In the 80’s and 90’s the fear of witchcraft and the like swept the nation. The 700 club ran specials on the dangers of Dungeons and Dragons, the news reported on how modern rock was turning the youth into devil worshipers and parents everywhere drank the kool-aid, giving in to the fear that their children were working demonic magicks in their very homes. So, of course, filmmakers needed to capitalize on this fear and in those years several movies about witchcraft and demons were made, one, specifically, remains a favorite of mine, that one is Warlock.
Today’s Key Movie:
Pursued by Witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E Grant) and a waitress named Kassandra (Lori Singer), Julian Sands play’s the title character in his dark mission to find the Grand Grimoire and reveal the true name of God in order to undo all of reality.
Why this movie?
As I have have said many times before, I grew up loving horror films so it would only be a matter of time before this one fell in my lap. While I know that we did not see this in theaters, seeing that it only had a limited release, it was one that we saw on VHS probably days after it arrived on home video.
Every week, like clockwork, my father and I would peruse the local Video Rental store for the latest offerings. Sometimes we would hit up a blockbuster film like Ghostbusters but most of the time we would take our chances on a B-horror film resulting in a mixed bag of films that I have come to love in the intervening years.
What caught our attention on this one was the simple box art depicting a man in black casting a dark shadow behind him with the tag line ‘Satan also has one son’. It was subtle yet impactful, inviting someone to pick it up and discover the darkness within. We fell for the temptation and were genuinely satisfied at the results.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
The film is a dark tale that gives it’s villain as much screen time as the heroes. Julian Sands portrays one of the most evil antagonists in any horror film of its time. Unlike his contemporaries like Freddy Kruger or Chucky, there is no sense of humor or lighthearted tone to his character. He is presented as an uncaring and wholly dark presence that will stop at nothing to undo all of creation. However, in his darkness there is a certain charm that Sands exudes making him one of the most charismatic dark villains at the time.
The story itself is impressive. Most of the time filmmakers choose to take on a campy tone when it comes to witchcraft or demons, but this one takes a nod from Terminator giving the story a cool time travel twist. Starting in the 17th century, Satan saves his son, The Warlock (Sands), from death by sending him to the 20th century in order to destroy reality itself. Following closely behind A Witch-hunter (Grant) plays the Kyle Reese role in his relentless pursuit of the villain. Even though it has the potential to be over the top, this is one that manages to maintain it’s seriousness throughout giving us an entertaining adventure in the hunt for evil.
I particularly love the use of practical effects in the film. Director Steve Miner, who was also responsible for one of my other favorite films House, clearly understand the need for a film like this to be grounded in reality, never relying on the early incarnation of CG that had began to appear in a ton of films. Now, part of this was likely due to budget constraints but this film manages to do with practical effects what some horror movies even today can not manage with modern technology. It has a very clean and real look to it, making the film feel realistic throughout.
One aspect that is really cool is the research that went into the making of the film. Throughout the story, the Witch-hunter and the Warlock perform rights and engage in mystical practices that are pulled directly from modern mythology. From the use of Hex signs used to protect against witched, to the indication of holding power over mystical beings by knowing their names, even signs used like blue flames, spoiled cream and more, this film is filled with subtle bits of mythology that is derived from our very own past giving it a genuine quality that entices the viewer to learn more.
Backed with an excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith, this is a solid entry into the horror genre with a tremendous cast and a fantastic story. It is one that every horror fan should add to their collection. In all honesty, I am shocked that we have not seen a remake of this one, even though it did manage to spawn two film sequels and a video game (that I can assure you I played!).
OK, where do I get this movie?
Amazingly enough, this one is still available and does not seen to be going anywhere anytime soon. You can get a copy here for around $12 or just get a digital copy from Vudu or your favorite digital distribution site. I highly recommend it!
As usual, the Trailer:
Late To The Game 2/27/2020
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