FIVE FILMS FROM...1989
(Directed by Steve Miner)
Okay, guess the film from the strapline: "He's come from the past to destroy the future"—some kind of sci-fi "Terminator" rip-off. Well, yes … and no. It's a wonderfully eclectic film that somehow exudes a peculiar charm and imagination that similar films in the late 80s and early 90s never managed to capture again. If you want to see a Scottish "Withnail" fight against a pony-tailed blonde man-witch, while accompanied by the lead actress of "Fame" and "Footloose" and using Olde Worlde Magick, then this is just for you. It's directed by Miner of "Friday the 13th" franchise fame, as well as "Lake Placid" and "Halloween: H20", and written by David Twohy, who also wrote "The Fugitive" Ford remake and the Vin Diesel "Riddick" movies. Apparently, it had a delayed nightmare journey to the screen. It was shelved for a couple of years due to studio finances, and also allegedly had some issues with the leading lady who wasn't so keen on her ageing prosthetics (which is probably why they're a bit crappy). Be that as it may, when it was eventually released, the cheesy/edgy mix of horror and fantasy became a firm favourite of many during the "Blockbuster" video rental golden age… this writer included. Starting in 1691, in Boston, Massachusetts, a powerful Warlock (who's never given a name but is played with a snidey smugness by Julian Sands) is awaiting execution. But he's apparently a sire of Satan, and the old feller himself creates a time vortex to whisk the Warlock away to the far future of 20th Century. However, he is pursued by Witchfinder Giles Redferne (a barnstorming performance by the great Richard E. Grant) who follows into the future and modern-day America. There the Warlock is tasked with finding the unholy bible ("The Grand Grimoire") and saying God's name backwards to reverse creation! As you do… Meanwhile, Redferne has joined forces with snarky waitress Kassandra (Lori Singer) who is ageing 20 years a day due to witchy shenanigans. And they're trying to stop Armageddon.
There's so much to love about this movie. For a start it has a couple of edgy moments that are surprisingly nasty; Sands kills an unbaptised boy (offscreen), so he can boil his fat to make a flying spell, and he plucks the eyeballs from a clairvoyant to make a gloopy "compass". The whole thing relies on those "zappy" digital 80s F.X. that sees cartoony red ectoplasm shoot from Sand's fingers (and down someone's throat!), along with some none-too convincing stop-motion, and some iffy "You'll believe a man-witch can fly" Superman effects. But though those have dated, they work for the atmosphere and the story has plenty of imagination to make up for it. There's a delightful exploration of many superstitious spells like hexes and evil eyes, not to mention the effect salt has on a Warlock, or what a "Holy Hammer" will do to his feet! It's just so unorthodox and off-the-wall that even the standard fish-out-of-water subplot with Redferne works a treat. Mind you, a lot of that is due to Grant's endearing performance, playing the witch-hunter like he's a character from a Shakespeare play with plenty of emotional baggage and a no-nonsense attitude to modern-day malarkey. Just watch the way he delivers a javelin throw to the flying Warlock with a weather vane, or freaks out when confronted with his own tomb (another clever touch). The bitchy interludes between Grant and Sands are great, and there's even some undeniable chemistry between Singer and Grant, despite the alleged difficulties. Modern fantasy-horror fans may wonder what the fuss was about if they check this out (and it's probably best to avoid the two direct-to-video sequels), but this was great fun for a generation. Watch out for a backlash from us oldies if a remake is mooted!
(Directed by Brian Yuzna)
A wonderfully sick and twisted treat that became a cult movie almost immediately and unexpectedly pushed the