There's a scene in "Warlock" where the marquee of Mann's Chinese Theater is displayed prominently in the background. The movie on the marquee is "Frantic," the 1988 Harrison Ford thriller. From this we can deduce that "Warlock" has been sitting on the shelf for awhile.
At first glance, it's easy to see why. "Warlock" is a derivative horror yarn that owes more than a little to "The Terminator" and "Highlander," among others, and has a very eccentric sense of humor.Yet, on the whole, "Warlock" is certainly more entertaining than most horror movies that receive a national release at the drop of a hat.
The film opens in 17th-century Boston where a warlock, or male witch (Julian Sands), is in irons. To escape he summons demonic assistance and suddenly finds himself in modern-day Los Angeles, crashing through a window and landing in Lori Singer's living room.
Soon, Richard E. Grant, as the 17th-century witch-hunter who originally captured Sands, follows (though how he follows is never explained). And, as if you didn't know, it isn't long before Grant teams up with reluctant Singer and goes after Sands.
But Sands is on a mission for Satan himself, searching for the scattered pages of Beelzebub's bible, which, when brought back together, will give him the power to destroy the world. His journey takes him - and, subsequently Grant and Singer - to a Mennonite farm and ultimately back to Boston.
So much for story. Mainly, this is a special-effects extravaganza (some of them pretty awful), leveled with weirdness, and, of course, the requisite gore (chopping off fingers, biting off a tongue, plucking out eyes, etc.). But with its quirky sense of humor the film is actually more akin in spirit to "Darkman" (which was made later) than to, say, "The Omen" trilogy. (And the ironic ending has an amusing Utah connection.)
Singer's character, a free-spirited diabetic who is cursed by Sands to age 20 years each night, is the least successful member of the cast, with cheesy makeup and unconvincing attempts to walk and talk like an elderly woman.
But Sands has a gleeful time as the personification of evil and deadpan Grant is very funny, spouting Old-English thees and thous while trying to acclimate into 20th century society.
Still, it's not enough to save this essentially scattershot piece; for every high there are several lows.
And there are far too many really good films out there at the moment to bother with this one. Besides, it will no doubt be on video within a couple of months.
"Warlock" is rated R for violence, profanity and sex.