‘Warlock’ Is ‘The Terminator’ With Witchcraft [The Overlooked Motel]


Welcome to The Overlooked Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct.’ 

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Today’s selection has a cult fanbase but has yet to really be embraced by the masses. It’s such a shame because Warlock is an undeniably good time that plays out a little like a Terminator movie infused with a hefty helping of witchcraft. The flick benefits from an inventive script by legendary screenwriter David Twohy (Pitch Black), a cast that understands the assignment, and some quality practical effects work. 

The setup goes like this: Just before he is put to death for the mortal crime of witchcraft, the Warlock (Julian Sands) is rescued by the Dark Lord and spirited away from the 17th century to the present (circa 1988). But witch-hunter Giles Redfern (Richard E. Grant) is hot on the Warlock’s tail. Redfern joins forces with Kassandra (Lori Singer), the diner waitress whose home the Warlock crash lands into. Together, the duo works to stop the black magic practitioner from unleashing a special brand of evil on the world.   

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There are a few reasons Warlock works so well. The first component is the cast. Lori Singer is endlessly endearing in her turn as Kassandra. She’s very much the archetypal character tasked with tapping into an inner strength she didn’t know she possessed to save the world. But Singer makes Kassandra interesting, endearing, and relatable. Her self-deprecating tendencies and sarcastic wit make her hard not to like. She’s scripted as resourceful and reads as anything but a damsel in distress once she begins realizing her potential.

Kassandra really shines in the scenes where she suffers the consequences of a nasty curse designed to age her decades at a time. As she progresses to an advanced age, Singer changes the pitch of her voice, in addition to her appearance, getting into character but also having a little fun with it. Additionally, her status as an insulin-dependent diabetic affords her an unforgettable sequence involving a syringe. But I will refrain from saying any more about that so as not to spoil any surprises for first-time viewers. 

Richard E. Grant plays terrifically opposite Singer. His turn as Redfern leads to a couple of good chuckles. He has several ‘fish out of water’ moments where he says or does something unintentionally comical because he’s jumped ahead in time several hundred years. When Redfern isn’t busy marveling over modern inventions, he brings a genuine sense of melancholy to the role. The way he pines after his late love interest (who was naturally killed by the Warlock) reads as authentic and gives him a level of depth. It’s also endearing to see Redfern and Kassandra eventually start to develop feelings for one another. The way they start out with a hostile dynamic and gradually warm to one another isn’t overly original. But both leads are fully committed and their dynamic feels genuine.   

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The late Julian Sands is also well-cast as the titular character. He plays the vengeful witch void of any empathy, with a singular focus on unleashing evil and winning the favor of the Dark Lord. The Warlock is an unstoppable killing machine in the vein of the cyborg antagonist in The Terminator, which one must assume served as a source of inspiration for screenwriter David Twohy. But the supernatural elements diversify the narrative enough that the film manages to stand on its own, despite aping some of the major plot points from the James Cameron classic.  

In addition to a great cast and an effective screenplay, Warlock also features plenty of viscera. In one especially grotesque sequence, the Warlock removes Mary Woronov’s eyes to use for navigation. Another gnarly exchange sees the male witch bite off a man’s tongue. There are plenty of great practical effects on display within. Some of the post-production effects look a little dated by today’s standards. But the vast majority of the visuals still look quite impressive 35 years since its release. 

All in all, Warlock is an underrated ‘80s horror movie ready to be rediscovered by modern audiences. The picture seems to be frequently overshadowed by some of its contemporaries. But that’s no indication of the film’s quality. The core cast is fantastic; the effects are top-notch; and the narrative plays out like a supernatural spin on The Terminator. What more could you want? If you’re game to check Warlock out, you can find the picture streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi and Freevee as of the publication of this post. 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you’d like to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on TwitterThreads, or Instagram



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