VESTRON VIDEO COLLECTOR’S SERIES: Warlock Collection (1989-1999) Blu-Ray

If you hadn’t guessed this is another “memory movie,” but I use the term loosely here because the only memory I have is seeing the trailer in a theater. It was during that day me and two high school friends (Gerry and Aaron) saw Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) at the mall. The mall was only six months old (roughly speaking), and it was the first time we all visited it. We got there early which gave us enough time to walk around and check out the place. They ran two trailers, one for Warlock (1989),  and one for The Punisher (1989). I can’t be sure if that was the first time I heard of Warlock,  or not. Fangoria covered the movie in issues #80 and #101 (full articles below). The date on #80 says February ’89, so I’m going to assume then that trailer was my first introduction. I wish I could remember when I first saw it on cable, but I get the feeling that didn’t happen until after 1991, when the movie finally came out. I could categorize Warlock II: The Armageddon (1993) as a “memory movie” too, but again I only have a vague memory of catching it on cable and not caring much for it; haven’t seen it since then. Warlock on the other hand was on cable a few years ago and the revisit on that one still holds up for me. Warlock III: The End Of Innocence (1999), dispute having Bruce Payne in the role of the warlock this time, of which I’m a fan, I’ve never seen the movie, nor have I ever had any desire to, so this will be my first viewing of it. I’m also sort of looking forward to revisiting Warlock II wondering what I’m going to think of it now.

Fangoria #80 article (click photos to enlarge & read)

Fangoria #101 article 

Back when I first saw Warlock, and now, I still get a slight Highlander/Terminator vibe from it. The Highlander vibe comes from the fact you’re seeing the two main characters in the 1600s and then in modern day Los Angeles circa 1989 looking no different. Unlike Highlander where the immortals were just that, immortal, and their passage through time is them simply living it, the Terminator vibe comes in because our witch hunter and warlock get to 1989 via a spell (i.e. time travel) the warlock cast. And that’s how the movie begins in the year 1691 where a warlock (Julian Sands) has been captured by witch hunter, Giles Redferne (Richard Grant). The warlock has killed many people, but it was the murder of his wife that got Giles involved. Details about how and why she was killed is never revealed in the movie.

The warlock is scheduled for execution, but he casts a spell that Redferne manages to leap into it the very instant he disappears. This appears to be some kind of generic escape spell, for the warlock had no intention to leap through time and is genuinely startled to find himself in 1989. But there was a much darker plan at work here. The forces of darkness have conspired to use the warlock to locate the Grand Grimoire, a satanic bible coveted by witches that within its pages has the true name of God. If that name is uttered backwards all of creation will be undone. Obviously those who were in charge of the book knew how fucked we’d all be if it ever fell into the wrong hands so they separated the book into three halves and hid them. Redferne has no idea yet about the warlock’s search for the book; once transported ahead in time all he wants to still do is capture him, probably kill him if given the chance.

After the warlock gets to a psychic (Mary Woronov) and has her channel this devil for him, does he learn of his real mission. He then cuts out her eyes (off screen) at the behest of the demon, because he was told to use them as a guide to find the halves of the book.

Grant and Sands put in believable performances, the only flaw in the movie is supporting character, Kassandra (Lori Singer), who’s basically comic relief and she kind of stunts the movie. She’s forced to work with Redferne because the warlock came crashing through her window and she and her roommate, Chas (Kevin O’Brien), took him in thinking he was just some drugged out hippie. Plus at one point the warlock puts an aging spell on her and the only way to regain her youth is to reclaim her charm bracelet he took to maintain the spell. Reclaiming it will break it, so for a small portion of the movie Singer ages to an old woman and then back again. The make-up here isn’t entirely convincing, because she objected to having the full convincing make-up applied to her.

A lot of the fun is watching Grant play a man out of time trying to cope with 1989. He does a good job though of quickly acclimating himself to the modern world. Not sure how realistic that would be. I kept thinking he should have a lot more problems, look a lot more “traumatized,” but, hey, it’s a movie about time traveling 16th century characters, I think, I can put the “realism” of that on pause to just enjoy the tale. Julian Sands does measured menace very well and for me is utterly believable as this character too!

Final confrontation with the warlock happens in a church in Boston where Redferne and Kassandra track down the final part of the Grimoire. It seems to be buried in a coffin, and not just any coffin, but Redferne’s. Must be hell as a time traveler coming face-to-face with your final resting spot, and Redferne doesn’t take it too well. The warlock tracks them there and actually gets the book assembled, but while in the process of ending the world, Kassandra injects him with salt water. Apparently salt water is to witches what holy is to vampires. Oh, yeah, and he goes out in grand style, veins puffing up, blood gushing, sparks flying from his wounds, all ending in a huge conflagration that leaves a bloody skeleton on the ground. The time travel rules get a little dodgy here,, but while sharing a moment with Kass, he becomes this ghostly looking dust devil, carves a thank-you note on his own grave and that’s it, he’s gone, back to the past where he belongs. I guess that’s how it works. Foil the warlock, prevent Armageddon, and back home he goes. One final problem, Kassandra is left with a fully assembled Grand Grimoire and you can’t just leave that shit lying around. Like I said salt is acid to witches, so she buries the book in the Great Salt Flats, a place in Utah that’s all salt all the time!

