Wishmaster (1997) Movie Review

The full title of “Wishmaster” is actually “Wes Craven Presents, Wishmaster”, and if you believe horrormeister Craven (“Nightmare on Elm Street”) had anything to do with this movie besides selling his name for a tidy profit, then I got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell ya. “Wishmaster” came out at a time when Craven’s “Scream” films were cleaning up at the box office, and the inclusion of Craven’s name was obviously an attempt to associate the movie with Craven. (For those who cares, the gimmick didn’t work, and the movie did poorly in theaters; but like all horror franchises (and “Wishmaster” is a franchise, having spawned 3 sequels), the film found its audience on cable and video.)

“Wishmaster” is a low-budget horror film (at least from a Hollywood perspective) about a Djinn, an evil genie, that grants wishes; seeing as the Djinn is evil, his wishes all have costs associated with them. What kind of costs, you ask? Your life, for one. This ain’t no Robin Williams genie, that’s for sure. Andrew Divoff (“Faust”) plays the Djinn in human form, and the actor is the one good thing about this movie. (Divoff would return for the first sequel, but gave up on the role in parts 3 and 4, which shows he has brains as well as a wicked grin.)

The Djinn is apparently trying to give away enough wishes so he can unleash the dead, open the gates of hell, let evil into the world, or some such nonsense like that. Let’s just say that the effect of the Djinn achieving his goal is not a good thing for humanity. As the film opens, the Djinn is about to achieve his goal when he’s imprisoned in a red ruby; flash forward to the present, where the ruby arrives in the hand of jeweler Alex (Tammy Lauren). Alex has her backstory, but writer Peter Atkins should never have bothered, because no one cares.

“Wishmaster” is about gore and cheap scares, and long-time movie special effects wizard Robert Kurtzman (“From Dusk Til Dawn”) definitely knows his gore. “Wishmaster” is oozing with blood, crazy makeup, and all manner of oddball creatures. The horror in “Wishmaster” is mostly of the old fashion makeup and prosthetics variety, and there is very little CGI. As horror films go, the gore in “Wishmaster” is quite good, and although the Djinn’s makeup early in the film looks a little cheap, the kill scenes are inspired. You gotta love a movie that gives the audience what it wants. (The sequence in the “hall of warriors” where warrior statues come to life is just brilliant.)

Unfortunately the characters are all cardboard and the acting is sub par at best, with only Divoff showing promise. Lead Tammy Lauren is a bore, and her investigation into the ruby’s history is what bathroom breaks are made for.

I’ve always believed that the most entertaining horror films are the ones where you root for the bad guy to win. I rooted for the Djinn, but as we all know, Michael never won in the “Halloween” movies, neither did Jason in the “Friday the 13th” movies, and Freddy certainly never went home happy in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films. The Djinn is all-powerful and can kill with a thought, but we all know his defeat is a given by film’s end.

Robert Kurtzman (director) / Peter Atkins (screenplay)
CAST: Tammy Lauren …. Alexandra
Andrew Divoff …. The Djinn
Robert Englund …. Raymond
Chris Lemmon …. Nick

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