Ever since Lionsgate acquired the Vestron Video collection and has been re-releasing these remastered titles, I have to say I’ve been in nostalgia heaven. I remember seeing these VHS boxes in the horror section at my nearby video store and renting many of these to get my weekly horror fix. Waxwork was always a box cover I always appreciated, but one of the most memorable was Warlock, because in the sea of black VHS boxes with gory box art, Warlock was this white box with the mysterious Julian Sands and this menacing shadow in red. I even remember seeing the trailer attached to my VHS copy of The Monster Squad, and I always dug the trailer for the film, but it took forever for me to finally get to see the film. Now jumping ahead two decades later, I’m getting to review this trilogy. I have to say this is the title from the Vestron series I’ve been the most looking forward to.
Director Steve Miner (Friday the 13th 2 & 3) helms the first film in the series from a script by David Twohy, who would go on to create the little sci-fi gem Pitch Black. Despite how the cover art may look for this film, and even though it is about a warlock (Julian Sands) hoping to eradicate all existence, the film really doesn’t play out as a horror film. In many ways the film feels more so like The Terminator or Highlander. Not that this is a bad thing, but the trailers are a bit misleading.
In 1691, in a township of Boston a Warlock (Sands) is found guilty for practicing devil worship. This, of course was a crime punishable by death in these times, and of course his execution is set to be burnt to death. Before the sentence can be carried out, a freak storm falls upon the village and creates a (time) twister that sucks the Warlock out of his holding cell and into 1989 Los Angeles. The effects may seem a bit dated, but for me I miss these old school visual effects. It was all part of the charm to the films of the 80’s and early 90’s before CGI took over for the visual and makeup effects.
The Warlock seeks out a spiritualist to contact an entity to find out his mission, for why he was brought to this time. He is then tasked by the spiritualist to seek out the devil’s bible that has been broken up into three parts; it’s in this bible that he will be given what is needed to end all of creation. Since the pieces of the book have been spread out across the US, the warlock uses the eyes of the spiritualist to navigate him to the missing parts.
To help prevent the Warlock from ending the world, there is Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant), whose loved one was a victim of the warlocks and was also pulled into the (time) twister. With the aid of Kassandra (Lori Singer), a woman who has an aging curse placed upon her, she and Redferne only have to race against time to stop the Warlock from getting to the final pieces of the bible.
It’s fun, and does have its share of gory bits, but for the most part this plays out as you would expect it to. Just because its familiar territory doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out. Julian Sands is so much fun to watch in this role. He’s clearly having fun with the part, and really I’m surprised he’s not a bigger figure in the horror community. What also works here is the score that was done by Jerry Goldsmith. At first I didn’t think much of it, but as I got away from the film and was simply going about my daily routine I couldn’t shake the film’s theme from my head, which wasn’t such a bad thing.
Getting back to the effects, this is where the film may divide people even more. I’m a fan of practical effects over CGI. Sure, CGI has come a long way, but I’m simply a fan of the latex and Karo syrup and red food coloring for blood. The aging makeup for Kassandra does at times look bad; in the featurettes they address this, and I can sympathize with the crew but it’s still a bit distracting. Another issue is how some of the flying effects look; again I can forgive a lot, because I understand what the crew had to work with and where the technology was at the time, but when you see the results here, I feel they would have been better off in some cases just removing the shots all together. These are slight nitpicks, but still they are things you just can’t ignore.
3 discs out of 5
Warlock: The Armageddon
Sequels are hit or miss. Either you replicate the first film then get the complaint that the first was just better, or if you do something to different you get the response where it should have been more like the first. What I actually enjoy about this trilogy is that the films are separate stories from one another, so it really doesn’t matter what order you see them; there’s no continuity to follow, and each has its own unique style. Anthony Hickox (Waxwork) takes over the directing duties this time around and takes things in a more serious and gory direction.
The opening introduces us to a ritual that takes place every millennium when an eclipse occurs; the ritual results in the birth of the devil’s son. The ritual is interrupted, and the magical stones used in the ritual are spread throughout the country to prevent the ritual from ever occurring again. In New York a woman in possession of one of the stones is impregnated by a demon during an eclipse and gives birth to the creature that becomes the Warlock (Sands). He’s tasked with collecting these stones and unlocking the Armageddon. But there is a fun catch to what the Warlock must do to get the stones. He can’t just steal them; he has to be given the stones willingly by those who are possession of them.
