Horror Movie Review: Warlock (1989)


Warlock – a man who practices witchcraft; a sorcerer.

Warlock is another one of those movies that falls in the category of “movies I was probably too young to be watching” but regardless of this, I still watched the film and have some pretty fond memories of it. It’s been a good while since I last saw Warlock so I went into viewing it with an open mind instead of having any expectations built up by nostalgia.

In 2015 Warlock is considered to be a “cult horror film” which is no surprise considering when it was released. I recently discovered that it was directed by the same man who directed House (1986, Steve Miner) which is a classic horror that I adore. Not only this but Warlock was written by the same man who wrote Critters 2 (David Twohy) which is another classic horror that I adore so where the hell could it go wrong, read on to find out if it does or not.

The film opens in 1691 The Warlock (Sands) is taken captive in Boston, Massachusetts by the witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E Grant). He is sentenced to death for his activities, including the bewitching of Redferne’s bride-to-be, but before the execution Satan appears and propels the Warlock forward in time to 20th century Los Angeles, California. Redferne follows through the portal.

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The Warlock attempts to assemble The Grand Grimoire, a satanic book that will reveal the “true” name of God and undo creation. Redferne and The Warlock, then embark on a cat-and-mouse chase with the Grand Grimoire. We’re introduced to the other main character in the movie, Kassandra (Lori Singer); a 20 year old nurse who is cursed by the Warlock to age 20 years every 24 hours.

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Luckily for Kassandra she encounters Giles attempting to use a witch compass to track the Warlock. Explaining some basic rules of the Warlock, such as their weakness to purified salt, Kassandra follows Giles after seeing the compass work and after celebrating her 40th birthday….

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Redferne soon discovers that the Warlock has gained the ability to fly; this is done by drinking the boiled fat of an unbaptized, virgin child. There are some pretty fun moments between Kassandra and Redferne as he struggles to adjust to “modern” times this is mainly because Lori Singer and Richard E. Grant have really great chemistry which leads to many amusing scenes.

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The Warlock pays a quick visit to a local spiritualist who claims to be able to contact the dead. After failing to contact a particular demon for him, said demon forces its way into the spiritualist and tells the warlock how to find the Grimoire.

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The Warlock quickly manages to assemble half of the Grimoire when he and Redferne arrive at the exact location of the third portion of the book. A short battle takes place and the Warlock takes quite a beating, apparently hammering a nail into a footprint or any kind of indentation that has been left in the ground will be as if he had the nail hammered directly into him, much like a voodoo doll.

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At this point, Kassandra is 80 years old and very near death. Thanks to the whole hammer and nail deal she is able to regain her youth and considers leaving Redferne but only until he informs her that if doesn’t help and the Warlock gains the entire Grimoire she’d die anyway.

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I really love these “rules” that the film introduces because they just feel really fresh and creative. Warlocks are not something that has really been done very often so it’s very enjoyable and interesting.

*Spoilers*

Anyway, Giles is stunned to learn that the last portion is buried in his grave, buried off of church lands under the cursed sign of a witch. The Warlock appears and gains the finally piece and starts a ritual to assemble the Grimoire. After seeing the name of God appear on the book, the Warlock is about to call it out and unmake existence when Kassandra who injects him with salt water, and he bursts into flame. Redferne returns to his own time. In the epilogue, Kassandra is seen burying the Grimoire in the Great Salt Flats. Round of applause for Kassandra, considering she acts pretty dense throughout most of the film she kills the Warlock and puts the Grimoire in a genuinely smart place.

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*Spoilers end*

So that’s Warlock and yep, it’s still a great movie. There’s just something really compelling about this film and seeing it unfold, I think it has a lot to do with the concept and not really knowing what to expect. It’s definitely helped along a great deal by the excellent cast, Julian Sands is excellent as the evil blonde haired Warlock; you can tell he’s relishing being the devious bad guy which makes it all the more fun.

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Richard E. Grant is the stand out for me though; he does a brilliant job as the charming Giles Redferne although his Scottish accent is questionable. Lori Singer does a good job as the unknowingly Kassandra, her chemistry on screen with Redferne leads to some of the most entertaining moments in the film.

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As this is a horror movie, there are a few scenes with gore and the effects are decent but a lot of the violence that takes place in Warlock is implied. Regardless of this the film does have something of a sinister vibe to it that adds a level of creepiness.

There is no denying the overall cheesiness of it all though, some of the effects like Julian Sands flying can be quite comical but I think in a lot of ways that just gives it charm.

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Overall, Warlock is a really fun ride from beginning to end. I never felt bored watching it and really enjoyed the characters and the concepts that it tackles. Knowing now that it was directed by the same man that made House and was written by the man who wrote Critters 2 explains a whole lot. If you enjoy 80s horror movies with that kind of style then you’ll likely love Warlock as I do, it’s well deserving of being a cult classic.

Warlock
  • 8.5/10
    The Final Score - 8.5/10
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