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Warlock Collection, The

    Ian Jane

  • Warlock Collection, The

    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment/Vestron Video
    Released on: July 25th, 2017.
    Director: Steve Miner, Anthony Hickox, Eric Freiser
    Cast: Julian Sands, Lori Singer, Chris Young, Bruce Payne
    Year: 1989/1993/1999
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    The Movies:

    Lionsgate's Vestron Video line resurrects the three Warlock films for their North American Blu-ray debut in this extra features-laden two disc set. Here's a look…


    The first film in the collection, directed by Steve Miner in 1989, opens in Boston, Massachusetts in 1691 where the puritan elders of the town gather around a prison tower. Inside is a man (Julian Sands), shackled as he's chastised by witch hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) for 'trafficking with the devil.' Declining the chance to confess his sins to God , the man is sentenced to be executed but before that can happen a dark and ominous storm rolls in, at which point the Warlock, free of his binds, casts a spell and disappears.

    Cut to the Los Angeles of 1989. A storm erupts over the city of angels where Kassandra (Lori Singer) is awoken when she hears jolts her awake. She and Chas (Kevin O'Brien), her landlord, poke about the house trying to figure out what happened and discover the warlock lying unconscious on their living room floor. Chas wants to call the cops but the phones are out, so they drag him into Kassandra's room to try and help the stranger out. The next morning they find him awake, confused by the date on the newspaper he's looking at. Kassandra goes to work, the warlock does some nasty work to Chas in her absence, and soon enough the cops are questioning Kassandra and the warlock is roaming Los Angeles. His first stop, an occult shop run by The Channeler (Mary Woronov) who he uses to speak to a demon named Zamiel and to learn the location of his 'Bible,' an ancient tome called The Grand Grimoire. His task now is to put an end to creation itself and becomes Satan's one true son.

    When Cassandra returns to her now empty home, she's surprised to meet Redferne there armed with a 'witch compass' and a dagger. He's looking for blood while she calls the cops but soon enough, after things get sorted out with the cops and Kassandra is put upon by an aging curse, the two team up to stop the warlock from unleashing Hell, but not before he's distracted by a kid with a video game who is then harvested for his fat, Giles gets some help from a few Mennonite farmers and Kassandra learns the truth about Redferne's mission.

    As much a dark fantasy film as a traditional horror picture, Warlock is pretty entertaining stuff. The setup that takes place in the 1600s is well done and does a fine job of establishing the story that's going to play out in 'modern day' Los Angeles. This scene is also important in that it introduces us to the conflict that exists between Redferne and the warlock. Set design in this sequence is good, as are the costumes. There's nice attention to period detail and an appropriately dark tone to it all. Once things shift to L.A., not surprisingly the film becomes much more colorful and 'eighties' in its tone, but as Kassandra and Redferne hit the road together to chase down their foe, the movie takes some interesting twists and turns as the plot unfolds.

    Sands is pretty good as the heavy in the picture. He doesn't have tons of dialogue but when he does speak, his voice and accent work well in the context of the character that he's been tasked with playing. Kevin O'Brien, just as much a fish out of water as Redferne as Sands is in the titular role, is also pretty good here. He and Lori Singer, whose character is much lighter and breezier than the other two leads, have decent chemistry and make an unlikely but entertaining team. Mary Woronov steals her scene as The Channeler but sadly, she's only in the one part of the film (though it is one of the most memorable and eerie moments in the picture). Some decent effects work, good location photography and a score form Jerry Goldsmith that border on genuinely great make this one work better than you might expect it to and it's not surprising that it's held onto a fan base over the years.

    Which brings us to the sequels…

    Warlock II: The Armageddon:

    Directed by none other than Mr. Hellraiser III himself, Anthony Hickox, this second film once again opens with a scene set in the 1600s where the warlock (Julian Sands again) is defeated and once again somehow manages to travel through time, once again landing in Los Angeles. This time, he's got a new mission. See, during once a millennium six day long recess between lunar and solar eclipses he must gather up six mystic runes that, once they're in his possession, will allow him to free his father, Satan himself, and unleash the Armageddon promised by the films' title.

    Thankfully for planet Earth, a modern day Druid named Will Travis (Steve Kahan) has been training two teenagers, his son Kenny (Chris Young) and friend Samantha Ellison (Paula Marshall), to do battle with the evil warlock using the magical powers they never knew they had! But will they be able to defeat him before he kills his way through everyone who possesses one of the runes he needs?

