TLDR: it’s pretty good.
Plot: an evil warlock is saved by his master from being hanged (and then burned over a basket of live cats….Well, GOOD, THEN) in the year 1690 by being brought forward in time to the present day. What can a sorcerer from primitive times do in the modern world? Well, everything he could back then, only more so, since fewer male children are baptized and no one knows how to protect themselves or fight back against witches. The first thing he does is steal a ring from a man offering him breakfast….by cutting off his fingers…and then murders him by biting his tongue off and then stabbing and/or raping him to death.
He is planning to assemble the Grand Grimoire–the Black Magic Bible–and then say the true name of God backwards, uncreating the universe. See, that’s how you write a plot. Simple, no frills, easy to understand stakes.
Fortunately, somehow, someone has also been sent who can help: Redferne–played with taut-faced intensity by Richard E. Grant–the witch hunter who captured the warlock in the first place. Redferne teams up with Kassandra-with-a-Kay (Lori Singer), a modern girl who has ended up on the wrong side of a hex that ages her twenty years…per night. And off they go.
Pros: Grant as Redferne gives a great performance as a really great character. One of the things that made me watch this movie was someone’ else’s review (which I can’t find anymore) mentioning that Redferne is “a righteous man.”–not self-righteous, not arrogant–just a good person. And, y’know, he is. He’s on a mission, but he’ll take time to save an innocent bystander, comfort a grieving mother, or intimidate the heck out of a slow-on-the-uptake pastor. (“You asked…”) He’s also intelligent enough to, with some help, navigate the modern world with a minimum of hilarious mishaps–not to mention, he’s competent and does manage to finish the job. And he has some really good lines.
The warlock is played by the smarmily handsome Julian Sands, who maintains a constant calm, smoothly villainous demeanor with great effect. He’s completely creepy and yet still commands attention.
On the other hand, Lori Singer as Kassandra is slightly more vapid. While her chemistry with Grant does finally click into gear, with good result (the tomb scene manages to be tense, scary, creepy, and hilarious because of their back-and-forth bickering), she doesn’t really give her character enough personality to stand out. Still, she does her best.
Cons: Eh…not many. This is a B movie. It’s a high-class B, with some very good touches, but beyond what it needs to get competently from point A to point B, it has no trace of additional intelligence or style.
And, y’know, you can’t miss what you don’t need.
Rated: My boots work best with ground under them!