MARCH 7, 2010
Why didn’t I watch Warlock when I was 11? At that age, I might have thought it was good, and could count myself among its defenders today. Sadly, it had always passed me by until now, and 30 year old me just couldn’t get into it. The story is painfully generic (it’s basically Highlander and Terminator combined, with some fish out of water stuff thrown in for good measure), the effects are astonishingly bad, and it’s lacking any real action. All things that I wouldn’t have noticed/cared about as a kid, when I didn't expect as much action in a movie; I used to think Fletch was an action movie because of that one car chase.
The biggest problem is that Julian Sands disappears for big chunks of the film. Not that I’m a big fan of the actor, in fact I find him rather dull, but his character never feels like a real threat, because he only pops up intermittently throughout the movie. Plus, as the only character involved with this movie’s incredibly tenuous place in horror (he bites off a guy’s tongue!), the film is simply a routine chase movie whenever he’s not around, and I’ve seen better examples, horror-fied or not.
That leaves us with Richard E. Grant and Lori Singer, spending most of the movie driving around looking to find the pages of this magic book before Sands does. Grant builds a lot of magic doohickeys out of common elements, but they all feel like deus ex machinas and never seem to make much sense. At one point a fellow warlock (non time-traveling type) gets what should be a mortal injury, but Grant makes him a little mobile out of keys and tells him to rotate it clockwise every hour, which will heal him. Now, I must admit I am not a practicing warlock, so for all I know this might be a legit cure for evil warlock-related injuries, but if it is or not, they could at least explain it a bit more, since these sort of things are the closest the movie has to good ideas (again, assuming they are of the screenwriter’s design).
It’s also yet another horror movie set almost entirely during the day. Look, you’re already playing against the odds by doing this, but it’s even more troublesome in a film that has such hideous special effects as this one. Nighttime shots can help hide bad matte outlines, poor compositing, etc., but just about every major effect shot in the film occurs in brightly lit exterior locations, making them look terrible even on a blurry Netflix video. I can’t imagine how bad a Blu-Ray or even a well-mastered DVD would look.
Ultimately, most of my entertainment stemmed from constantly reminding myself that this film played in theaters. In a day when even modestly budgeted horror films with big stars go direct to video (look for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Possession to hit stores this Tuesday!), it’s somewhat charming to think that just under 20 years ago, a man like myself could be watching Warlock in a first run movie theater along with Silence of the Lambs, Dances With Wolves, and King Ralph (all films that played in February of 1991, when this film was released via Trimark). I may not like the film that much, but I do miss a time when junk like this could be given a chance, as I’m sure the movie would be slightly more entertaining with a crowd. Every now and then Lionsgate or someone will put out a movie that for all intents and purposes SHOULD go direct to video (pretty much any WWE movie), but even though we have more theaters nowadays, the chance for stuff like this to get a reasonable theatrical release (it grossed 9 million! That’s more than the last Punisher film!) is incredibly slim. Ah, the late 80s/early 90s, such an innocent time, when even an Albert Pyun film (Cyborg) could open on a few hundred screens...
I’m sure someone somewhere is trying to get a Warlock remake off the ground, and I don’t blame them. The concept - dueling warlocks traveling thru time and my two favorite places (Boston and LA) - is fine, it’s just the execution that’s lousy. And there are some cool concepts that modern technology could really sell, such as Singer’s curse that causes her to age until she gets her bracelet back from Sands. In the movie, they just slap a gray wig on her for the first stage, and then a frumpier wig and some pancake makeup for the 2nd stage, and that’s about it. Nowadays, good prosthetic work (with, *sigh*, some CG enhancement) could show a genuine fast moving aging process over the course of the film, constantly changing. And by boosting the action and the magic mythology, Warlock could be a film that was not only more exciting, but also more unique - the magic stuff is all that kept it from being a total rip of the aforementioned films (and Starman, now that I think of it), but it’s also the least developed aspect. And hey, the title is cool, which is pretty much all of the thinking that goes into most remakes anyway. Everyone wins!
What say you?