Follow TV Tropes


Film / Warlock (1989)
aka: Warlock

Go To

Warlock is a horror film directed by Steve Miner and starring Julian Sands, Richard E. Grant, and Lori Singer. The story opens in the year 1691, where the eponymous villain (Sands) is sent 300 years into the future, arriving in 1991 (technically 1988, as the film was completed that year, but didn't find a US distributor until three years later; it was released elsewhere in 1989-90). He is pursued by witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Grant).

The Warlock is tasked by Satan with finding the three parts of the Grand Grimoire, which contains the true name of God. Redferne meets Kassandra (Singer), a young woman who was cursed by the Warlock to age rapidly until she dies of old age, and informs her that speaking God's true name backwards will cause The End of the World as We Know It. So Redferne and Kassandra join forces to stop the Warlock before he finds all three parts of the Grand Grimoire.

The film was followed by two sequels, Warlock: The Armageddon (1993) and Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999). 1995 also saw a video game (very) loosely based on the second movie.

Not to be confused with the 1959 Henry Fonda Western of the same name.

This film contains examples of:

  • '80s Hair: Redferne has a great mullet.
  • Agony of the Feet: While pursuing the fleeing Warlock through a train yard, Kassandra drives nails into the Warlock's footprints, causing him pain. In the final battle, the Warlock takes Kassandra captive and stabs nails into her own feet.
  • The Alleged Car: Kassandra drives a 1964 Chevrolet Corvair; it's in less than mint condition.
  • Antagonist Title: The movie is named for the Big Bad.
  • The Antichrist: What the Warlock hopes to become once he gets the Grimoire.
  • Badass Boast: The Warlock's invocation to reunite the pages of the Grand Grimoire.
    The Warlock: I am he of empty crib and stillborn foal. I am he whose coming the stars have foretold. I am he with heart forged by blackest coal. I am he who makesth whole the glorious goal of Satan's unborn soul!
  • Badass Longcoat: Redferne wears one, and stands out terribly once he teleports to The '80s.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Redferne has only his combat skills and limited magical knowledge to defeat the powerful Warlock.
    • The Mennonite Farmer, despite being an old man from a pacifist sect, is more badass than nearly anybody else in the film.
  • Beauty Is Bad: The Warlock is a tall, slender, handsome guy with long blonde hair and a British accent.
  • Big Bad: The Warlock is the source of all the conflict around him, going way back to the late 1600s.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Redferne and Kassandra literally save the entire universe by defeating the Warlock.
  • Black Magic: Used by the Warlock, of course.
  • Body Horror: Anyone coming into contact with the Warlock will most likely experience this.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The kid with the football teases the Warlock, telling him he's full of shit basically, and that witches are all female and ride on brooms. The Warlock was most likely planning to kill the boy anyway, but you can tell the more the kid talks, the more the Warlock is going to enjoy doing it.
  • Bury Your Gays: Poor, poor Chas. And with a Kiss of Death to boot.
  • Censored Child Death: The Warlock is shown talking to a child. When the child asks him what he needs to fly, he gives an Evil Laugh. The child is later found dead, and Redferne learns that the child was unbaptized. Redferne tells Kassandra that the Warlock needed the fat from an unbaptized child to make a flying potion. All of this indirectly tells the audience that the Warlock killed the child off-screen.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Averted. All the clerics featured in the film (the elders from the opening, the priest whose pregnant wife is threatened by Warlock) as well as the Mennonite farm in which one part of the Grimoire is hidden, and the protagonist witch hunter Redferne, are Protestants. On the other hand, the cosmology of the film includes some catholic-like aspects, such as the power of the holy ground, and others drawn from European folklore.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kassandra's diabetes syringe delivers the final blow to the Warlock.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Redferne is explaining to Kassandra how the Warlock is susceptible to salt, and she thinks it's due to nutritional concerns.
  • Creepy Souvenir: A justified case. The Warlock takes the possessed spritualist's eyes, using them as a compass to track Kassandra and Redferne.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    • Kassandra gets in a few good comments.
    • The Warlock, too, has his moments, especially in the sequels.
  • Deal with the Devil: Of a sort; the Warlock is acting on Satan's behalf, but as his willing agent. He thanks the Devil for freeing him from his captivity, but demands a hefty reward before carrying out his plan to destroy the world.
  • Death of a Child: The Warlock strikes up a conversation with a young boy when he learns his family aren't church-goers. In the next scene, the heroes come across two constables and a grieving mother, staring at the boy's off-screen body and assuming coyotes must have skinned him.
    Redferne: There's only one reason he'd need the fat of an unbaptized male child.
