If you were going to write a horror movie I’d imagine the first thing is come up with a fairly sympathetic hero (or, as is often the case in today’s horror movies, a sympathetic heroine). Making your heroine an uncompromising irritant with freakish character traits and a propensity for antisocial behavior isn’t the way to go. As well, casting an actress who looks anorexic and making her show her bony bodyparts often would also seem like something to avoid. Then again, if all makers of horror movies made good choices, there wouldn’t be so darn many abysmal Teen Slashers for reviewers such as myself to make fun of.
“The Wisher” stars Ron Silver, moonlighting as the only capable actor among a cast of 20-somethings impersonating High School teens. The “teens” are led by Liane Balaban, who plays Mary, a girl with an unhealthy fixation with horror movies. As she confesses to school counselor Campbell (Silver), she gets sexually excited while watching horror movies. Which leads to trouble, because Mary also sleepwalks and oftentimes ends up on the street suffering from terrible nightmares. You’d think she would stop watching horror movies, but then again you’re probably a lot smarter than most characters in horror movies, so there you go.
When a spanking new movie called “The Wisher” arrives in town, having cleaned up the box office everywhere else (a bit of — pardon the pun — wishful thinking, perhaps?), Mary runs to go see it. Unfortunately Mary, who is supposed to really like scary movies, vomits during the showing and has to flee the theater. (You know, I’m starting to think Mary isn’t really such a fan of horror movies after all, and that the whole “I get excited watching them” thing is just a terrible lie.) The next thing you know, a shrouded figure, The Wisher in the movie, is in the real world stalking Mary, and he’s making all of her wishes come true in the most twisted —
Wait a minute. Are the filmmakers of “The Wishmaster” suing these guys or not?
Since “Wisher” has such an unappealing leading lady, it’s hard to be caught up in Mary’s quest to solve the rash of crimes happening in her small town, each one occurring after she makes a wish. When her best friend annoys her, Mary wishes she would just stop talking. Later, the friend gets her tongue cut out by the Wisher, who appears in his dirty brown shroud, hood, a demonic-looking white face, and with broken glass taped to his fingers. Wow, scary. The problem is, Mary has such a foul personality and hollow look that watching her tracking the history of the Wisher is really disturbing. Somebody get this girl a cheeseburger!
The film’s only brief T&A quotient is filled by Melissa Repka, who plays the Slutty Bitch role (as opposed to the film’s lead, who is just mildly insane, but still quite unlikable). Repka walks around in various skimpy clothes, and then goes for a swim for no apparent reason. Sex? Don’t bother. There’s an attempt at faking a sex scene, but it never, er, climaxes. As for blood, there’s not a lot here either. Some slashing, stabbings, and I believe a school was torched, although it did miraculously get fixed like new soon after. Not good for a generic Teen Slasher. Not good at all.
For the gushing 13-year old teen audience, pop singer Drew Lachey (brother of Nick, I’m told) plays Mary’s love interest, a jock (I think) who apparently has a thing for anorexic weirdos suffering from narcolepsy. Can’t be many of that laying around, one would think. The rest of the cast goes by in a blur. Even veteran Ron Silver barely has more than an extended cameo, but among this cast, that’s enough to get him top billing. In truth, most of the actors do better work than lead Balaban.
Without a doubt, “The Wisher” is just not a very good movie, which is a pity because the film obviously has a decent budget. This isn’t one of those low, low budget movies we’re talking about. The visuals are average but there is obviously money here. In any case, the movie is dull and doesn’t even bother to really scare the audience. What “Boo” scare movies there are aren’t enough to entertain even the most forgiving Teen Slasher fan. Even the film’s most promising angle — that sleepwalker Mary might be the one actually committing the crime, since one would think she would know, subconsciously, all of her own wishes — is not even approached. Instead, the movie gives us some lame red herrings that doesn’t even make the “Yeah, right” cut.
In the movie’s most ridiculous moment, Mary believes that the only way to defeat the Wisher is to find out how the movie-within-the-movie ended. To do this, Mary uses her laptop computer and downloads a bootleg copy of the movie. Apparently Mary’s laptop is equipped with the world’s fastest modem, because the movie (which, oddly, is only 200 megs in size) downloads in less than — are you ready? — 10 seconds flat! Mind you, the download would have been less than 2 seconds had Mary’s connection not “freeze” during the most inopportune time. In Teen Slasher speak this is called “The damn car won’t start when you need it most” syndrome.
Gavin Wilding (director) / Ellen Cook (screenplay)
CAST: Ron Silver …. Campbell
Liane Balaban …. Mary
Drew Lachey …. Brad
Siri Baruc …. Debbie