Concerning Warlock: The Armageddon now, it’s not as bad as when I first saw it. Let’s put it this way I thought it was good enough now to keep me watching the entire movie, but I still don’t think it’s good enough for repeat viewings. I know some fans prefer this one over the first, but I still feel the first is the superior movie. There’s no connection at all to the first film other than the title and Julian Sands returning as the character, which to me makes this more of a loose remake than a true second chapter.

I will say it’s got a solid cast and is a lot gorier! The motives of the warlock, aka Satan’s son, are still in line with his character from the first movie in that he still wants to bring about Armageddon. In a period flashback Druids are in the process of taking out a warlock, who first has to be birthed, but their ritual is interrupted, the druids are killed, and so is the chick about to birth him, and these special runestones are taken and scattered around what soon will become the United States as we know it.

Cut to modern times, circa 1993, and everything is set in motion again for the birth of a warlock. This means you’re about to see some random chick’s eyes go all white, her body fling itself down on the table and her stomach bulge up to a full nine month pregnancy. My memory of this scene had been skewed by time. I kept thinking she gave birth to full grown Sands, but she first births a sac onto the floor and that’s what full grown Sands comes out of. Looks like Sands bulked up a little bit for this sequel too.

To bring about the end of the world this time he needs those five runestones, so the movie is a road trip, like the first one, and each person he finds who owns a stone dies horribly. This warlock is hipper, he acquires a black suit (from the boyfriend of the chick who birthed him; a 30-second cameo from Zach Galligan) and seems more in touch with his modern surroundings.

The good guys in this film are druids descendant from the ones in the prologue, there are four of them, but three are very well known to genre fans: the late R.G. Armstrong (The Car, The Beast Within) is Franks, the late Charles Hallahan (The Thing, Cast A Deadly Spell) is Ethan Larson, and Steve Kahan (Lethal Weapon franchise, Predator 2) is Will Travis. The fourth druid is Ted Ellison (Bruce Glover). Checking out his resume apparently he’s been in some genre flicks I have seen too like Hunter’s Blood (1986), Ghost Town (1988), and Popcorn (1991). Will has a son, Kenny (Chris Young) and Ellison has a daughter, Samantha (Paula Marshall). Marshall is no genre neophyte either. Director Anthony Hickox has used her in two other films, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992), and the underrated werewolf cop movie, Full Eclipse (1993).  Kenny and Sam are the two main characters here. Their fathers are druids but they have no idea until Will sees the sign a warlock has been born and needs to explain a lot of crazy sounding shit to him. Both offspring are now druid warriors and to be inducted into this circle you have to be killed and resurrected, so Will blows away his son, and Sam commits suicide with a knife.

Like the first flick the warlock does manage to complete all requirements to begin the Armageddon process, this time he’s raising up his father, Satan. He partially does this before Chris and Sam shut him down for good and kill him with a knife specially made to take out warlocks. And like what happened to him in the first flick this warlock exits stage right in Grand Guignol fashion, this time in a meltdown. From what I understand the budget was smaller than Warlock’s, but Hickox did a good job making it look like a bigger budgeted movie.

Looking for Fango coverage of Warlock: The Armageddon? Try issues #120, #121, #122 and #12 of The Bloody Best Of Fangoria!

Now I come to the part of this review I was dreading, of course I knew this going in, but to acquire Warlock I was prepared to take the bullets of the two sequels, especially the third one. I can see why Sands refused to return for this movie. The first two flicks had scope, this one is almost entirely contained within one location, and it’s kind of done as a pseudo haunted house flick before the warlock comes along.

There’s a prologue, there’s always a prologue, and we’re back in the 1600s watching a woman and her daughter journeying through the forest when the warlock comes along and takes the girl. His mission is still the same, to create hell on earth, but this time he plans to do it by sacrificing the child of a witch which will raise up a female being he plans to spawn with and this evil spawn will flush the earth into Hell’s shitter. This prologue isn’t entirely confined to the opening of the movie either; it plays out every once in a while throughout the first half of the movie, where it ends with the mother confronting the warlock in the catacombs underneath his house. It’s never shown how she defeats him, but she does and she seals herself and him up in his lair.

Cut to 1999 where all our main characters are collegians this time. Among the cast are three notable genre vets: the warlock himself, which has a name this time, Phillip Covington, is played by the aforementioned Bruce Payne of Necronomicon (1993) and Full Eclipse (1993) fame! And I didn’t know these other two actors were in it: Ashley Laurence and Rick Hearst. The former genre fans will instantly know from Hellraiser (1987) and Hellbound: Hellrsaier II (1988), not to mention a memorable episode of Monsters (1988-1990) called, “The Match Game.” The latter I didn’t readily recognize because his name in the credits was billed as Richard C. Hearst. It wasn’t until he showed up on screen that I recognized him as Brian, the lead character from Brain Damage (1988), where he’s billed as Rick Herbst!

