April 15, 1991 12:00 PM

Julian Sands, Richard Grant, Lori Singer

None of that standard witchery—eye of newt, tongue of adder stuff—for this movie. This one tosses plot of Terminator and premise Omen into the pot and lets it boil merrily along. The result is a modestly entertaining low-budget fantasy adventure—distraction enough if you’re not in too demanding a mood.

Like The Terminator, this film features a villain who travels across time to the present and is pursued by a hero from his own era. Only here the two come from the past, and the villain, instead of being a robot, is, a la The Omen, another one of those guys out to prove he’s the son of Satan. (Only Elvis has more putative offspring.)

Sands (Arachnophobia), the hunk who walks like a refugee from the Royal Shakespeare Company, is the evil one, and devilish doings haven’t assumed such an impressive form since Raquel Welch’s body was taken over in Bedazzled.

Grant has the cross-dimensional witch-hunter role, having come from 17th-century Boston to 1991 California in search of Sands. In the process he runs into Singer, who has gotten on Sands’s bad side and fallen under a spell that’s aging her 20 years a day. Here, among other places, is a rub. Singer, who always looks as if she has just come in as third runner-up in a Daryl Hannah look-alike contest, falls far short of the pull-no-punches energy that Sands and Grant throw into their parts.

The script, by D.T. Twohy, is no bargain, but Singer has a leaden touch with such ironically intended lines as (when she and Grant find his tomb in a cemetery), “We didn’t have to open it. We didn’t have to stare at your putrefied corpse or anything.”

Grant, on the other hand, uses his very earnestness to wrest a bit of a smile out of the archaic language in an essentially dull line: “As queer as this seems to you, ’tis ever more to me.”

The effects are erratic, from spiffy flashes and fires to Sands’s flying sequences, during which he looks less fiendish than he does worried about coming unwired. Twohy also never explains how Grant can travel in time, and he gets his witch lore a little garbled, referring to Glinda as the good witch of the West, when every Wizard of Oz fan knows she was a Northerner.

Not to worry. Director Steve Miner is laboring under no impressions that he is directing A Long Day’s Journey into Night. Things just bounce along, logic be damned, along with Sands and his dad. Anyway, will Sands succeed in finding out the “real” name of God and then end the universe by saying it backwards (FPOKZRAWHCS!)? What? And eliminate the possibility of Warlock II? (R)

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