Horror Review: The Wishmaster
Wishmaster: The Plot
Once, in a time before time, God breathed life into the universe. And the light gave birth to Angels. And the earth gave birth to man. And the fire gave birth to the djinn, creatures condemned to dwell in the void between the worlds. One who wakes a djinn shall be given three wishes. Upon the granting of the third, the unholy legions of the djinn shall be freed upon the earth. Fear one thing only in all that is... fear the djinn. -Opening Narration
Wishmaster is a 1997 horror movie directed by Robert Kurtzman and produced by Wes Craven. It stars Andrew Divoff, Tammy Lauren, and Robert Englund.
Opening in ancient Persia, the film throws the viewer straight into the chaos of people being killed in the streets as a sorcerer races to the throne room to stop the emperor from making another wish. He manages to trap the mighty djinn (Divoff) (an evil genie from Arabic lore) in a jewel. This part of the film makes the intentions of the djinn clear: whoever summons him is granted three wishes. When the third wish is granted, the walls between the human world and the djinn world are broken and djinn will be free to roam the Earth and cause much pain and suffering.
The film then cuts to present day America where a wealthy collector of ancient artifacts and art, Raymond Beaumont(Englund), is watching as his newest acquisition is unloaded at the shipyard. The man operating the crane is drinking on the job and accidentally releases the crate containing a statue. The crate and statue are smashed into the ground, crushing the collector's assistant. As dock workers try to get the debris off the man, one of them notices the jewel from the beginning and steals it. He sells it to a pawn shop who takes it to an auction house. It is here that we meet the protagonist, Alexandra Amberson (Lauren) who acts as an appraiser for the auction house. While examining it, she unknowingly wakes the djinn.
Alex takes the jewel to her friend to analyze the jewel, who accidentally releases the djinn. It proceeds to destroy the laboratory kills Alex's friend by twisting the wish he makes. Granting the wish gives some strength back to the djinn who begins to take on his true form as seen at the very beginning.
Over the course of the film, the djinn finds more people to confess wishes to it. Always turning the wish around on them in some way and marking their soul as his to claim at a later time. To better blend in, it goes to a morgue and takes the skin of a dead man as his own. With its power restored and a natural appearance, it is ready to confront Alex to force her into making three wishes so its brethren can be unleashed on the world.
Meanwhile, Alex has been having visions of what the djinn is doing as he grants wishes. Wanting to know more, she tracks down Beaumont to learn more about the statue and what she may be dealing with. He gives her a little bit of history but isn't knowledgeable about anything supernatural, and directs her to a friend of his who teaches folklore. She tells Alex all about the statue, the gem, and the lore of the djinn, though she doesn't really believe in the supernatural either. During a second visit with the professor, Alex realizes that the djinn has taken the professor's face. In their first confrontation, Alex is granted a free wish to "get [her] into the spirit of the game." The results of the wish can be viewed in the video below. (This is my favorite scene of the entire movie.)
Wishmaster: Plot Continued
Alex uses her first wish to find out more about the djinn who transports the pair of them into the crystal. She uses her second wish to be transported to her apartment, where she tries to find her sister. Her sister has already left for a party at Beaumont's estate, leaving a note telling Alex to come too. Alex and the djinn show up at the party which soon devolves into chaos as Beaumont unknowingly makes a wish to the djinn. As guests start dying, the djinn stalks Alex through the mansion, cornering her in the room with the statue from earlier in the movie. The djinn tries to force Alex to make the final wish, showing that he has trapped her sister in a painting.
Alex quickly thinks and wishes that the crane operator hadn't been drinking on the job when the crate was smashed, causing the djinn to be forced back into the jewel. The scene suddenly changes to the earlier scene at the docks, however this time the crate is safely lowered and the statue sent off to be part of Beaumont's collection. Inside the jewel, the djinn waits once again for his next chance to be released.
Wishmaster is by far one of my favorite horror films because it has a supernatural killer who actually speaks. While I do enjoy the Friday the 13th and Halloween series, the lack of speaking takes away from what I think makes a good character. Jason and Michael are by no means poor antagonists, I just prefer a villain who talks, especially to taunt his victims. Pinhead (Hellraiser), Chucky (Child's Play) and naturally Freddy (Nightmare on Elm Street) are some of my favorite movie villains of all time because they taunt and play with their victims.
I also think Andrew Divoff is a great actor and one who doesn't appear in film nearly as much as he should. He makes the djinn fun to watch and his voice is just downright awesome, especially when he is switching between his calm yet menacing human voice and the deeper more sadistic djinn voice.
On the flip side, I don't think Tammy Lauren did a particularly great job (though by no means terrible) as a strong female protagonist. The character of Alex had a lot of potential but didn't translate very well via Lauren's acting. A different actress could have made a world of difference as we've seen in many other horror films. I feel it's mainly her line delivery, some of them are just really bad and unbelievable.
Sadly, Robert Englund didn't get a ton of meaningful screen time, seeming to be there based on giving the film some name recognition. But as always, he does do his job well as the haughty collector. I think his role could have been combined with the folklore professor to give him more screen time and depth as a collector who wants all these ancient objects who actually knows a lot about the different eras and stories that come from that culture.
Overall, Wishmaster is a lot of fun to watch and the sequel ups the humor a little bit, if by humor you get a laugh out of watching someone literally fornicate himself. The film got good reviews for its use of special effects, which are fantastic, especially considering it was made in 1997. While the plot isn't anything special and the main actress' acting leaves something to be desired, the film is definitely worth a watch if nothing else than to see Andrew Divoff's acting chops as a main character. I give Wishmaster 9 out of 10.