Laurence plays Kris Miller who one day gets a call in her dorm room that an old house in her family is going to be sold, or torn down, and if she wants anything from it to do it now. She was adopted and knows very little about her actual family. Miller is actually the reincarnated daughter we saw in the prologue whom the warlock tried to sacrifice, and Covington is still set on carving her up in the name of the Devil. He’s accidentally released when her five friends show up later at the house; Jerry (Jan Schweiterman) tries to fix the pipes in her bathroom and this is how the warlock is released. A weird CGI-ish black blobbish things pops out and disappears into the house.

Covington appears later at the front door pretending to be an architect who knows a lot about the house. Of course he does, it’s his! He stays for a while during a storm and this is where he plies his evil trade of manipulating the others against each other. Taken from the first film is the idea he has to take a personal object from you to cast his spells, and taken from the second film is the notion each object has to be given to him willingly, which is what had to be done when Sands was searching for those runestones in Armageddon. It would have been great if they actually bothered to connect the two previous films making this yet-another-in-name-only-sequel feel like a cohesive whole with the other films, but alas that was never done.

His opponent for a little while is Robin (Boti Ann Bliss), a self-styled good witch, who instantly senses Covington’s evil early on, but their eventual confrontation gets her killed, leaving Kris to be the heroine after all her other friends, including her boyfriend are “killed.” This whole travesty ends, again, in the warlock’s lair in the catacombs where he tries to give Kris to the Devil, but she manages to end him on the spot by sticking him with a special warlock killing knife, another carry over from the second film.

I’ll admit this movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I still don’t see myself wanting to revisit it anytime in the future. I did, however, like the sets, the old house had a very well executed dilapidated creepiness about it, so did the warlock’s lair. And Bruce Payne certainly knows how to do villainy. All the actors where great, but he and Laurence were the standouts. It’s not an especially gory flick either. The goriest kill is an impressive throat rip shock. It also has an homage to Hellraiser when Robin kneels in a dark room, encircled by candles as she reads her tarot. Definite shades of when Frank did the same in Hellraiser when he first opened the lament configuration.

All three films have already reached DVD through Lionsgate films, with only the first one not being given a widescreen transfer. All are still in print too, but come this Tuesday they finally hit blu-ray in this collection, with the first finally getting widescreen representation, through Lionsgate’s genre sub-label Vestron Video Collector’s Series! Buy it here on Amazon!

Video/Audio/Subtitles (Warlock): 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH, Spanish subs only

Video/Audio/Subtitles (Warlock II/Warlock III): 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH, Spanish subs only

The transfer on the first film looks fantastic, not so much on the second. The day shots look great, but some of the night ones are dodgy, so too are some of the day shots where super imposed effects are concerned. There were a couple that looked down right terrible to me. The third movie’s transfer looks almost as good as Warlock’s!

Extras included . . .

Warlock (1989): 

  •  Audio Commentary with Director Steve Miner
  • Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with Author Jeff Bond
  • “Satan’s Son” with Actor Julian Sands (25:04)
  • “The Devil’s Work” with Director Steve Miner (16:18)
  • “Effects of Evil” with Make-up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz (16:24)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (17:35)
  • Vintage Interview Segments with Cast and Crew (40:28)
  • Vintage Featurette with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz (5:50)
  • Vintage Featurette with Visual Effects Supervisors Patrick Read Johnson and Robert Habros, Animation Supervisor Mauro Maressa, and Matte Artist Robert Scifo (5:51)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Video Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

Warlock II: The Armageddon (1993):

  • Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox
  • Vintage Making-of Featurette (7:43)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (4:57)
  • Extended Vintage Interview Segments with Actor Julian Sands, Director Anthony Hickox, and Actress Paula Marshall (5:41)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

Warlock III: The End Of Innocence (1999): 

  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (14:06)
  • Vintage Interview Segments with Cast and Crew (43:19)
  • Video Sales Promo (:45)
  • Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Incidentally, this is another movie like the previous Vestron title I reviewed, The Unholy (1988), where the company that released it when bankrupt soon after making it. The Unholy at least had a theatrical window, but Warlock didn’t get seen until it hit VHS in 1991 after another studio picked it up. I’m grateful the first film comes with the most extensive extras, and I know I’m sounding like a broken record whenever I review a Vestron title, but again Lionsgate and Red Shirt Pictures have put together another batch of excellent and in-depth special features! All three of them come with some form of behind-the-scenes footage, I’m talking vintage behind-the-scenes of interviews and scenes caught on camcorder from behind the camera. Even for the two sequels I didn’t care much about I still enjoyed these particular extras the most. And it was nice hearing from Julian Sands in a brand new interview where he reveals he didn’t do the third one because he didn’t like the script. He also revealed he’s been asked to be the warlock since then many times but so far none of the ideas he’s heard have gotten him interested in committing to anything.

I’m obviously recommending this newest entry in the Vestron line of blues specifically for Warlock (1988), so go get it for that one alone. If you like the other two better, I don’t know what to tell ya, seek professional help, I guess.

About DVDNewsFlash

Movie collector/reviewer
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