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Flick opens in 1691 New England with a captured Warlock (Julian Sands) awaiting his execution. Dark forces arise to free him and the evil conjurer is cast some 300 years into the future. He lands unconscious in the home of waitress Kassandra (Lori Singer) and her roommate Chas (Kevin O’Brien), who mistake him for a wayward drunk and give him shelter (Really? Who does that?). This questionable decision proves fatal for Chad and thrusts the ditzy Kassandra in the middle of an ages-old battle, as The Warlock is tasked by Satan himself to reassemble the pieces of the Grand Grimoire and witch hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) travels across time to stop him.
While not a comedy, film is directed with a bit of a humorous touch by Steve Miner (Friday The 13th Part 2 and Part 3) from a script by David Twohy (The Arrival, Pitch Black). There certainly are a lot horror elements present, like torn out eyeballs, potions made from a human child’s body fat and cut out tongues, but it is far more similar in tone to Miner’s House than his Friday the 13th films. There is entertainment to be had, but the film probably would have been more effective if the tone remained a bit more consistent one way or the other. The more humorous elements sort of fade in and out and thus it makes it a bit uneven tonally. Most of the humor centers around Singer’s Kassandra, Her lighter, oddball character doesn’t seem quite right as The Warlock and Redferne are played very seriously. The FX haven’t aged well, though were probably not considered top notch back in it’s day, either. The make-up FX look a bit rubbery and the visual FX, such as The Warlock’s flight abilities and animated spells, are quite cheesy. There is some unintentional silliness, too and as a whole, the film hasn’t aged all that well, either, though there is enough nostalgia to make it fun, even if it’s not quite the classic one remembers it to be.
The film has a good cast though the character tones are as uneven as moments in the film. Julian Sands smartly plays The Warlock very straight and sinister and it gives the film a lot of it’s effectiveness. He oozes malice and will drink a potion made from the body fat of a murdered child with relish. He makes a strong villain. Grant also plays his witch hunter seriously and this also helps make the character effective as the “Loomis” to Sands’ magical Michael Myers. The two play off each other well. Lori Singer plays “Kassandra with a K” with a more light touch and a lot of the film’s humorous elements center around her. The character doesn’t to quite fit in with the more serious take that her co-stars’ characters have and it almost feels like her waitress is from another movie, a romantic comedy perhaps. Script and director are probably more to blame than the actress. Despite being portrayed as a bit flighty, Kassandra is not a woman without her cleverness or resolve. She is very likable. The film also features an appearance by cult movie legend Mary Woronov as a medium.
A bit of a cult classic in some circles and it can be fun, if not a bit tonally uneven. It’s not a comedy, but doesn’t feel like a straight-up horror either. It is nostalgic, though also a bit dated and it might have been more of a treat had it been played a touch more seriously. The cast perform well, though Singer’s Kassandra seems a bit out of place in the proceedings, as she is played with a bit of a humorous touch, while the male leads play it completely straight. Worth a revisit for those who saw it back in the day and worth a watch for those discovering the horror flicks of the 80s.
Rated 3 (out of 4) time traveling warlocks.