The idea behind “Wishmaster” may not be the most original, but at least in the right hands it could be imaginative and entertaining. And it was! Unfortunately in the wrong hands, it can turn into a big turd. In this case, the series came out with three turds out of the four movies. I would imagine most people stopped paying attention to the series after the first or second, some may even be shocked to know that there are four of these things. What’s even more shocking is that they were even made to begin with. Yes, this will not be a fun venture, but fear not, at least you only have to read about them, I had to live through them.
Directed by Robert Kurtzman
Starring Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff and Robert Englund
Review: Centuries ago, a Persian emperor caught himself a genie (Andrew Divoff) and started making wishes. Trouble is, the genie is part of an evil race of magical creatures, the Djinn, hellbent on taking over our world and perverts every wish into something awful. Luckily, one of his helpers knows what the creature and stops the genie before the third wish is granted, where upon his race will be allowed in our world. He traps the creature in a gem and hopefully he’ll never get out again. Only if the movie were 5 minutes long. Skip ahead to present day and shit will hit the fan.
I feel the need to explain the rules, because they can get complicated. The Djinn grants people wishes in exchange for their soul. Once he gets enough souls to charge the gem, he seeks out the one who released him and that person must make three wishes. It’s not really explained why the gem needs to be charged, all we really know is that it was his prison for so long. That’s what people in the industry call a “Macguffin.” Upon the granting of the third, his race are able to enter our world (I guess he’s an exception to this rule) and make us their bitches. The granting of the wishes are a bit strange (especially after watching the trailer which makes it out like you have to say “I wish,” because most people just ask and never actually say “wish.”) It’s usually along the lines of “Man, I’d like for this to happen” so the Djinn just does it. Oh well, he knows better than I. Back to the story.
A collector of rare artifacts (Robert Englund) is waiting for his latest acquisition only for a drunk crane operator to drop it, crushing poor Ted Raimi. A construction worker finds a gem inside the artifact and lifts it to pawn it off later. It winds up in the hands of a gem appraiser named Alexandra who accidentally rubs the gem and lets out the Djinn (or maybe it’s some weird machine that shoots lasers at it, don’t ask.) He goes on his soul shopping spree all the while Alexandra is the lucky person who gets to see everything happen to these unfortunate wishers. Comes with the responsibility of letting out a magical demon unto our world, I guess. After gathering 7 or so souls, he’s good and goes after Alexandra who has to out-smart the creature in the final battle.
Well, a creature granting cursed wishes isn’t exactly the most original plot (Leprechaun 2 had just recently done that gimmick a few years prior) but what the hell, as long as it’s entertaining. And it certainly is entertaining, in more way than one. The main course of the movie is seeing how the Djinn messes around with people’s desires. A bum wishes someone (Reggie Bannister) to get cancer and die so we are witness to the man getting essentially every form of cancer and dying in mere moments. Yikes! Not everyone is a winner, but most of them are entertaining in that they’re either bloody or amusing. The opening Persian scene and the ending both have parties where the Djinn just goes all out where people are blown up, deformed, torn up from the inside out (indeed a man’s skeleton rips itself out of his body!), etc. Clearly, the director being a member of the awesome KNB effects team has its advantages.
Now that we got the bloody stuff out of the way, time to discuss everything else. Again, the direction from Robert Kurtzman is well done and shows what he’s learned from working on so many movies in the past (and I’ll forgive his debut with the awful “The Demolitionist.”) The story works for the most part but there are many plot holes you can drive a car through, but the movie isn’t trying to give you Shakespeare unless Shakespeare did a really super gory sonnet I’ve never heard of.
Andrew Divoff is awesome as the Djinn and his alter ego, Nathaniel Demarest. He really looks like he’s enjoying chewing the scenery and I enjoyed watching him chew. Our heroine, Tammy Lauren, tries but her delivery at the moments that matter aren’t all that convincing. And maybe it’s just me, but every time she screams, she looks like one of the aliens from “They Live.” Maybe that’s another wink at horror fans? There are many, I’ve already name dropped Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street), Reggie Bannister (Phantasm) and Ted Raimi (Evil Dead 2) but there’s more! The most popular Jason Voorhees of them all, Kane Hodder, makes an appearance as a guard, Candyman himself, Tony Todd, shows up as a bouncer and even the Tall Man, Angus Scrimm (Phantasm), opens the movie as the narrator! If that isn’t enough, this time around, I actually caught the statue of Pazuzu from “The Exorcist.” Most of these people get killed off too (aside from the narrator and statue of course) which is a wink from the makers of the movie telling us that the Wishmaster is better than every other horror icon.
Overall: Making no bones about it, the movie isn’t as great as it should come off, but it’s an entertaining watch none the less as long as you don’t think about those plot holes too much. For horror nuts, it’s a must watch to see who can point out the most cameos.
Story: 6 – Not terribly original, but doesn’t offend either.