On the west coast, in a small town we have a pair of star-crossed lovers, Kenny (Chris Young) and Samantha (Paula Marshall). The two have a sweet romance between them, but she’s the daughter of the town’s Reverend, and Kenny’s father is rumored to be a devil worshipper. There’s more to the family rivalry, and most of it is relatively obvious; it’s like watching Romeo and Juliet if it involved witchcraft and the devil. With Steve Kahan (Lethal Weapon franchise) and Charles Hallahan (The Thing) filling out the cast with substantial roles in the film, this simply surpasses the first when it comes to talent on the screen.
As it would turn out, it is up to Kenny and Samantha to protect the last of the stones and confront the Warlock in the final battle to protect mankind. Really there’s not much here story-wise that we haven’t seen before, but the film is still fun to watch with some of its clever kills.
There is an obvious shift in tone as compared to the first entry of the franchise. I can easily see this as a love-it-or-hate-it film, because it does go a bit over the top and cross into camp territory. Personally this is the kind of film I enjoy watching late at night when I can’t sleep, or something I’d throw on during a rainy afternoon while doing some chores around the house. Is it great? No, but it serves its purpose as a fun, silly horror film to distract you for 90 minutes. That’s a good thing in my book, and it has a high re-watchability factor, which is always a plus.
3.5 out of 5 discs
Warlock 3: The End of Innocence
One of the charms I appreciate from the Warlock franchise is that you can watch any of the films in any order, because they are all standalone films. In theory the franchise could continue on today with a new Warlock and a new purpose for him to wreak havoc onto the world, and I’d be more than happy to see what can be brought to the franchise, though to be honest I wish I had never seen Warlock 3: The End of Innocence; it’s a blemish on a franchise that had so much potential, and this frankly doesn’t belong. Maybe I’m being hard on the film, but when you see it following the first two films you can’t help but suffer a bit of whiplash from the decline of quality here. This is a direct-to-video release, and it shows. In the late 90’s many horror franchises were being given the direct-to-video sequel treatment, and many of these sequels were a slap to the face of the namesake films. Hellraiser, Leprechaun, Children of the Corn, these were just a few of the franchises that were being bled to death on the video rental shelves. This was a time where horror lost its balls, and for a while it seemed the genre was going to die for good. Warlock 3 is simply a time capsule of this period in horror, when style took over and atmosphere and story was tossed aside for pretty faces to simply add to a body count as a trendy 90’s soundtrack played.
The Warlock this time around is played by Bruce Payne, who actually does manage to do a good job with what he has to work with. Is this a new incarnation of the same Warlock character? That can be left up to the audience to decide. The intro is vague enough of a young girl disappearing in the woods in the late 1600’s that it doesn’t matter. Really the opening scene seems nothing more than a tacked-on sequence to tell us something spooky may happen in the film, because it really does nothing to serve the plot till much later in the film, and by then, if you’re awake, it’s doubtful anyone will care.
Kris (Ashley Lawrence) is an orphan who is in college as an art major. She gets a call late one night from the historical society that the home that has been in her family for hundreds of years is about to be demolished, and if she’d like she can come by and collect some items. She takes up the offer with hopes of finding out more about her family and where she came from.
The film plays out more as an odd haunted house tale as her friends join her checking out the house, and when a mysterious figure, Philip Covington (Payne) shows up, strange things begin to occur. From silly montages to bad grunge rock to characters who are unlikeable and so different from one another it’s a head-scratcher as to how they’d ever get along, even when they are being killed off, it just doesn’t matter.
It’s not often that a film comes along where I struggle to watch it. Usually I can find something I can take from it and appreciate, but this one is just a stinker. It’s the dud of the trilogy, but if anything it helps you appreciate the previous films all the more.
1 out of 5 discs.