    Kassandra: Why?
    Redferne: Flying potion.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Redferne does not get why Kassandra, being a respectable woman, would "paint her face" (use makeup) since he's from the late 1600s when that was only something done by prostitutes.
  • Demonic Possession: The Warlock tricks a phony medium to channel the Devil by providing her with one of his lesser-known names. The medium mutates to something more demonic and the Devil offers the host's eyes for the Warlock's use.
  • Depraved Homosexual: The Warlock is a sadistic Satan-worshipping sorcerer, "the rudest of them all," and the first thing he does upon being transported to our time and given shelter by a gay dude, is murder his hapless host by biting off his tongue in what looks like a sensual kiss and then (it's implied) raping him to death.
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: Giles Redferne digs up his own centuries-old corpse out of the graveyard in Boston, having time travelled from 1691.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The Grand Grimoire is in 3 pieces that must be obtained and put together for it to be used.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: There is at least one Portuguese translation that has the Grimoire revealing Satan's name instead of God's (possibly out of fear of being accused of blasphemy). The problem? The Warlock is very explicitly working for Satan the whole time, meaning if that were the case, Satan could just tell him his name, he could say it backwards, and the movie would be done.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Warlock is known only as..."the Warlock."
  • Evil Brit: The Warlock speaks in an English accent, implying that he was a recent colonist in the Boston area during his initial capture in 1691.
  • Evil Gloating: Really, if your goal is to speak the name of God backwards, why not just do that once you've got the name instead of gloating?
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Or rather, Talking With The Dead Is Not A Toy, even if you're just pretending.
  • Evil Laugh: The Warlock gives one when a young boy asks him what he needs to be able to fly, which is to kill the child and use his fat.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The Warlock is a servant of Satan, tries to destroy the world, and mutilates innocent people for fun.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Kassandra realizes that she was thrown into a body of salt-water that can be used as a weapon against Warlock.
  • Eye of Newt: The Warlock uses the body fat of a non-baptized child as a flying potion.
  • Eye Scream: A seer offers her assistance helping the Warlock find what he is missing. He takes her up on the offer, literally, by taking her eyes. Later, you can see the eyes, with some of her optic nerves still attached, moving in the direction of the Warlock's book.
  • Evil Wears Black: The Warlock is the only character to wear completely black attire, which only makes his blond hair more noticeable.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: The Warlock has typically angelic-looking long blonde hair, yet he is a thoroughly Satanic Archetype and the Big Bad of the movie.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Innocent bystanders and children are viciously killed without a second thought.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Discussed when Kassandra questions why the Warlock didn't just kill her instead of casting a Rapid Aging curse on her that would do the process much more slowly, and says she can't imagine a worse fate. Redferne confirms that this was the Warlock's intention.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Warlock puts up a pleasant demeanor before he starts butchering people.
  • Final Battle: An epic one at the old graveyard in Boston.
  • Fingersnap Lighter: The title character does this a couple of times, including generating a green flame to heat up some food and red flames while performing a magical ritual.
  • Finger-Tenting: The Warlock on the poster.
  • Fingore: After the Warlock has been taken care of by Chas, he notices that the man's ring actually has magical properties. When Chas explains that he can't get it off, the Warlock simply hacks off the finger with a kitchen knife and murders the poor guy.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Subverted, as Redferne mostly adapts to our time surprisingly well, sometimes even better than its native residents. He ends up having to remind Kassandra to keep her eyes on the road when they're driving in her car.
  • Flight: If the Warlock performs a certain spell for which he needs to kill a child and harvest his fat, he can fly through the air at his own discretion.
  • The Future Is Shocking: Redferne doesn't approve when Kassandra puts on makeup, as in his time only prostitutes wore that.
  • Gay Best Friend: Chas, Kassandra's roommate. He doesn't last long.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: When Kassandra becomes overwhelmed by what Redferne is telling her, he slaps her to try to snap her out of it.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: The Warlock seems to know God's one true weakness: uttering his name backwards. Giles Redferne has to protect the Grand Grimoire to prevent the Warlock from finding the name itself, written within.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Several people are gored and badly disfigured, but the act itself is often not explicitly shown.