Blood: 8 – This genie knows what he’s doing, if you can imagine it, you may see it here!
Boobs: 1 – Tight shirts is all we get, boo!
Rating: 7 – A fun watch for horror nuts.
Directed by Jack Sholder
Starring Andrew Divoff, Holly Fields and Paul Johansson
Review: Evil Never Dies? That was originally a working subtitle to Halloween 8, Wishmaster you’re not borrowing now, you’re stealing! Shame on you. During a failed museum robbery, a shoot out between the thieves and guards breaks open the statue where the gem of the Djinn is housed. Morgana, our heroine, of course steals it while her boy toy gets shot. She escapes but drops the gem after accidentally opening it. As she leaves, the Djinn is released into our world again and out for souls! He takes the rap for the robbery and goes to prison where he can freely collect souls from men who believe they have nothing to lose at this point. He needed only a few to charge his gem, but this time around he needs 1001! That’s a big jump from what he needed before. While he’s doing that, Morgana has a crisis of faith and Christianity is plunged head first into a movie that probably didn’t need it.
If it’s one thing I’ve noticed about low budget movie sequels (the original film cost only $5 million, this movie is only half that) is the need to push more of a story since they don’t have the budget to do effects like they did the first time around. When we’re introduced to her crisis and former boy toy who’s become a priest, we’re once again given the old good religion vs. true evil story, but it doesn’t work very well. In fact, the good guys use religion quite a bit to help them out, but any time it’s put to the Djinn, several times, he laughs it off because it’s meaningless. Well if it doesn’t work the first time, why keep it up? If it’s all to lead up to a scene involving Morgana’s priest friend being hung on a cross in the image of Jesus to shock people, consider me disappointed.
To put it bluntly, there’s nothing in this movie that can even compare to the original. The original may not be a classic but at least it’s entertaining, this is just a mess. The one aspect you’d hope would be at least worth the price of the movie are the wishes gone wrong, but even they’re a let down. A couple are mildly amusing (the “I wish my lawyer would fuck himself” scene is good for a chuckle) but the gory bits aren’t anywhere near as crazy as the first one. It leads up to the Djinn being in Vegas but it only takes place inside a casino, which leads you to believe there’d be at least one scene like in the original with tons of people getting killed in crazy ways. Well, if seeing a roulette wheel fly around and develop spikes to run people over are what you’re looking for, you got your wish.
The lone bright spot is once again Andrew Divoff. He’s mostly outside of his make up and sticking to his Nathaniel Demarest alter ego, which is fine. It’s fun watching him smile with evil delight in every scene even with the weak script and writing. I may have been a bit foriving with the one-liners in the original, but they’re just bad here. The movie doesn’t do a very good job of keeping with the continuity of the rules and such that were established. The Djinn HAS to grant the wishes but when the time comes for Morgana to make her wishes, he dismisses like three of them. He at least entertained Alexandra’s notion of killing himself in the original but here he immediately dismisses her attempts to get rid of him. I guess she’s not smart, but Morgana’s character is hard to like anyway. Not only is she a thief but also a killer, and it’s only through a wish she makes that she can bring the guy back to life…but she still killed him!
Overall: All in all, a weak effort from top to bottom. There’s really nothing to recommend unless you’re a die hard Djinn fan.
Story: 3 – Pretty damn stupid.
Blood: 4 – The casino scene has most of the blood, all the other wishes are more comedy oriented.
Boobs: 1 – Again, just tight clothes, come on!
Rating: 2 – Divoff is good, everything else sucks.
Directed by Chris Angel
Starring Jason Connery, A.J. Cook and John Novak
Review: Siiiiiigh. Having just battled consiousness while watching this movie, I have to write about it now. After receiving a package, a horny college professor (Connery) invites his prize pupil, Diana, for a night of research and maybe more. She shows up early and finds a box inside the package and manages to open it rather easily. Inside is a gem eerily reminiscent of the gem we’ve seen in the past. She gives it a rub to clean it off. The professor eventually shows up and after a flirt gone wrong, she leaves him behind. A new Djinn shows up looking for the one who woke him and instead gives a wish to the professor who apparently wished to be savagely slashed by two naked chicks. There are worse ways to go, I suppose. What follows is a long, boring movie about Diana’s inner demons over the death of her parents and fighting an outer demon. A lot of the movie is Diana finding books about stuff we’ve already learned in the previous movies and the Djinn taking over Connery’s identity as the history professor and humorously teaching the students about how the Djinn were involved in major points in history. The movie then takes a weird turn as Diana’s boyfriend is possessed by an angel sent to Earth with a magical sword in order to kill the Djinn. Where were you in the last movie, dude? Skip ahead to the end where the Djinn is eventually killed with the sword but Diana is mortally wounded until the angel makes it all better. There now you don’t have to watch this.