Warlock is presented in the aspect ratio 1.85:1 while Warlock: The Armageddon and Warlock 3: The End of Innocence are in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 25 mbps. The first of the three films has a beautiful transfer and looks very clean. The skin tones appear lighter, but the film is rich with color and textures, whether it’s the detail in Redferne’s coyote coat or how perhaps too much detail is seen in some of the effects makeup, it’s impressive how old this film is and how sharp this presentation is. Warlock: The Armageddon, sadly doesn’t fare so well. While the print isn’t bad, it could use some work in the restoration process. We still have some spots where either the film was damaged or simply dirty. Some of the night shots towards the end don’t seem to have the same black separation. I’m fine with some grain, and overall this looks like a solid print, but just not as great as we’ve seen from previous releases. As for Warlock 3, this looks as though it was shot as a trendy music video, and just lacks a visual atmosphere, with a very drab look. None of the films seem to suffer from any compression issues.
The original 2.0 stereo audio track is nicely balanced and does offer a bit of ambience but it still is lacking the presence that a surround sound can offer. The dialog is clear and clean throughout all the films, and the music is nicely mixed as well.
Commentary with Steve Miner: This commentary on Warlock is filled with so much information about a variety of aspects of the film. He has a film historian with him asking questions along the way, so there are very few moments where the commentary drags or falls victim to long silences. It’s been several years since Miner has visited the film, and it’s an enjoyable listen as he rehashes his experience on the movie and his career since.
Commentary with Anthony Hickox: The commentary for Warlock: The Armageddon is a bit of a bummer. It pretty much starts off with Hickox apologizing for the film, and he goes on to discuss his not-so-pleasant experience with the film. What’s frustrating is there are points where you can barely understand what he is saying. Definitely not as engaging as the previous commentary, which is unfortunate, because this one I was looking forward to the most.
Satan’s Son: Interview with Julian Sands: (25 minutes) This is a nice lengthy interview with Sands as he discusses what inspired him about acting as well as his experiences with the first film.
The Devil’s Work: Interview with Steve Miner (16:18) A lot of this information is in the commentary, but it is filled with nice anecdotes about making the film and how he got involved with the film.
Effects of Evil: Interview with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neil Martz (16:21) Here we get the perspective on the guys behind the prosthetic makeup effects in the film. They discuss the different approaches they made towards the effects and their disappointment in the aging effects that didn’t work as they wanted.
Behind the Scenes Footage: (17:35) Footage edited together; some of this is on location interview material while also showing footage from some of the stunt sequences performed in the film. I love this very candid look at life on a film set. This is one of my favorite bonus pieces.
Vintage Interview Segments: Cast and Crew (40:28) Interviews with the cast are nice, but the hidden gems here are Arnold Kopelson coming off his Oscar win for Platoon hyping Warlock, and an interview with a young David Twohy. Twohy even has some of the props and explains their use. This just makes for a really great collection of interviews from when the film was being made.
Vintage Featurette: Make-up effects: (5:48) A look back going into the effects location as we see a young Carl and Neil discussing makeup effects they will be including in the film.
Vintage Featurette: Visual Effects: (5:51) For those who appreciate how visual effects were done before CGI, this is for you. Here we see how they used to do matte painting and include other visual effects into the film.
Isolated Score Selections Featuring an Interview with Author Jeff Bond: I enjoy these music tracks where you can really experience how a score can enhance a scene. The score by Jerry Goldsmith is a great one, and Bond offers up his thoughts on how they impact the story.
Vintage Making of Featurette: (7:43) For the Warlock sequel we get interviews and some BTS footage of the film.
Behind the Scenes Footage: (4:57) We get to see Hickox directing Sands as well as some of the makeup artists at work on set.
Extended Interview Segments: (5:41) More interview footage with Sands, Hickox, and Paula Marshall discussing the sequel.
Behind the Scenes Footage: (14:06) On the set of Warlock 3 we see a few scenes being shot and how they achieved some in camera effects. Would have been nice if the camera had a wider shot.
Vintage Interviews: (43:19) Interviews with the cast and crew from Warlock 3. For the fans of this film, there is a lot of information the cast and crew discuss about making the film.
This is my favorite release Lionsgate has put out with their Vestrom Video label. The first two films are worth the price of the Blu-ray, and all the supplement material will keep you busy for hours. While I’m sure we can debate which film is the better in the series, what is great is that all three have been packaged together so you can enjoy them. With Halloween around the corner, this is a title to pick up for a throwback movie night.