I truly like and enjoy the original Warlock from director Steve Miner. While the low budget restricted its overall production quality, the good script and high caliber acting talents of Julian Sands and Richard E. Grant really made it something worthwhile. It’s one of those films which showed a lot of potential, and that with a larger budget and stronger production values, it really could’ve been amazing. The rights for the film eventually ended up at Trimark Pictures which came to specialize in some decent genre and B-movie successes, mostly direct-to-video releases, but were ultimately absorbed by Artisan Entertainment and subsequently Lionsgate Films. With the rights to the first film, Trimark decided to make a sequel with those better production values. Warlock: The Armageddon brings the Warlock back from oblivion, but this sequel would’ve been better off staying in oblivion. The golden-maned Julian Sands portrays the Warlock far more devilishly in this one with a darker charm, but has no worthy or even respectable adversary this time around. Sands essentially carries the entire movie, and any scene without him is rather uninteresting. His charisma and charm on screen is so electric that you simply crave more of it when he leaves the screen. The plot doesn’t offer anything all that engaging or particularly special.
The Warlock is brought back to recover a collection of gems that, together, can destroy all of creation (yes, again) by bringing his father, Satan, into our world. Meanwhile, in some rural town two teenagers are chosen by some most unimpressive Druids to be trained and fight the Warlock. Chris Young and Paula Marshall, respectively, portray these two youths, Kenny and Samantha, who aren’t too fond of their parents having to kill them first before being imbued with these new special powers. As the Warlock dispatches of several non-formidable obstacles to obtain these gems, these two teenagers in love try to come to grips with what they have been tasked with, and fear for the evil that is coming for them.
I can’t wrap my head around how we go from the amazing character of Redferne, portrayed by the exceptional Richard E. Grant, to a couple of teenagers who frankly care more about what they’re gonna do on Saturday night than being the saviors of all creation. These two amateurs are expected to go up against the unholy spawn of Satan and prevail? I can only suspend my disbelief so much before a premise becomes laughable. Truly, I was more involved in the Warlock and his quest to destroy humanity than caring about this rural pair of teens in love being forced into a situation they want nothing to do with. There is hardly anything endearing or engaging about their half of the movie. Honestly, I wanted this film to have nothing to do with them. It’s rather sad when you come to actually wanting the villain to destroy all of existence. At least we would have been spared more sequels. Of course, Sands was not brought back for Warlock III: The End of Innocence, which was a non-sequel casting Bruce Payne in the title role.
This sequel is much gorier than the original, but the story and characters are far weaker. It’s not a question of bad acting, it’s a question of a bad script. Whereas the original film was written by the exceptionally talented David Twohy, the screenwriters of this sequel, Kevin Rock & Sam Bernard, have nothing of special note in either of their filmographies, and nothing at all written since the late 1990s. Director Anthony Hickox had just finished Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and I feel this film is worse than that uneven sequel. Hickox directed some decent horror films like Waxwork & Waxwork II, but after Warlock: The Armageddon, he never directed, wrote, acted in, or produced another recognizable film. At best, he’s proven to be a B-grade director not capable of producing anything without a hefty helping of cheese and over the top sensibilities. Ultimately, looking over the credits of this film, the only notable talent involved is Julian Sands. From the screenwriters to the director of photography to the music composer, there’s nobody of note here. Charles Hallahan (The Thing) and Zach Galligan (Gremlins, Waxwork) do have roles here, but they’re essentially nothing more than inconsequential supporting roles.
On a technical level, the movie is well made with competent cinematography giving everything a fine polish and sheen. It looks a little more cinematic than the first movie, but it certainly has its limitations. Some sets are clearly more restrictive in size and style than what their real world counterparts would be such as the fashion show venue. Also, one action scene takes place in a small American southwest town which looks like the back lot for some low budget western, aside from the parking meters. The Warlock literally has a showdown with a couple of guys with shotguns dressed in bad western attire. It’s another unsatisfying thing attributed to both the screenplay and the low budget. They can’t afford to place the climax of the film in an interesting setting, so, it all happens in a forest-like environment where there are no production values to show off. While earlier sequences were mainly on sets that did the best with the budget they had, the climax just makes it look cheaper with uninventive ideas of setting or action. Of course, Anthony Hickox had the climax of Hellraiser III take place on the late night streets of Los Angeles, and showed a lot of explosions and action, but it ultimately amounted to pointless drivel that dumbed down that franchise to an achingly low level, despite the production values. I can’t say that more money would’ve fixed the creative or artistic problems with the film. It was a rather bland story to begin with, and the climax gets to the point where I’d rather prefer seeing the Warlock triumph.
I can say that the visual and makeup effects are entirely superior to the previous film, and that’s bizarre since this film’s budget was $4 million less than the first film. Perhaps, it’s simply a benefit of the evolution of digital effects replacing optical composites in the four year gap between films that gives this sequel a higher quality in that area. The powers of the Warlock are exponentially more extensive and destructive here than in the first movie, but it doesn’t matter much when the story loses the heart and the charm that the first had with Redferne. You can read my earlier review of that film for a more in-depth insight into what really gave Steve Miner’s film so much promise.
Again, Warlock: The Armageddon is really cheesy and pathetically weak in nearly every facet with Sands being the only exception. This sequel is okay if you want to see more of Julian Sands’ purely evil, sadistic, and wonderfully devilish performance, but that is all that is worth seeing in this film. The original Warlock wasn’t any major blockbuster success, and so, Trimark probably didn’t feel as if all that much effort needed to be put forth for a sequel. Again, Trimark was never known for very high quality films, but there are a few that I still heavily enjoy. However, this is not one of them. If the first movie was filmed as well as this one, and had this much gore – it would’ve kicked some real ass. Unfortunately, what really is the most important aspect with both is good story and character. This film lacks both whereas the original Warlock really had it in good amounts. It was well written with some character depth and a consistently enjoyable premise. This sequel was dumb on arrival with only Julian Sands bringing anything truly entertaining to the project. See it if you want, but you’re not missing much otherwise. At best, it’s cheesy early 90s horror schlock. I would better recommend watching the original Warlock, or if you really want some bad ass demonic vanquishing, try Constantine. This was a franchise that hardly ever got going anywhere, and with this sequel, it’s easy to see why it was not a success.