  • Grand Inquisitor Scene: In the beginning of the movie when the Warlock is being sentenced by the officials.
  • Greasy Spoon: There is a brief scene of Kassandra working at one of these before she becomes embroiled in the plot.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Redferne and the Warlock get to be very hammy to each other at times.
  • A Handful for an Eye: While Redferne is fighting the Warlock hand-to-hand in the cemetery, the Warlock starts strangling him. Redferne grabs a handful of earth and throws it in the Warlock's eyes to make him break his grip.
  • Healing Factor: Redferne stabs the Warlock to kill him, but finds that even the incomplete Grimoire gives him the power to recover from the wound almost immediately.
  • Hollywood New England: Mainly later in the movie when the characters fly to Boston. Immediately there's a scene involving The Taxi, with Celtics memorabilia and a driver with a heavy Boston accent.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Zigzagged. When the Warlock's Dynamic Entry into a priest's house shakes a crucifix off the wall, the first thing the villain does is pick it up and hang it back. However, he cannot step on holy ground or touch it.
  • Honor Before Reason: Kindness Before Reason in this case. Redfrene refuses to abandon a Warlock's victim to their death even though it means letting the villain get away when they almost subdued him. He admits that it was inexcusable of him, but he just couldn't bear letting another person die because of the monster who had already claimed so many.
  • Hostage For Macguffin: During the final fight in the graveyard, the Warlock takes Kassandra hostage and demands the Grimoire from Redferne in exchange for Kassandra's freedom.
  • I Have Many Names: The Warlock uses this to trick a professional medium into channeling Satan. When he asks her to channel his father's spirit and she asks for a name, the Warlock replies "He has many names." When she says that she only needs one, he deliberately gives her one of the Devil's more esoteric names; Zamiel.
  • I Know Your True Name: Whosoever holds the complete Grimoire knows God's, no less. Speaking it backwards is...unwise.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: While Redferne is exploring an attic to see if the Warlock is hiding there, a nasty bat attacks him. He throws his knife at it, pinning it to the wall.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: The Warlock threatens to kill a priest's pregnant wife along with the child she's carrying to get the information he wants. Presumably subverted because the priest ultimately caves in to the Warlock's demands, although we don't get to see if he did leave them unharmed.
  • Instant Runes: Of course, in a movie about witchcraft: "hexmarks" as they are called by Redferne.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: While they're pursuing the Warlock, Kassandra uses the "Go on without me" version on Redferne after she undergoes Rapid Aging to become sixty years old.
  • Killed Offscreen: Redferne explains to Kassandra that a magic flying potion can be made using the fat of an unbaptized child. When the Warlock is then seen flying, it's obvious he killed and butchered the kid he was talking to earlier.
  • Kill It with Water: Saltwater, actually.
  • Large Ham: It's a rather hammy film.
    • The Warlock is at his hammiest near the end with this quote:
    • Redferne gets his moment with this quote:
      Redferne: (to Pastor) Our interest lies in stopping those who would see all good falter. It lies in stopping the powers of misrule from coming of age. It lies in finding that damned book and thwarting a vile beast of a man who shall not rest until God Himself is thrown down, and all of Creation becomes Satan's black, hell-besmeared farting hole!
  • Little Miss Almighty: Implied. When the Warlock gets the Grimoire and is looking through it, we can see God's true name begin to form, and are almost able to read it before it cuts away it looks like either "Roaisha" or "Rokisha", which certainly sound like female names.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The Warlock is almost all-powerful, and he doesn't use that power to do anything nice or pretty.
  • MacGuffin: The Grand Grimoire, which the 2 main characters plus Kassandra spend most of the movie on a mission to find.
  • MacGyvering: Redferne and Kassandra find themselves utilizing strange objects and processes to attack or slow down the nearly invincible Warlock.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: At one point, Kassandra is hunting the Warlock through a train yard, driving nails into his footprints to slow him down. The Warlock then holds a board against his feet to protect himself. At this point, Kassandra quickly notices that he's not screaming anymore, but also notices an interesting set of prints where the Warlock not only sat down, but rested his head against a pile of dirt. Kassandra gets an inquisitive look on her face and drives a nail into the latter. Turns out that ALL of a warlock's body-prints have that weakness.
  • Magical Accessory: The movie is full of them. The most significant is Kassandra's bracelet, stolen by the Warlock and used to put the Rapid Aging curse on her.
