Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Warlock (1989)

WARLOCK (1989)

All commentary below by Dustin Acton (2006).

Witch powers: flight, geeky ponytail, closing doors with his mind, making people age rapidly, and shooting energy from his fingertips.

A condemned warlock (simply named Warlock, because he is what he does) with a bad ponytail is transported from the 16th century along with a witch hunter to 1980’s LA. After mistakenly arriving in the house of a very annoying girl named Kassandra (played by the equally annoying Lori Singer of Footloose fame) and her roommate, he is mistaken for a homeless person and allowed to stay. In one of those great “I-didn’t-see-that-one-coming” moments on the par with the ending of The Usual Suspects, Warlock (that really is his name) kills Kassandra’s roommate and steals his ring for no apparent reason. He then discovers a series of ancient papers that have been conveniently hidden in the first place he looks. The witch hunter, Giles, then appears (apparently there’s a delay in warlock time travel), and after being mistaken for the murderer, explains to Kassandra what Warlock is after, and why she must help him. Warlock is searching for an ancient grimoire that contains the true name of God (which is apparently “Rokisha,” if anyone’s interested) and will allow him to destroy the entire universe. Luckily for us the grimoire has been scattered into three pieces and hidden across America (I didn’t know Europeans were so prevalent in 16th-century America). Oh yeah, and an aging curse has been put on Kassandra, so she has to help Giles if she ever wants to go back to being moderately attractive again.

Luckily for us, Giles can track Warlock using a compass and a drop for his blood. Giles and Kassandra track Warlock to the barn that has conveniently been “hex marked” by its owner, who noticed his milk curdling and immediately deduced that there must be a witch living in his attic (where the second piece of the grimoire has been inexplicably hidden). Then comes what I call “Ponytail Showdown,” in which Giles attempts to use a weather vane as a weapon and Warlock flies around in sub-Superman special effects. After Warlock gets away, Giles discovers that his weather vane has somehow become magically enchanted, and decides to take it with him for the remainder of the movie. Somehow he gets it past airport security, and the two embark on a plane to Boston to find the last section of the grimoire which is hidden in a church. After they discover, as the Warlock has, that the final pages are hidden in Giles’ grave our final showdown commences, and the Warlock is implausibly defeated by saltwater (huh?) after becoming all-powerful. Giles then returns to his own time, and Kassandra hides the grimoire in the Bonneville Salt Flats, because that’ll hide it real good.

The film also uses a number of unique tricks, some of which appear to be traditional. The use of a child’s body fat for flight, for instance, mirrors the traditional lore of the witch’s “magical salve,” which possessed all her flying abilities. The way the warlock’s presence curdles milk also was used as evidence during the European witch trials. The most interesting twist of the film, however, is the use of a male warlock over the traditional female witch. I think this fails because warlocks don’t embody what is so frightening about the witch figure: the assault on traditional patriarchy. When we think of witches, the figure that most easily comes to mind is that of the old crone, which is a direct affront to the mythology of the nuclear family. Instead of a frightening figure we’re simply given some weird guy with a ponytail. This is a terrible film. Anyone interested in a more entertaining take on the warlock mythos would be urged to check out Brainiac instead.

Witch Films