I love many a bad horror film (I'm looking at you, Sleepaway Camp), but I distinctly prefer bad ‘80s horror to bad ‘90s horror. OK, so Warlock is not technically a straight horror film and it was released in 1989, but just hear me out. The original is the best of three films, but this is certainly not my favorite supernatural horror series. However, I am a fan of Lionsgate's new boutique horror line, the Vestron Video Collector's Series, which revives the name of long-dormant Vestron, a pioneer in home-video releases. The Warlock Collection offers three films on two discs plus substantial bonus features. Do not let my temperate response to these films chill your enthusiasm, this is a great set aimed squarely at fans of the series.
Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part II) directs from a script by David Twohy (director of Pitch Black), and Warlock offers distinctly ‘80s, B-movie fun. In 1691, witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) captures a male witch, known as the Warlock (Julian Sands), but, before he can be executed, Satan creates a portal that allows the Warlock to jump forward in time to 1980s Los Angeles. Redferne follows, but arrives only after the Warlock terrifies a local waitress, Kassandra (Lori Singer) and kills her roommate, Chas (Kevin O'Brien). Redferne tracks the Warlock through L.A. as it tries to assemble a Satanic book, and Kassandra is cursed by an aging spell.
All this is in fairly good fun, but Warlock does drag at times. The effects are budget-grade, but the performance by Sands is entertaining. There are several humorous moments, too, like when a young kid tries explaining to the Warlock that male witches do not exist. Despite its R rating, Warlock is pretty tame, and offers little of the blood and boobs Miner included in his Friday the 13th films. Warlock: The Armageddon is again written by Twohy, and is a special slice of ridiculous. Sands returns as the Warlock, but this is a sequel in name only. This go-round, the Warlock attempts to gather mystic runes that will free Satan from hell and begin Armageddon. A modern Druid, Will Travis (Steve Kahan), teaches two teens, Kenny (Chris Young) and Samantha (Paula Marshall), to battle the Warlock using magical powers, and Armageddon is quite a bit gorier than its predecessor. The reduced budget is apparent here, and the film looks quite cheap. Nevertheless, it offers enough entertainment to complement the original.
The third film, Warlock III: The End of Innocence, debuted on home video and was shot for only $2 million. Absent is Sands, and instead director Eric Freiser hired Bruce Payne in the lead. Artist Kris Miller inherits an old house that draws the attention of a Warlock posing as architect Phillip Covington (Payne). As expected, the Warlock again wants to unleash hell on earth. This time, he is forced to do it with an even lousier script and bad actors. This really is the typical ‘90s horror film in which college kids get picked off one by one. Of the three, this is by far the least compelling Warlock film. If nothing else, this series strayed from the archetypal slasher plot lines of ‘80s horror films and injected new, supernatural life into the genre. I do not find the Warlock films as entertaining as contemporaneous films like Hellraiser and Re-Animator, but they offer certain charms.
Of note here are Sands and Grant, who obviously had fun shooting the first two films. Sands toes the line between serious and campy, and his Warlock character is entertaining despite the lack of dialogue. Those expecting nonstop action or jolts are not going to find it here, and the original film is actually quite light on action sequences, instead relying on its mythical premise and quirky characters to fill the running time. Miner's direction, Jerry Goldsmith's score and pieces of Twohy's script are also pleasing. Fans will appreciate both Lionsgate's nostalgia and dedication to quality, as this three-film set is quite solid. The Vestron Video line may not have the high-profile titles of Scream Factory's Collector's Edition line, but this is a promising start.
THE BLU-RAY COLLECTION:
PICTURE AND SOUND:
Warlock arrives on its own disc with a 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that benefits from bold, well-saturated colors and good fine-object detail. There is some clumpy grain and black crush in spots, but this is largely an impressive transfer that is clear from dirt, debris and digital tinkering. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is clear and reasonably immersive, with good LFE support and spatial awareness. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
Warlock: The Armageddon receives a wavering 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image that shares a disc with its sequel. This image is dingier than the first, and the print shows signs of debris and telecine wobble during the credits. There's also some digital noise and clumpy grain, but fine-object detail is usually decent. Colors are appropriately saturated and black crush is minimal to moderate. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is similarly effective, with nice element separation and good clarity. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included here, too.
Finally, Warlock III: The End of Innocence gets a 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer on the same disc as Part 2. This transfer is improved, however, and offers good fine-object detail, muted but appropriately saturated colors, and decent blacks. There is minimal print damage, and the image is largely free of digital tinkering. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix matches the others in quality, and English SDH and Spanish subtitles are also available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set is packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover. On Disc One you get a host of extras for the original film: There is an Audio Commentary by Director Steven Minor; Isolated Score Selections with an Audio Interview by Film Historian and Author Jeff Bond; Satan's Son (25:04/HD), a lively interview with Sands; The Devil's Work (16:18/HD), a new interview with Miner; Effects of Evil (16:24/HD), with comments from effects creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz; the Theatrical Trailer (1:54/HD); Video Teaser (0:32/HD); TV Spots (2:41/HD); vintage Behind-the-Scenes Footage (17:35/HD); a Still Gallery (9:07/HD); Vintage Interviews with the Cast and Crew (40:28/HD); a Vintage Featurette with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz (5:50/HD); and a Vintage Featurette with VFX Supervisors Patrick Read Johnson and Robert Habros, Animation Supervisor Mauro Maressa and Matte Artist Robert Scifo (5:51/HD).
On Disc Two and for the second film you find an Audio Commentary by Director Anthony Hickox; Theatrical Trailer (1:50/HD); TV Spots (1:14/HD); Vintage Making-Of Featurette (7:43/HD); Still Gallery (4:10/HD); vintage Behind-the-Scenes Footage (4:57/HD); and Vintage Interview Segments (5:41/HD). For the third film you get a Trailer (2:22/HD); Video Sales Promo (0:45/HD); Behind-the-Scenes Footage (14:06/HD); a Still Gallery (3:44/HD); and Vintage Interview Segments (43:19/HD).
While it is not my favorite late ‘80s to ‘90s horror series, the Warlock Collection is a strong release as part of Lionsgate's Vestron Video Collector's Series line. The first film stands out thanks to director Steve Miner and actors Julian Sands and Richard E. Grant. The third film may test your patience, but the first two offer certain supernatural charms. The video and audio specs are relatively solid across the board, and Lionsgate includes a ton of extras, including newly produced content for the first film. Recommended.