Franchise Corner Entry: WISHMASTER
WISHMASTER **** USA 1997 89 mins
Arguably the best of the “Wes Craven Presents” sequence of unrelated movies that sprang up following the success of the SCREAM franchise, Robert Kurtzman’s WISHMASTER was a splatter-laced, 80’s style breath of fresh air in the largely stale world of the 90’s horror movie. In a rousing Persian middle-ages prologue, an evil genie is imprisoned inside an opal within a statue ; in the modern day, creepy museum curator Robert Englund gets hold of it and the Djinn is unwittingly unleashed, obtaining a handsome new face (Andrew Divoff) and setting off on a rampage with apocalyptic ambitions. Peter Atkins’ script has a great premise and revels in very 80’s style goofy kiss-off lines and gags (eg. The Djinn blowing his brains out, lamenting “That hurt…”) just like his script for the equally fun HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH. Tammy Lauren is a bland heroine and there are way too many cheap fake shocks, but Divoff plays the Djinn with mean-spirited relish and panache, and KNB provide a great deal of rousing splatter throughout. A climactic party sequence provides some of the 90’s finest creative deaths, and there’s a piano wire decapitation that’s worth waiting for. Reinforcing the general feeling of “this one’s for the fans” is the array of horror-centric cameos: Kane Hodder, Angus Scrimm, Ted Raimi, Tony Todd, Buck Flower and Reggie Bannister all have amusing walk-ons.
WISHMASTER 2: EVIL NEVER DIES ** USA 1998 95 mins
A rushed sequel in which the Djinn (returning Andrew Divoff) is revived from his benign existence within an ornate opal during a museum robbery / shoot-out. Sole survivor of the subsequent massacre, Holly Fields, teams up with a priest to try and prevent the unleashed Djinn’s Hell-on-Earth plans. Conceptually lazy and riddled with exposition, this unimaginative sequel is disappointingly short on action given that director Jack Sholder made two of the best B-movies of the 1980’s: ALONE IN THE DARK and THE HIDDEN. It occasionally sparks to life: a prisoner is messily forced to walk through the bars of his cell; a lawyer has his body contorted so that he can literally fuck himself and a too-brief casino massacre delivers playing card impalements and head-splitting. Gore aside, Divoff’s malevolently grinning evil dude is this plodding movie’s best asset.
WISHMASTER 3: DEVILSTONE ** Canada / UK 2001 90 mins
Fetching student A.J. Cook inadvertently awakens the Djinn via a stone she finds in the possession of a lonely, geeky professor (Jason Connery) who lusts after her ; the Djinn kills him and takes his body, and, en route to his usual mission of bringing Hell on Earth, grants his characteristically murderous wishes. With Divoff’s marvellously menacing presence absent, the movie lacks a strong villain: Connery has a good time but he’s too boyish and camp to be an intimidating representation of evil. Cook is saddled with a clichéd backstory involving parental death, but you do get gratuitous nudity and some neat deaths: stand-outs are the Djinn’s version of liposuction and someone suffering literal “heartbreak”. It was filmed back-to-back with WISHMASTER 4.
WISHMASTER 4: THE PROPHECY FULFILLED *** Canada 2001 87 mins
Shot back to back with WISHMASTER 3 by the same director, Chris Angel, this is the best of the sequels, even if it has the nerve to steal one of its monster’s quips from HELLRAISER III : HELL ON EARTH (a character, upon seeing the Djinn, remarks “Goddamit!” to which he responds : “Not quite…”). Tara Spencer-Nairn scores as a sexy blonde heroine for once portrayed as intelligent, well balanced and sexually active. The Djinn takes the identity of her sleazebag lawyer friend (Michael Trucco) with the aim of setting free his “brothers” while a mysterious sword-wielding hunter turns up to join the fight. Spencer-Nairn is very appealing in a movie that takes time to develop credible adult characters while not forgetting the basic demands of the straight-to-DVD horror audience. Nairn provides fetching nudity throughout and the Sota FX-created splatter impresses: highlights include a victim of “killer sex” and a lawyer coaxed into yanking out his own tongue and cutting off his nose to spite his face. It’s too bad that the Wishmaster himself sports cheap make-up and the new voice of John Novak pales in comparison to the much-missed gravelly malevolence of Andrew Divoff.
Reviews by Steven West