  • My Nayme Is: The heroine is named "Kassandra." She says that it's "Kassandra with a K" and Redferne calls her that when speaking to her.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Though he denies being one, the Warlock tries to collect the Grand Grimoire to reverse God's work and unmake Creation itself to advance himself in Satan's eyes.
  • Only Sane Man: Redferne seems to view himself as this, as the Warlock's deeds are perfectly understandable if you believe in witchcraft, which most of the modern world no longer does. The owner of the farm they track the Warlock to protests, but Redferne finds an ally in the man's "old ways" Mennonite father, who unquestioningly accepts Redferne's story based on the evidence.
  • One-Word Title: Antagonist Title, named for the Warlock.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Pretty much the crux of Satan and the Warlock's plan. In the 1600s, the Warlock was being hunted by Redferne and everyone knew to be on the lookout for witches and their modus operandi. Sending the Warlock into the future to the 20th century, where modern people thought of witches as fantasy, would have allowed him to operate with impunity. That is until Redferne follows him to the present.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The Warlock does this to the Phony Psychic, whom he views with contempt for hustling gullible people, and for pretending to have the powers he actually has.
  • Phony Psychic: The Warlock visits a medium after arriving in the present day to contact his master Satan. The medium in question is clearly a fraud, but since the warlock himself isn't, he just hijacks her body against her will to channel the devil.
  • Place of Protection: The titular Big Bad is a Satanic creature who can't set foot on holy ground.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: The Warlock curses Kassandra to age by 20 years each day just For the Evulz. However, she manages to reverse the spell and restore her youth.
  • Pocket Protector: The Warlock makes use of a magical variant at one point when he regenerates from being stabbed by keeping part of the Grand Grimoire beneath his coat.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: According to the Warlock, one of the ingredients of a flying potion is the rendered fat of an unbaptized child. While in modern times, there are alternatives that are not fatal to the child, the character is from the 17th century, back when there were no alternatives, and kills the child, extracting it. The potion is based on a (supposed) actual witches recipe of the era. Likewise, the nail in the footprint has a real-world source.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Kassandra, right as she delivers the killing blow to the Warlock by sticking a syringe in his neck and injecting saltwater: "Try saltwater, fuck brain!"
  • The Quest: For Redferne to pursue the evil Warlock into the future, secure the Grand Grimoire and prevent the erasure of the universe.
  • Rapid Aging: The curse placed on Kassandra by the Warlock causes her to age twenty years each night. Since she was about twenty years old already, this gives her and Redferne only three or four days to find and defeat the Warlock before she dies of old age.
  • Rasputinian Death: The Warlock is still alive as an immolated skeleton. Redferne has to crush his skull before he finally dies.
  • Real After All: The phony medium, who pretends to channel a spirit. Her client is the Warlock, who needs to talk to Satan, and while she has no power, both the Warlock and Satan do.
  • Sacred Language: There is an ancient, obscure pronunciation of the name of God, which will undo the creation of the universe if someone finds it out and speaks it backwards.
  • Sacred Scripture: The Grand Grimoire contains the information needed by the Warlock to accomplish his goal: erase all of creation by uttering the true name of God in reverse.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: Boston, which is next door to Salem, plays an important part in the plot.
  • Salt Solution: Redferne uses a whip coated in salt against the Warlock.
  • Satan: The Warlock considers Satan his father, and conjures him in a human vessel to receive further orders.
  • Satanic Archetype: Not Satan himself, but the Warlock is essentially his representation on earth.
  • The Shadow Knows: The poster has the good-looking villain sorcerer casting a shadow showing him for what he really is—a being of pure evil.
  • Shown Their Work: A surprising amount of genuine witchcraft lore, such as the weakness to salt, the various signs a witch is near (horses sweating, cream going sour, bread not rising), the nailing of the footprints causing pain, and even the fat of an unbaptized child being used for flight.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Kassandra. She could also qualify as somewhat of a Fiery Redhead.
  • Spanner in the Works: While Redferne is deliberately trying to stop the Warlock and defeat his plan, following the Warlock into the present was definitely not planned by either party.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Kassandra notes that her name is spelled with a K, and Redferne takes this to be her name.
  • Spooky Sťance: The Warock went to a supposed medium to contact his demonic boss and has his patience tested when it is obvious that she is faking it. However, his demonic master suddenly takes possession of the medium for real and they get down to business.