I’ve written a lot about the first two movies, more than I should’ve, so I’ll balance that out by keeping this short. This movie eats balls. Shot on a looow budget for a cable movie, anything you might have enjoyed from the previous movies haven’t crossed over into this one. Once again, the movie breaks rules set forth by the preceding films, the wish kills are mostly stupid, the movie is just plain boring. There are huge stretches of nothing happening, the Djinn is barely seen in his real form (played by John Novak) and even then it’s not very interesting. The Djinn has become a third rate Freddy Krueger, bleh. If there’s one positive thing I can say, is that this is the movie that finally introduces some nudity but it certainly can’t save this thing.
Overall: The last film was a mess, but this was even worse.
Story: 2 – Same basic formula as before.
Blood: 3 – Someone literally puking their guts out was kind of gross, but not much aside from that to mention.
Boobs: 7 – Hey hey! You finally made it!
Rating: 1 – Avoid this turkey at all costs.
Directed by Chris Angel
Starring Tara Spencer-Nairn, Michael Turrco, Jason Thompson and John Novak
Review: I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I am at another one of these. This time around, our heroine is Lisa, thus guaranteeing every hero’s name in all the movies ends with the sound “ah.” She’s in love with Sam but after a motorcycle accident he’s left paralyzed and has shunned her ever since. Their lawyer, Steven, has a thing for her and trying to woo her, he presents her with a present he found online. It’s some weird box but she drops it and a gem falls out. She picks it up briefly before rebuking Steven and giving it back to him. Later that night, the Djinn shows himself looking for his Waker and kills Steven to take on his persona. She starts making wishes around his presence so he doesn’t even have to show his true form to her. Believe it or not, the third wish is actually made this time around but unfortunately it presents a problem for the ol’ Djinn. It requires that she love him for what he really is…too bad he’s hiding his true form. The other Djinn show up and ask what the hell he’s waiting for, but the thing is, human love cannot just be wished for (even though I’m sure it was in the past), but it must be freely given. So the rest of the movie has the Djinn try to woo her while he offs people in his way. Oh, and some dude called the Hunter shows up to kill Lisa because she made the third wish and needs to die before it’s granted. Hunter thinks he’s a Highlander or something.
Well now, this is a little different for a Wishmaster movie. It’s actually better than the last one, although not by much. More rules are broken, he doesn’t need to charge the gem at all, he can just bring Hell upon the granting of the third wish. The Djinn, who previously couldn’t enter our world, just do it for the sake of doing it and trying to scare whoever’s watching the movie. Problem is, it’s not scary at all since it’s more of a drama than anything. Poor Lisa is caught between her love of Sam and Steven, and even the Djinn beings to feel feelings. Those looking for a horror movie might be disappointed.
Ninety percent of the time, the effects are weak or even non-existent. Most of the wishes are lame and the only cool parts come from a guy having to cut his nose off and a beheading later on by the Hunter. An example of how bad it gets, at one point a woman wishes for killer sex, and she winds up screaming and floating against a wall? That’s it, that’s all you could come up with? This is one weak ass Djinn.
The acting is surprisingly decent, as most of the characters are likeable aside from Sam’s character. He’s given the unfortunate task of looking like an asshole when he really has no reason to. At every moment Lisa tries to endear herself to him, he’s constantly pushing her affection away even though it’s exactly what he wants. John Novak’s Djinn comes off more like a cartoon than anything, which may be fitting given Novak’s long history of voice acting for many cartoons. He tries hard enough but like I said for the last movie, he’s given lines that make him a terrible Kruger rip off.
Overall: This was better than I expected it to be, but unfortunately, I came to the dance for a horror movie, not a romantic drama. I suppose credit should be given for attempting something different, but it just doesn’t gel well.
Story: 4 – They tossed out some of the ideas from the previous movies, threw in some of their own to be different, but it doesn’t work out very well.
Blood: 3 – Dude stabbing his face, a beheading are the highlights of this less than bloody affair.
Boobs: 5 – The movie’s sex scenes come off almost softcore porn-ish. If that’s even a word…
Rating: 4 – Better than I ever expected…still can’t recommend it.
I guess there’s something interesting about taking stories and childrens’ tales and twisting them into something dark and sinister. A simple concept of a genie granting wishes is imaginative but making the wishes perverted and costing the person their soul, well that’s something quite different. That’s what the filmmakers who made the original movie had going for them, imagination. They had the budget to put on quite an effects-laden show and it worked. Robert Kurtzman spent many years doing imaginative effects for movies, many of them gory horror movies, so he had a good idea of what he could do. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands the concept turned to shit. The direct to video sequel was a disaster that not even Andrew Divoff could save and he knew well enough when to bail out of the series then. The series went past direct to video and straight to cable. We were then given an even worse low budget train wreck of a third film and a fourth film that was barely a horror movie and a shell of what the series started out as. It really seems people should’ve left well enough alone with the first movie as the series just nosedived into the gutter. It started off so well too, by all means watch the first movie, but forget sequels exist for it.