I really like Julian Sands- he's a compelling actor. One could argue that he does not always pick the best films to do- I'm looking at you The Medallion- but he is great in whatever he does. Today we won't talk about that disappointing movie and focus instead on the first of three films about an evil witch. This film was made by Steve Miner, the man who brought us Jason Voorhees (in Friday the 13th Part II and III) and House- the horror film, not the show. In the last decade, he has been a television director, working on such shows as Smallville and Karen Sisco. Apparently, he is good enough to work on shows based on movies, but not actual movies! In fairness to Steve, he did direct Day of the Dead- the remake in 2008, that is. At least it was not Day of the Dead 2: Contagium! Getting back on-topic, this movie involves a witch time-traveling to the present...of 1989 and trying to get Satan's bible together. Have you tried Barnes & Noble? This is...
The film begins with a slow sequence of men walking in a dark, bleak and rainy town. Old-timey Kansas or Bergman film- you decide! Oh yeah, one of them is also Mr. Pitt as a witch-hunting priest. First a Nazi and now this- the guy has range! They go to see their most important prisoner- Julian Sands. Mr. Sands is sporting a lovely pair of toe-to-thumb cuffs which are the hottest trend in condemned mages. The lead witch hunter- sporting an Aragorn-style look- taunts the man before leaving to wait in the hallway for the execution date. Unfortunately, the perfect storm of clouds and CGI hits and a tornado summons our warlock friend away. So your big spell was the teleport trick from Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest? The angry witch hunter follows him, however, and disappears into time. In the grand tradition of Dungeons & Dragons, his trip takes a lot longer than the other man's and they never explain it. Anyhow, our narrative jumps to Los Angeles & a lovely pair of a gay man and a teeny-bopper. The warlock pops out of his tornado and shows up in their living room, causing a bit of confusion. The lady departs in the morning, leaving the gay man and the warlock together. I smell a sitcom! Actually, Mr. Sands puts a stop to that by cutting the man's fingers off to get a ring and drinks his blood. Naturally, this is a distressing thing to come home to, but it will only get worse.
Unfortunately for our heroine, the witch hunter shows up as well and does not exactly fit in. She calls the cops on him, who you think would be none to keen with her living in a crime scene. They show up and arrest the time-torn man, but not before he sets up a witch radar (don't ask). They tell her to leave again, but she stays around to get all 1,000 of her bags. During all of this, the warlock goes to a fake psychic and summons his master- Satan. The Prince of Lies tells him to reassemble his holy book to unmake existence. The poor woman also gets her eyes ripped out and used as a manuscript radar. Fear the power of radar! The warlock shows up at the house since, you guessed it, some of the pages are there. Geez, he could have saved so much time if he had checked earlier! By the way, good job reusing your sets, Steve. Before he goes, he casts an aging spell on the young woman, causing her to age 20 years a day until her death. All of a sudden, trusting the witch hunter seems like a good idea and they go off together. Unfortunately for them, the warlock is ahead of them and skins a kid (off-screen) in order to make a flying spell. Brooms? We don't need no stinking brooms!
The action gets hot and heavy from hereon out, but so does the odd padding. You see, the movie has a straight-forward 'go there and do this' plot, but acts extra elements to it. Fight the warlock at a Mennonite farm- sure. Spend two or three scenes showing how the guy does not fit into society- why not? Give us a whole bit of them getting onto a plane and nothing happening- that's pushing it. The action we do get is good though and the effects hold up relatively-well. The whole thing culminates in Boston where the final pages are buried in a graveyard. The book seems safe, as it is on holy ground, but our heroes learn that the coffin will be moved. To make things worse, the coffin belongs to our time-torn hero. He refuses to look, but the implication is that his body is there. You should be happy- it means that you win! Our villain shows up and proves that he has learned from the last battle. The hunter fights Sands, but gets a fireball down his throat for his troubles. The warlock gets his hands on the book and begins to utter God's name backwards to undo existence (don't ask). However, our plucky heroine recalls the bit about unholy beings having a weakness against salt. To stop him, she stabs the all-powerful being with her insulin and he melts, but not before giving us one more jump scare. All is right...for now.
This movie is quite good, but suffers some major problems as well. The pacing is a bit erratic at times and certain bits could be trimmed. While not necessarily real long- it clocks in at about 1 hour and forty-five minutes- it could do with some cutting. It gets a bit repetitive is all I'm saying. Sands is great though, which helps make all of his scenes worthwhile. The interaction between the hunter and the young woman feels very organic though, so it does have that going for it. The acting is good across the board, so you can do worse than watching this movie. It's not the strongest entry in the 80s horror market, but it has its moments. If you want less story and more craziness, wait until the first sequel.
Up next, the first sequel. Anthony Hickox takes the helm for this one, so expect blood, guts and a cameo by Zach Galligan. Stay tuned...