actually saw both previous "Warlock" films in
the theaters, back when moderately budgeted B-Horror films were still allowed to
grace the multiplexes. Now, you couldn't get into the theaters unless your films
had a big budget, is being distributed by a big studio, or has a named cast.
Such is the fate of "Warlock 3: The End of Innocence", which is the
third in the series and the first to go straight to video. Which may be just as
well, because "Warlock 3", despite being much better than both
previous installments (including the strangely lackluster original), has little
to no relation to the previous two films besides its use of a warlock character.
Ashley Laurence (the "Hellraiser" franchise)
jumps ship to take the lead, starring as Kris, a young artist who has no idea
where she comes from, but has a burning desire to find out. When Kris is told
that she's inherited a spooky old mansion in the boondocks, she eagerly travels
alone to the homestead in hopes of learning more about her past. Soon, her
friends join her, including loyal boyfriend Michael (Paul Francis), quiet
musician Jerry (Jan Schweiterman), S&M lovers Lisa (Angel Boris) and Scott
(Rick Hearst), and practicing witch Robin (Boti Bliss).
No sooner does the friends arrive does the warlock himself
(Bruce Payne) make an appearance, pretending to be an architect interested in
the house. Soon, the warlock has turned all of Kris' friends against her, with
plans on finishing up a ceremony that would give him ultimate power or destroy
the Earth or one of those Evil Master Plan that all witches and warlocks and
demons are wont to do in these movies. Can Kris stop the manipulative warlock in
time? Better yet, will she stop calling for her boyfriend to come protect her?
It's getting really annoying.
Director/co-writer Eric Freiser is obviously a talented
filmmaker, and yet he seems unable (or unwilling) to drop all the clichés of
the Teen Horror genre. Throughout the film, Freiser keep springing Shock
Flashes, where we see brief glimpses of something supernatural going on, all
doused with loud, nonsensical screeching noise. It's supposed to
"shock" and "befuddle" us because the scenes are much too
quick (usually less than a second) for us to actually "see" anything
going on. It's a tiresome gimmick that horror filmmakers seem unable (or
unwilling) to shed. (See "Darkness"
and "The Nameless"
for more gratuitous use of the Shock Flash gimmick -- both films are also
directed by the same man.)
Although working with a low budget, Freiser does very well
with what he has on hand. Oh sure, the sets are limited, and what little special
effects that do appear seem to be used up in a brief confrontation between the
warlock and Wicca Robin. That scene, although nothing to get excited about, is
still nicely done, but it also means there's no more budget for anything else,
including the supposedly climactic final battle between Kris and the warlock.
That particular scene is covered in red filters (probably to hide the lame set)
and Freiser drowns us in Shock Flashes, which leaves me to this conclusion: If I
didn't already despise Shock Flashes, watching "Warlock 3's" ending
would have done it.
None of which is to say that "Warlock 3" is a bad
movie. It's actually quite interesting, if a bit slow and plodding for the first
hour. The screenplay by Freiser and Eisen relies more on traditional horror
elements, including a Haunted House atmosphere for the first 30 minutes, with
Kris staying in the creepy house alone. This is followed by 30 minutes of subtle
suspense and manipulation by the warlock. Rather it was the low budget that
forced the movie to take a more grounded approach to the evil going on or if the
whole thing was intentional from the very beginning, the result is the same: the
film's first 60 minutes works extremely well.
Surprisingly, the cast is capable, including Bruce Payne
Endgame") as the villainous warlock. Payne oozes maliciousness as the
brooding warlock, who arrives wearing black leather pants and an evil twinkle in
his eyes. As the lead, Ashley Laurence does just fine with what she has at hand,
although her character is written as being somewhat irritating. Kris is mostly
useless, always prone to calling out to boyfriend Michael for anything and
everything. One would hope that the film's heroine would possess some courage
besides calling out her boyfriend's name whenever she encounters dirt on the
In the end, I have to grudgingly admit that "Warlock
3" is much better than its big-budgeted pedigree. There's definitely
something to be said about a limited budget requiring the filmmakers to be more
creative than usual.