    This is an entertaining enough sequel that plays things closer to a traditional horror film than the first one did. We don't get the backstory here that the movie really needs to work as well as it could have, but judged on its own merits and viewed as a slice of B-grade horror, the picture is entertaining enough. There's some inspired creativity in the kill scenes and Hickox (who was responsible for a string of sequels at this point in his career) directs the picture with plenty of style during these gorier moments.

    As to the cast, Sands once again brings a bit of class to the part of the warlock. He looks the part and plays it well, putting enough enthusiasm into his efforts to make a decent impression here. Steve Kahan, probably best known for the Lethal Weapon movies, is okay as Will Travis while Young and Marshall are at least sufficient as his teenaged witch hunting protégés. Zach Galligan, who worked with Hickox on the two Waxwork movies he directed, also has a small supporting role here.

    This was clearly made on a lower budget than the first. The production values aren't as good, the costumes in the opening scene not as convincing and the effects an obvious mix of practical work and bad early nineties era CGI, but you could do worse.

    Warlock III: The End Of Innocence:

    Last and most certainly least, the third and final film in the trilogy, directed by Eric Freiser, sees Sands bow out and Bruce Payne replacing him as the titular male witch. That's one strike against it right there. The movie also has really very little to do with the first two pictures, though whether or not that's a positive or a negative is really a matter of personal preference. The story here isn't bad. It revolves around a young artist named Kris (Ashley Laurence of Hellraiser fame) who inherits an old mansion out in the middle of nowhere. Krisi doesn't know much about her background and hopes that by travelling out there and setting up shop, she'll be able to piece together the puzzle that is her past.

    Before long, she's got boyfriend Michael (Paul Francis) out there with her along with friend Jerry (Jan Schweiterman), kinky couple Lisa (Angel Boris) and Scott (Rick Hearst) and their pal Robin (Boti Bliss), a modern day witch, along for the ride. Shortly after everyone settles in, they get a visit from an architect named Phillip Covington (Payne) wanting to check out the old house, clearly the warlock visiting them under false pretenses. Before you know it, he's turned Kris' friends into enemies and has set into motion a plan to once again unleash Hell on Earth…

    Meh. This one is a bit of a slog to get through. The story itself is decent enough. It won't blow you away but there are ideas here that work. The execution of said story is where this one falls flat, however, turning what was a marginally interesting franchise into another by the numbers teen based horror picture. Originality goes out the window here in favor of clichéd characters and occasionally hyperkinetic editing choices that hurt a lot more than they help. The film's low budget is obvious but to his credit, the director keeps things reined in enough that it's never really a problem. Some of the effects work is less than convincing but the old house setting is effective enough. Performances are fairly flat here. Even Laurence, who was great in the first two Hellraiser pictures, fails to really spring to life. Payne isn't half bad in his part, but the problem here is that Sands made the role his own and seeing someone take over where he left off bringing a decidedly different style to the character, it's just seems off. The movie also suffers from some serious pacing issues in the first half, though to be fair it definitely does pick up steam in the second part. The film is far from the complete disaster some would have you believe but sadly it never rises above mediocrity.


    All three films are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The first is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and the two sequels are framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. The first film is presented on its own 50GB disc and the two sequels on a second 50GB disc. Those used to the fuzzy looking fullframe DVDs that came out via Trimark years ago will be instantly impressed with just how much better the image quality is here (those old DVD releases looked awful). Colors are really nicely reproduced throughout playback and black levels are quite solid while still offering up good shadow detail. Crush is never a problem, we get good detail and texture throughout with nice depth to the image as well. There is some softness here (indicating that these could be taken from older masters), the kind that stops the presentation from reaching the top tier of quality that the format can offer, but all in all this is a pretty solid offering from Vestron. All three pictures are clean, free compression artifacts or edge enhancement problems and devoid of any obvious noise reduction filtering. Interestingly enough, the first film has noticeably better colors than the two sequels do and the second picture occasionally struggles when resolving some of the heavier grain in the film, but overall things shape up pretty nicely here.

