Spoilers. And ick.
My Oh What the Hell, it’s On Netflix movie review seems to be randomly Antichrist*-focused lately. At least, I assume the titular character of Warlock is supposed to be the Antichrist. The box art is all “Satan also has one son,” oooh, scary synth track here, but if that gets mentioned anywhere in the actual movie, I missed it somehow. Dude certainly seems fond of Satan, but I’m not sure it’s ever actually stated that there’s a blood relationship there.
It works okay as a concept, though. As with the elderly Satanists in Rosemary’s Baby, the Warlock’s motivations are never really explained so much, and that works okay–he’s introduced as a fully-developed threat and we spend more time with the heroes–but not as well here as it did with the Castavets et al. We’re supposed to peg the Warlock as evil from the beginning, so the mystery doesn’t conceal the motives (or lack thereof); plus, he doesn’t really work subtly. Yeah, the guy has your ring–I’m still sure there’s a way to get it off other than cut off his finger, bite out his tongue while kissing him, and leave the corpse around. The Warlock–played by Julian Sands in a disturbingly hot manner, considering the number of facial features this guy removes from other people over the course of the film–comes off as a psychopath with control issues. That works okay if he’s a freaky Satanist guy, but better if he’s the actual Antichrist: he doesn’t get working subtly in the human world because he’s not human. Makes sense.
Evil Julian Sands is also the hardest-working Antichrist I’ve ever seen. The guy comes from Puritan-era Boston to nineties LA–the plot is clearly inspired by Terminator, but tweaked considerably, and I absolutely approve of this, of course–and as soon as he’s conscious, he gets right to work with the dismembering and the killing and the trying to end the world. In LA! In ’91! You’d think the man would at least take a break to find some hookers and cocaine.
Actually, Evil Julian Sands (and the whole destroying-the-world plot) makes way more sense if I assume that the Satan of this movie isn’t the suave-and-scheming figure of most popular mythology, but rather something more akin to the Great Old Ones or the powers of the Silent Hill universe, and the Warlock is Wilbur Whately’s really-really-lots-better-looking counterpart.
Our Heroes are Giles Redferne, fur-clad hunter and, like Sands, full-time scenery gnawer, and Kassandra “with a K”, the Generic Spunky Kinda Ditzy Girl you were required by law to team up with the grim hero type in any fish-out-of-temporospatial-water sf film of the era. (See also: Terminator, Beastmaster 2…) They sort of get their bickery quasi-romance on, but it never goes very far, and ends in an irksome diabolus ex machina because This Is a Horror Film and therefore Can’t End Happily. Feh.
It’s not the most compelling love story ever to begin with, though. Redferne has outbreaks of historically accurate obnoxiousness, yelling a lot and saying that “goodly women don’t paint their faces,” in case we needed a reminder that importing men from the 17th century** is a bad idea. Kassandra…is Kassandra with a K, and therefore obnoxious from the get-go, and does not know when to shut up about a dude’s presumably-horribly-murdered wife, but somehow doesn’t manage to annoy me quite as much as she logically should. She does, however, sport bullet-deflecting helmet hair and wears weirdo silver space skirts with macrametastic purple sweaters. It’s possible that Evil Julian Sands decided to end the world after seeing her wardrobe, and I can’t say that I blame him.
The actual world-ending is supposedly accomplished with your standard Book of Eville, which someone had the foresight to divide up and hide in three different places. Well done, that guy. Except–and this is a common complaint with Books of Eville–why are we not actually destroying it? Y’know, burning it, shredding it, dumping acid on it, feeding it to a goat? (Actually, let’s not do that one. The last thing your average goat needs is more necromancy in its diet.) At least give some sort of “we tried to destroy it and can’t” or “it also contains stuff we need” explanation, because otherwise you guys just look stupid. I’m normally very much opposed to destroying knowledge, but I’m willing to make an exception for the backwards name of God.
That sort of gripery aside, the plot does its occult thing pretty well. All of the legends about witches are supposedly true, including some pretty weird stuff, like the one about driving nails through someone’s footprints and the various warning signs like bread not rising and milk curdling. I found the Convenient Mennonite Farm–in SoCal, yet–to be a bit much, though the hex sign was cool; much better was the bit on the plane where someone’s individually-packaged cream goes bad. Did make me wonder about non-dairy creamer, though, and whether the bread thing is just bread or all baked goods. Did the Warlock’s presence in Boston cause a massive Dunkin’ Donuts crisis?
Redferne gets points at the end for responding sensibly to the Goddammit, Cecil, You Moron choice. Recognizing that the girl will die anyhow if you turn over the world-destroying artifact: awesome. I would kiss you for that, you strange and unkempt man. The setup for what actually kills off the Warlock is well done, and Kassandra actually gets to do something, so I like that too.
As in any other movie that involves airports, the anachronisms there are good times. “Why, yes, miss, I will totally sell you and your scruffy fur-wearing friend there two cross-country tickets at the last minute. No problem at all! Did I mention that LAX doesn’t have metal detectors yet, and you can totally hand a big old iron weathervane to the stewardess without a problem?”
Aw, 1991. You’re so cute.
Well, except for your fashion sense. Yikes.
*Or at least Child-of-the-Devil focused. Wiki informs me that the Antichrist is not necessarily Satan’s actual kid, but the two have become sufficiently conflated over the years. There you are: Bizarro Theology Fact of the Day. Use it at cocktail parties!
**Or at least from 17th century Massachusetts. There’s a reason that Puritan romance is not a huge subgenre.