t allow for over the top special effects but maybe they should not have made the Warlock fly so that it wouldn’t look so ridiculous when he did.
Overall, “Warlock” had some quality moments and I really enjoyed Julian Sands and Richard Grant’s performances but all in all, the first film didn’t really do much for me. In 1993, audiences got to experience the second film in the series, “Warlock: The Armageddon.” This time the film saw a new director, Anthony Hickox, but made sure to bring back Julian Sands to portray the Warlock. The central story in this film centered on two adults who learn that their families were part of the Druids in which their destiny is to battle the Warlock before he unleashes Satan upon the world with the use of six mystic rune stones.
I’m happy to report that this film was MUCH better than the previous. One of my favorite scenes happens early on where we witness the rebirth of Warlock and it’s quite a bloody mess, which really sets the tone for the rest of the film. Julian Sands is once again fantastic as the Warlock and even brings a bit more edge to the character. Chris Young and Paula Marshall play the children who learn their families are part of a Druid lineage and though their acting is a bit dramatic, I still enjoyed their performances and creativity towards trying to defeat the Warlock.
Luckily, the special effects were better this time around; however, what was very noticeable were the on-camera blunders by the crew who were doing things in the background that weren’t edited out. For example, we are led to believe that Kenny (Young) has used his mind-powers to start a car in hopes of it running over the Warlock. However you can see that someone was clearly driving the car as their hair was sticking up above the dashboard. Though that could be easily brushed off, the most noticeable offense was when the Warlock was showing his strength in toppling over an incredibly large rock formation, only for there to be part of the crew pushing on the fake rock with him.
Though these slip-ups could be looked down upon, a part of me found them to be very humanizing. It takes a village to put together a film and these glimpses of the crew really showed that. Overall, “Warlock: The Armageddon” is one of those rare cases where I felt the sequel was better than its predecessor. Sure, there were corny moments and the acting left a lot to be desired but I felt like this film had more heart than the one before and definitely the one after. Out of all three movies, “Warlock: The Armageddon” is definitely my favorite.
“Warlock III: The End of Innocence”, is the last piece of this trilogy and it came out six years after the last one. Again, this film finds itself a new director, Eric Freiser, but also a new Warlock, played by Bruce Payne. This film pretty much hits all the classic cliches one would expect from a late-90’s horror film and I have to admit, I kind of loved that about the movie. This time, the story focuses on a college student who learns that she has inherited a run-down house that is going to soon be demolished. With the help of her friends, she goes there to collect any remaining heirlooms only to be targeted by the powerful Warlock who’s interested in her bloodline.
Fans of the “Hellraiser” films will be happy to see a familiar face as this movie stars none other than Ashley Laurence. In terms of most of the acting, everyone was about average, nothing too memorable, with the exception of Bruce Payne. When I watched the “Wishmaster” series, I was super bummed when they replaced Andrew Divoff, but in “Warlock III” I was actually incredibly surprised with how much I enjoyed Bruce Payne’s performance! In all honesty, he was probably the best part of the film and really made the Warlock character unique to his style. If anything, if I had to watch this film again it would be for his performance alone.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this film. It runs the typical gambit of young adults trapped in a creepy house during a storm who are then attacked by a supernatural/otherworldly being and are killed. I will admit that some of the kills were interesting and the special effects are way above that of the first film, but other than that, there isn’t too much to discuss. As I mentioned above, the only shining light was Bruce Payne’s performance and without that, this is a film that could easily be forgotten, even with all the late 90s cliches. Overall, I enjoyed “Warlock III” for what it was, but I don’t think they’ll be a time in the near future where I need to revisit the film again.
So there you have it, my review of all the “Warlock” films! If you are a fan of 80s horror films and enjoy cheesy special effects and even cheesier acting, I highly suggest picking up this limited edition collection from Vestron Video before they are all gone!