    Each film is given the DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo treatment with optional subtitles offered up in both English and Spanish. No problems here, the quality of the audio is just fine. Dialogue stays clean and nicely balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. Most of the sound effects pack some decent punch behind them while the music used throughout each picture has good range and presence.

    As far as the extras go (and there are a LOT of them), they're film specific but starting with the first picture in the set we get a new audio commentary with director Steve Miner moderated by Mondo Digital's Nathanial Thompson. This is an interesting talk that covers pretty much everything you'd hope that the director would be able to cover, including what it was like to work with the different cast members on the film, some of the locations that pop up in the picture, some of the effects featured in the picture and lots more. Thompson manages to keep Miner pretty engaged here, and this one covers a lot of ground before it's all over and done with.

    Also on hand is an isolated score selection that is combined with an audio interview featuring author Jeff Bond. He speaks about his feelings on Jerry Goldsmith's score for Warlock and offers up an interesting array of trivia, analysis and insight into what makes it work (it really is a very good score).

    Vestron also includes a few new interviews, starting with Satan's Son where leading man Julian Sands gets in front of the camera to talk about his work on the picture for twenty-five minutes. Sands has got some interesting stories here, talking up his character and sharing his thoughts on the film and where it stands in both his career and the horror genre in general. Up next is The Devil's Work, an interview with director Steve Miner. At sixteen minutes in length this covers a fair bit of the same ground that Miner's commentary does, but it's interesting enough to check out as he covers his involvement in the film and his thoughts on the production rather concisely here. In Effects of Evil make-up effects creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz talk about their time working on the picture for sixteen minutes. Understandably this is a bit more technical in nature than the other interviews but those who appreciate learning how various elements of horror movie magic are pulled off will appreciate the chance to hear from these guys.

    From there, we move on to a collection of archival extras starting with a selection of Behind-The-Scenes Footage that runs just under eighteen minute in length. Shot while the movie was still in production this is interesting stuff, giving us a fairly intimate view of what it would have been like on set as we see the cast and crew going about their business. On top of that, we also get a forty minute long collection of vintage cast and crew interviews - all the principals are here and while a lot of this stuff comes across as EPK style soundbites, it's worth checking out for fans. A few vintage featurettes are also found on the disc, starting with a six minute segment with make-up effects creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz who talk briefly about their work on the picture and what was involved in getting some of the more memorable effects-heavy scenes completed for the picture. We also get a featurette with VFX supervisors Patrick Read Johnson and Robert Habros, animation supervisor Mauro Maressa, and matte artist Robert Scifo that clocks in at six minutes and again allows those involved with the more technical side of the production to chime in and offer up some memories about what was involved in getting things right for the film.

    Rounding out the extras for the first movie on disc one are the film's original theatrical trailer, a video trailer, a few TV spots, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selectin.

    Extras for the second disc kick off with an all new commentary for the second film featuring director Anthony Hickox. Never one to really shy away from offering up his honest opinion on things, Hickox basically walks us through his involvement in the film, relaying quite a few interesting stories about dealing with the studio behind the picture, the effects work featured in the film (some of which he isn't particularly kind to, given that the type of CGI employed here was still in its infancy) and the cast and crew members he worked alongside to get the film completed.

    From there, check out the vintage making-of featurette that runs just under eight minutes. There's some interesting cast and crew interviews here that make it worth checking out. Also thrown in are five minutes of behind-the-scenes footage worth checking out to get a look at what it was like on set during the making of the feature. We also get six minutes of vintage interview clips with Julian Sands, Anthony Hickox and actress Paula Marshall. These are all fairly brief but worth perusing simply because it's interesting to get some input from Sands and Marshall on this second picture.

    A theatrical trailer, a few TV spots, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection are also found.

    There's no commentary for the third film but we do get a fourteen minute long selection of behind-the-scenes footage that shows the cast and crew at work on the picture. There's some interesting stuff here and while a bit more context would have been welcome it's neat to see it included. Also on hand are forty-three minutes of vintage cast and crew interviews.

    Aside from that? A trailer for the feature, an interesting video sales promo, menus and chapter selection.

    Like the other releases in the Vestron Video line so far, we also get some nice slipcover packaging with some cool foil and embossment on it - a nice touch!

    The Final Word:

    Vestron gives The Warlock Collection a solid Blu-ray release presenting all three films in nice shape and loaded with extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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