  • Squishy Wizard: Subverted. For the most part, the Warlock indeed relies on his eldritch powers and avoids physical confrontation. In the climax, Redferne dares him to take the final pages of the Grand Grimoire by force alone, without magic. The Warlock agrees and it looks like a typical Batman Gambit when the hero plays on the villain's hubris to even the scale, but the Warlock holds his own pretty well in a fight and it's Redferne who has to resort to supernatural means to stop the Warlock from kicking his ass.
  • Tears of Blood: The Mennonite man suffers this when the Warlock comes to his farm.
  • Technicolor Fire: When the title villain is nearby, ordinary fire becomes an eerie shade of blue.
  • Terminator Twosome: A variant; the Warlock escapes to the future and Redferne follows to hunt him down.
  • Time Master: The Warlock (as well as Redferne) jumps forward 300 years from the 17th century.
  • Time Travel: See: Time Master.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Kassandra and Redferne clearly like each other.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Grand Grimoire is a Satanic book broken up long ago. When brought together, it reveals the hidden name of God (Roaisha) which, if said backwards, will undo all that He created and destroy the world.
  • Tongue Trauma: The Warlock bites Chas's tongue off and makes an omelette of it.
  • Unexpectedly Real Magic: The Phony Psychic is unaware that she's dealing with an actual warlock with real powers. She starts off doing her usual schtick, then becomes genuinely possessed by Satan and channels his voice, in a real example of the fakeness she usually peddles for a living. It becomes her last day on the job.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The Warlock's reward to Chas, the first man who offered the unconscious and time-teleported sorcerer shelter, is to murder him in his own kitchen.
  • Walking Wasteland: The title character has a power often attributed to witches in Real Life—when he's in the area, milk turns sour.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Chas. Seems like he would have made a likable character, if he hadn't immediately been rubbed out by the Warlock.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Warlock has a couple of weaknesses in the first movie that are easily exploited. The first is holy ground, which is obvious since he's a minion of the Devil. The other one is salt, which can be found almost anywhere. This weakness is actually taken from folklore. Salt was used historically in European countries and their derivatives in order to detect or fight witchcraft. In fact, one method of torture used to attempt to force a confession from a witch was to feed them salty food and deny them water. Driving a nail into his footprints also causes him pain as if it were being driven into his foot. At one point, he cleverly holds a board against his feet to prevent this. The final shot is of the salt flats that Kassandra's just buried the Grand Grimoire in, to keep it out of the hands of any future Warlocks.
  • We Have Those, Too: Redferne may be a Fish out of Temporal Water but he's not as backwards as Kassandra initially thinks. At one point Kassandra asks him if he knows the world is round, to which he dryly replies "for quite some time".
  • Who's on First?: Kassandra and Redferne have an exchange of this type over his witch compass, a device he uses to track the Warlock's location.
    Kassandra: What is it?
    Redferne: Peace, do not even breathe on it.
    Kassandra: Some kind of compass?
    Redferne: Witch compass.
    Kassandra: This one here.
    Redferne: What of it?
    Kassandra: What is it?
    Redferne: As I say, it is a witch compass.
    Kassandra: ...Oh, you mean witch, not which. Like Samantha, Tabitha, witch.
    Redferne: Like the Warlock.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: During the encounter in which Redferne first uses the "put nails on the Warlock's footprints" trick, he has to go back and help one of the Warlock's victims. He tells Kassandra to keep nailing and Kassandra (in anger and desperation) points at the Warlock in the distance and yells out: "just give me a shotgun and I'll nail the bastard from here!"
  • The Witch Hunter: Giles Redferne is a witch hunter transported from the 17th century to kill the evil Warlock who murdered his wife. He's actually a pretty nice guy, going out of his way to save as many innocent bystanders who fall prey to the Warlock as possible. He only has his salt-coated whip, knives, and some limited knowledge of the Warlock's weaknesses to defeat him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: One of the first things Redferne does when he meets Kassandra is immediately slap her in the face, presumably for being such a Hysterical Woman.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Warlock skins a young boy because he was an unbaptized firstborn son, which means he can use the boy's fatty tissue for a spell that will allow him to fly unguided. He also takes note of a priest's pregnant wife and threatens to kill the man's unborn children if he doesn't cooperate.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know: In Boston, Redferne is disputing with the cab driver about which route to take to the old church. The driver says, "I've lived here since 1958, what about you?" Of course, Redferne has time-traveled from 1691, and Kassandra interrupts with "Don't answer that."
  • Younger Than They Look: This happens to Kassandra, who spends about half the film looking forty, then sixty, thanks to the Warlock's curse.

Alternative Title(s): Warlock, Warlock 1991