Wishmaster (1997)

Director: Robert Kurtzman
Studios: Pierre David, Image Organization
Starring: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, Robert Englund
Tagline: Be Careful What You Wish For.
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: horror, supernatural thriller, folklore, religious occult
Scare score: C-
Rating: A-

Plot overview: After centuries of being trapped inside the magical fire opal, an evil djinn (Divoff) is finally released into "present day" Los Angeles by an unsuspecting Alexandra (Lauren). Ultimately, the evil entity must track Alexandra down in order to grant her three wishes which will release the rest of the destructive race of the djinn from their realm between worlds. Along the way, however, he collects the souls of other victims slowly and painfully by tricking them into asking for a wish. The fate of the world lies in Alex's hands as she plays the djinn's terrible game, hoping to outsmart him before making her third and final wish.

While laying here sick in bed, I came across Wishmaster 3 on TV and realized that I had never seen any of these movies aside from their VHS cases on the shelves of Blockbuster back in my youth. So with all the time in the world ahead of me, I flipped off the TV and went straight to the internet.

I, uh, really liked this movie. I'm a sucker for big movie plots and romance and cool sets and costumes, so the opening sequence in Persia alone had me hooked. The first thing that strikes you about this movie aside from the sort of mystical plot (which, aside from the whole wishing bit, I found to be pretty closely related to what I had learned about jinn—ghosts of sorts that linger between worlds but often interfere with humans in playful or malevolent ways—in a class I took on Islam in college) was the gore. There is plenty of fun, colorful gore in this movie that reminded me a lot of '80s horror (after all, Wes Craven's name is attached to this first film in the Wishmaster series), a mix of Hellraiser with perhaps some Nightmare on Elm Street. We're talking fun, explosive, makeup-heavy bodies with skeletons breaking out and goo pouring from every orifice, the type of gore that makes you smile but still feel just the slightest bit queasy. I thought the gore was so creative and the costumes and makeup were excellent, specifically in the opening scene in Persia and Beaumont's (Englund) party towards the end of the film. I hope this film got some recognition for that.

The whole plot is just plain fun. The djinn/ genie himself is such an evil jerk we have to hate him. In his natural form is he is kind of scary, although I found his look to be a little too Star Wars meets Jeepers Creepers. Actually, adults with acne scars really freak me out, so I thought that the Nathaniel Demerest human form was even more creepy. I think the best thing they did with this djinn was keep him serious and not let him make any one liners like we see so often in the Leprechaun movies or even in Nightmare on Elm Street (sorry, Freddy). Keeping this genie meanie (I had to) allowed him to actually be a smart, formidable enemy.

Alexandra is a cool, likable leading lady with a sort of '90s girl power about her; we find her somewhere in between the hopeless, clueless, sexy horror movie girls from the '80s and the hopeless, clueless, sexy horror movie girls from the '00s. This girl is all about brain but with looks to boot; thankfully she is never exploited for her femininity, as overall this film stays away from the sex card. Her only fault is that she loves her family and friends, and almost throws away the well-being of the world to save their lives. So selfish! (Just kidding, it's a really tight situation.)

Hey there Robert Englund! Isn't he so evil looking even with no makeup on and while playing a perfectly ambivalent character? This movie has a few familiar faces that we love to see in our growing horror family, such as Tony Todd (Candyman himself!) who I love and Jenny O'Hara from Devil who has a great face and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw her in more movies in the future.


I guess my biggest issue with this film is that I thought the resolution brought up some pretty big plot holes. We've all seen Disney's Aladdin, and more importantly we've all seen Kazaam (coincidence that Wishmaster came out only a year later? I think not) so we know the yesses and nos regarding genies: they can't bring people back from the dead, they can't make people fall in love, and you can't wish for more wishes. Like duh this is so sophomoric why am I even reviewing it, right? Well Alex tries making the evil djinn kill himself, and she gets a bit too literal by saying "blow your brains out," and not to our surprise we find that the djinn cannot commit suicide/ die because he is older than time yadda yadda yadda. At the final climax of the film, however, Alex simply wishes one specific detail (omg because she studied newspapers!! so smart!!) that takes everyone back in time, preventing the djinn from being unleashed from the stone in the first place (for now). Okay... so there were a million other wishes that would have had the same positive result? What if I wished the djinn back into the stone? What if I wished he never was created? What if I wished he wasn't evil? What if I wished him powerless? What if I just politely asked him to stop? The third and final wish and the subsequent 'defeat' of Mr. Genie becomes a bit anti-climactic, and tons of plot holes are opened up. Oh well, at least we have room for a sequel now.

Favorite scene: Hands down, following Alex's second wish when she is returned safely back to her apartment (what a waste of a wish) and the djinn is leaving a message on her answering machine (classic 1997). In the middle of his threatening message, she picks up the phone and yells a forced "F*** you!" Oh snap girl you just shut that djinn djownn!

Final critique: I can see why people wouldn't like this movie. It can be borderline cheesy at times even though it avoids humor which so many horror movies of the '80s and '90s tended to include in some way. My response would be that this movie falls under the horror genre but not under terror. While the djinn is evil, he's a colorful '90s evil. This isn't a dark thriller that instills terror in our hearts by any means, but if you accept that this is a fun horror film, you will be thrilled by the plot and the plentiful gore. I recommend this movie for anybody looking for a fun, light horror with a few scares, but if you can't handle gore (even though it's not realistic), this isn't the movie for you.

Also, is The Horror Blog complete now since I referenced Kazaam? I think that's how life works.