Probably not the first film your mind goes to when you think ‘Wes Craven’… Wishmaster is one weird, dark and unfriendly piece of work. For those of you not familiar, let’s have a little looky look:
The interesting thing about this film is that it was actually made AFTER Scream. It’s funny, because watching it you might be forgiven for thinking that it was made sometime in the late 80’s or very early 90’s. Everything about the dialogue, sets, actors and costumes just feels a little bit wrong, a little bit off. Personally, I feel like Wes Craven didn’t stamp his feet hard enough at the studio executives or financial backers, and as a result he kind of got short-changed here. We all would have been better off if he’d gone down the: Don’t you know who I am? road, in which case they might have flicked a bit more money his way – which would have been a beautiful thing.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I hate it.
The main issue here, in my humble opinion anyhow, is that this is a really complex and intelligent concept, that just wasn’t supported in any way, shape or form by the budget that made it. Also, the script let the team down a little bit, but only a little.
The idea of Wishmaster is thus: Djinn have existed on earth since before time, they are not demons, but they’re still pretty evil and their main focus is bringing about the destruction of man (obviously). If a Djinn is freed from the ether between worlds, he is obliged to grant three wishes to the person that freed him. Once those wishes are granted, some kind of vortex will be opened (maybe) and other Djinn will be let out (I think… the plot kind of gets confusing there). The movie opens in Ancient Persia, where some nameless king from Antiquity has freed the Djinn (somehow) and is on the threshold of making his third wish. Subsequently, a Priest shows up at the last second and captures the demon Djinn in a big old ruby. Flash forward to American in the “modern day”, where the ruby is hidden inside a huge cement statue of Ahura Mazda (he’s a legit ancient god, btw) and is discovered by a dock worker when said statue gets smashed by a different dock worker, who just happens to be drunk and not focused on his dock working duties (cause if dock workers aren’t in the mob, they’re washed up yobs, drinking on the job, yo). Anyway, our heroine, Alex, accidentally frees the Djinn when she is appraising said ruby and all hell break loose from there on.
(probably should mention that the Djinn is able to take human form while he is smoozing away, collecting souls. Souls feed his power – apparently. Here he is, with Robert England, who looks oddly handsome without his hideous burns and razor fingers).
Notable cameos include Robert England, who you may know as Freddy Krueger, Tony Todd (from the delightful Candyman franchise – which we will be discussing later this week, so calm down), and Kane Hodder, also known as the loveable Jason Voorhees. It pays to have so many friends in the horror film business I guess. Andrew Divoff plays the Djinn and, although I have seen him in nothing else, I must say he has a unique charm here. You hate him, but you don’t want to. He certainly fulfils that late 90’s handsome, devilish man persona. If this was remade today, the role would probably be someone like Jamie Dornan… and that would be totally as believable… (I do miss that about the 90’s, mature men looked like mature men).
I really do think this is an excellent concept and, with a bigger budget and more thought out script, it could be remade in a genuinely scary way. The main issue is that people start getting killed in really inventive and horrific ways pretty much right off the bat, so you don’t have time to care about any of them. Also, the special effects are really bad, in a bad way, not in a funny Evil Dead way (speaking of, we’ll need to discuss the remake of that at some point, cause damn…).
(Sidebar: Apparently there are 4 of these films in the franchise. I had no idea! I know what I’ll be doing this weekend.)
All short-comings aside, I would recommend this film for a rainy Sunday afternoon. All horror films considered, you could do far worse. If you take away nothing else, at least you’ll think twice before you polish the next semi-precious gem stone that happens across your desk… and, there may be a life lesson hidden in there about trying to get out of the ‘friend-zone,’ but I leave that up to you to decipher.