DirectorSteve Miner/Anthony Hickox/Eric Freiser
Release Date(s)1991/1993/1999 (July 25, 2017)
Studio(s)New World Pictures/Trimark Pictures/Lionsgate (Vestron Video Collector's Series)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: A-
- Overall Grade: A-
Released during the dying days of 1980s slasher films, Warlock featured a story that strayed far from the usual genre formula, opting instead to explore religious and satanic folklore within an adventure/horror hybrid. When a male witch from the 17th century magically travels to modern day, he is greeted by a zealous witch hunter from his own time who has followed him and will not rest until his adversary is caught and killed. Unbeknownst to him, this warlock is attempting to gather together the scattered pages of the Grim Grimoire, a satanic bible that will reveal God’s true name and undue creation. Released to home video in the U.S. in 1991 (and in theaters in 1989 elsewhere in the world), it was popular enough to warrant two sequels: Warlock: The Armageddon in 1993 and Warlock III: The End of Innocence in 1999.
Truth be told, I’ve always been a fan of the original Warlock since I first saw it upon its initial release. It was something much different, and while it contains horror elements, it winds up being more of a road movie – in this case, a pursuit movie. Not only is Julian Sands magnetic as the evildoer in question, but Richard E. Grant is also charming, giving us a hero who knows how to take care of business. The film is light on the action, but an intriguing premise and likeable characters are enough to see it through. Featuring strong direction by genre veteran Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part II and Part III) and a wonderful score by Jerry Goldsmith, Warlock is a classic that’s in a category all its own.
The sequels, unfortunately, aren’t nearly as compelling. First and foremost, Warlock: The Armageddon suffers most from an abundant lack of Richard E. Grant. However, Julian Sands returns to his role, but the events of the prior film are ignored and a new story has been conjured up. Reborn in modern day, the warlock must now obtain a set of sacred stones in order to bring Satan to Earth, but not before two young warriors attempt to stop him. Unfortunately for Sands, he is given less to work with this time around. He also seems a bit Wishmaster-ish in that he can’t obtain the stones unless they’re given to him freely. And of course, he uses this as an excuse to do horrible things to the people that hand them over to him. The film as a whole is very much middle of the road, and I hate saying that because I like Anthony Hickcox as a director, but even he isn’t overly fond it. The practical effects are imaginative and there are some inventive sequences, but the laughably bad compositing and video effects (which were terrible even then) don’t help the film at all.
Warlock III: The End of Innocence is even less interesting than the previous two efforts combined. It features an atypical horror plot about a group of college students who visit an old house at the behest of the one who has inherited it. Things go bad when a mysterious man shows up on their doorstep pretending to be someone else, but is actually a warlock and is there to carry out a set of secretive, deadly plans. Bruce Payne takes over the lead role, but unfortunately, has even less to do than his predecessor. Although the film is shot fairly well and stars Ashley Laurence from Hellraiser, it’s generally run of the mill material. It only further speaks to the quality of the Warlock series as a whole. It’s one of the odder attempts at a franchise when in actuality, a one-and-done film was all that it ever really needed.
For many years, I hoped for a proper widescreen release of the first film, and I’ve finally gotten my wish with this new Blu-ray collection. Thankfully, the results are great. Warlock looks amazing, especially if you’re accustomed to Trimark’s stateside full screen DVD release. David Eggby’s beautiful cinematography is in good hands here, looking quite filmic with excellent depth, but minimal grain levels. Texturing and fine detail are abundant on both objects and clothing, and especially in close-ups. Even some of the opticals don’t stand out so much. Strong color reproduction is also present, yielding pleasant results with natural skin tones. Black levels are deep with terrific shadow detailing, and both brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. It’s a clean and stable presentation as well, with only a few minor scratches and some mild speckling. It’s definitely the best transfer of the bunch. The audio for it is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD. While dialogue is clear and precise, Jerry Goldsmith’s score has plenty of room to breathe as there’s some definite separation and strong directionality, including the sound effects which manage to have plenty of bite to them. There’s also some occasional LFE and ambient activity.
Warlock: The Armageddon is a solid presentation as well with mostly even grain levels, although the aforementioned poorly rendered opticals and video effects are more obvious than ever. That aside, fine detail is strong at times, as is color reproduction. Skin tones tend to dip toward orange while black levels are mostly deep with good shadow detail. Brightness and contrast are also commendable, and the overall presentation is mostly clean, aside from some speckling. Also presented with an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, dialogue is clean and clear, but the score seems to lack presence. However, there’s plenty of good separation with decent dynamics and speaker-to-speaker activity when it comes to the sound effects.
Warlock III: The End of Innocence is almost on par with the first in terms of its presentation. It has a solid grain structure with nice texturing and fine detail. Colors are a bit drab, aside from some potent greens, but skin tones are natural. Black levels are fairly deep with some decent shadow detail while brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. It’s the cleanest and most stable presentation of the lot. It too features an English 2.0 DTS-HD track for its audio. Dialogue is clean and clear and sound effects have some nice separation and directionality. The music and the electronic score have much more presence than the previous film. Overall, all three films make their US high definition debut with excellent transfers. They’re also presented with optional subtitles in English SDH.
The Warlock Collection also comes loaded for bare with extra content, much of it created by Red Shirt Pictures. For Warlock on Disc One, there’s an audio commentary with director Steve Miner, moderated by Nathaniel Thompson; isolated score selections containg an audio interview with author Jeff Bond; Satan's Son – an interview with actor Julian Sands; The Devil's Work – an interview with director Steve Miner; Effects of Evil – interviews with make-up effects creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz; the theatrical trailer; the video teaser; 5 TV spots; a set of behind-the-scenes footage; an animated still gallery; vintage interview segments with Julian Sands, executive producer Arnold Kopelson, writer David Twohy, Steve Miner, and actor Richard E. Grant; a vintage featurette with Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz; and another vintage featurette with visual effects supervisors Patrick Red Johnson and Robert Habros, animation supervisor Mauro Maressa, and matte artist Robert Scifo. For Warlock: The Armageddon on Disc Two, there’s an audio commentary with director Anthony Hickox; the film’s theatrical trailer; 2 TV spots; a vintage making-of featurette; an animated still gallery; a set of behind-the-scenes footage; and extended vintage interview segments with Julian Sands, Anthony Hickox, and actress Paula Marshall. For Warlock III: The End of Innocence on the same disc, there’s a trailer; a video sales promo; a set of behind-the-scenes footage; an animated still gallery; and vintage interview segments with actors Jan Schweiterman, Rick Hearst, Angel Boris, Boti Bliss, Paul Francis, Bruce Payne, Ashley Laurence, director Eric Freiser, production designer Ian Bailie, and special makeup effects artist Robert Hall.
WARLOCK (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B+/A-/A-
WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/B+/B+
WARLOCK III: THE END OF INNOCENCE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/A-/A-
Trimark Pictures got a lot of mileage off of the cult appeal of the first film in the Warlock series, but ultimately, none of its sequels were as compelling. However, each film has its fans and this Blu-ray package is a long-awaited reward for them. On the whole, Vestron Video’s release is an excellent compendium of the three films with excellent transfers and supplemental materials.
- Tim Salmons