Hello, ghoulish friends in time, and welcome to a regular spooky feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch a chilling movie featuring creepy time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one terrified guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense! Also, I am very scared!” And that’s good enough for me. Look out, Satan is behind you!
Our Clocktober Halloween Spooktacle kicks off with a little Satanic time travel in the form of Warlock, the story of the titular practitioner of the dark arts (Julian Sands) chained up in a tower in Boston circa 1691. When the Devil himself busts the Warlock out via time tornado, brave witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) dives in after him. Now he must chase him across 1980s America to prevent him from reassembling an evil book known as the Grand Grimoire, which contains the true name of God. If the Warlock speaks it, he shall become the son of Satan. Holy shit.
You know how I’m always bitching about my hatred of magic? Not when it’s this much fun.
Get back here, ya goofy evil bastard!
Here’s why the movie works so well… the writers did not give a shit. I don’t mean that they didn’t bother to write a good script, I mean they didn’t stop for a second to think that any part of the story was too ridiculous or didn’t seem to fit with the overall themes or narrative or blah blah blah. They only cared about awesome, and that’s why it’s unbelievably entertaining.
Magic blast, mothafucka.
Sure, there’s a stray plot hole here and there. Why curse someone when you can kill them? Why can Satan transport the Warlock to the location of one piece of the Grand Grimoire, but not the others? Wait, and why did he even need to travel through– OH, FUCK, HE JUST MADE AN OMELET OUT OF THAT DUDE’S TONGUE.
Yeah, I ruined that scene, and I didn’t want to, but there’s so much insane shit going on in this movie that it’s killing me to not talk about any of it. It goes a little something like this: the Warlock gets everything he needs to whip up a batshit crazy spell, Redferne improvises something equally weird to counter it, and on we go to the next predicament. There’s so much happening that the time travel is just one more item on the laundry list of What the Fuck that these characters go through to begin/prevent the apocalypse. And even then, Redferne’s accidental time traveler status is well-handled.
Horseless carriage, got it, now let’s kick Armageddon in the dick.
Whereas other time travel movies might feel the need to include a wacky montage of Redferne learning how to use a vending machine or an electric toothbrush, he’s simply focused on the task at hand and only stops to ask how things work when he needs to. The movie doesn’t ever forget that he’s a man out of time, but it doesn’t hit us over the head with it, either. And it builds up to a great sequence of Redferne learning about his fate that’s both comical and eerie, two tones that the story alternates between exceptionally well.
Helping this “anything goes” story along is the fact that all the actors are taking it completely seriously. Richard E. Grant’s Redferne is a gallant hero without being a self-aware cheeseball; no matter how dark or goofy the proceedings become, he’s ready to get down to business.
Sorry, can’t hear the snickers over the sound of pure evil.
His reluctant guide to the 20th century is Kassandra, played by Lori Singer, who is forced to come along for the ride solely because the Warlock landed in her living room. She’s your typical spunky wisecracking ’80s chick (complete with a laughable wardrobe), but where a character like hers might annoy me in another movie, Singer lets her bewildered character grow during her heroic journey and she turns out pretty badass by the end.
Pictured: her least hilarious outfit.
Julian Sands’s Warlock is the perfect blend of charisma and heartlessness. He may be a bit Saturday morning cartoon-y, but just enough to throw you off when he does something truly fucking evil.
Which is everything he does.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
I’m not going to lie, the time travel looks pretty corny. Storm clouds form in 1691 and the Warlock is sucked away, with Redferne in hot pursuit…
That or about to run into a brick wall.
…and he comes out the other side in a miniature tornado that looks… well, distinctly not good, but come on, they can’t all be gems.
Still, more watchable than Twister.
The rest of the effects are an entertaining mix of greenscreen, puppetry, makeup, wire work, reversed film, animation, swirly ’80s magic shit, etc., but I don’t want to give any of it away. Alright, fine, here’s the Warlock making soup, I think.
- Remember how I said they never stopped to give a shit about the story being too weird? I lied; apparently a scene was cut from the movie that involved a woman growing eyes on her nipples. Thank you, test audiences.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Redferne, being from the 1600s and unfamiliar with the concept of time travel, doesn’t really drop a whole lot of speeches about quantum physics. Still, when he sees his very first police car, it tips him off that something’s fucked up. He reacts accordingly…
“Though first I did think this was Newcastle or a township in the Carolinas…
I think I’m farther removed. Much farther.“
This was a pretty good time travel movie and probably one of the most entertaining magic movies that I’ve ever seen, and I hate magic. It’s non-stop evil fun from beginning to end, and I can’t believe I’ve never heard anybody rave about it alongside Army of Darkness or Gremlins. If you only watch one movie about a man time-traveling to the future to thwart the forces of Satan, make it Warlock. Because your only other option is Time Changer.
Fuck Time Changer.
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.