“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.”
“I AM DESPAIR!” – The djinn
Wishmaster is a 1997 horror film directed by Robert Kurtzman. It was produced by Wes Craven, the only film of the Wishmaster series with his name attached.
Wishmaster begins in Persia during the year 1127 with the djinn (Andrew Divoff) asking a Persian emperor to make his second wish. The emperor asks the djinn to show him wonders and the djinn uses his powers to torture and mutilate people in the palace; you’d have to assume that what takes place isn’t quite what the emperor meant but there you go.
Considering that this is the opening scene it certainly packs a punch with the amount of blood and gore used, I mean seriously it’s pretty messed up. Personally I found the effects to be really impressive, especially with some of the more extreme deaths. I guess you could say that this scene comes out of nowhere but if you know anything about the movie going into it and the fact that it is rated 18 then you shouldn’t be that shocked.
Before the emperor can make his third wish, a sorcerer interrupts and states that upon the third wish granted to the one who woke the djinn, a gateway will open between the worlds, and the evil race of djinn can live on Earth. The sorcerer then reveals a fire opal. The djinn is sucked into the jewel, where he remains captured.
Now, how exactly this jewel was created or why it has the ability to capture and house a djinn is sort of explained later but it’s too long so let’s just go with magic or sorcery.
In present day America (1997), Freddy Krueger…. I mean Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) is supervising workers as they lower a box containing an antique statue of Ahura Mazda onto a ship’s deck. The worker who is lowering the crate is drinking on the job and accidentally drops it from his crane, killing Beaumont’s assistant (Ted Raimi) and destroying the statue. It breaks open and a dockworker finds the fire opal inside, which he steals and pawns.
The jewel ends up at Regal Auctioneers, where boss Nick gives it to fire opal expert Alexandra Amberson (Tammy Lauren) to examine. Her examinations of the jewel wake the djinn and unfortunately for her this isn’t Robin Williams living in that thing.
Thinking she saw something inside the jewel, Alexandra takes it to her lab worker, best friend and potential love interest Josh to analyse. Later, as he is collecting data, light reflections cause the gem to explode and the djinn is released. The lab is destroyed and Josh is killed, upon his wish for relief from his physical pain.
Alex, thinking the gem has something to do with the explosion and subsequent death of Josh, tracks down Beaumont, to whom the statue belonged. Beaumont tells Alex to visit a folklore professor to find out more about the gem. He also invites Alex and her sister Shannon to a party he is hosting, what a nice guy. The folklore professor tells Alex about the jewel, the djinn and its evil history. Later, Alex learns that the djinn need to power the gem with the soul of humans and then grant her three wishes before he can unleash the djinn on Earth.
During this time, the djinn, who had been in demonic form, removes the face of a corpse in the morgue, taking on the dead man’s form and the name Nathaniel Demarest. The djinn, now Nathaniel, goes about granting people wishes in return for their souls while he searches for Alex. He finally tracks down Alex’s boss and grants him a greed-inflicted wish so that he can get Alex’s address.
I have to say that I really enjoyed Andrew Divoff’s performance as the djinn in the movie, there’s just something about the ways in which he delivers his lines that is seriously entertaining. At times it can come across very cheesy and comical but I’m pretty sure that’s what they were going for.
I can’t really say the same about the actress who plays Alex, I mean she doesn’t do any awful job but some of her reactions are a little unrealistic and later in the movie she’s more than willing to sacrifice dozens of peoples live just to save her sister.
Alex is haunted by visions whenever the djinn grants a wish. She goes to the weird folklore women once again, but Nathaniel has already killed her and taken her form. During their conversation, Alex realizes she is really talking to the djinn. He confronts her and asks her to make three wishes. He even gives her a “test” wish. She uses this wish and orders the djinn to kill itself. He complies by blowing his head off with a gun, yet the wound heals instantly; as the djinn are immortal, he cannot be killed. After this the djinn explains that “if it’s any consolation, that hurt like hell”, I just found this to be an amusing piece of dialogue.
Alex then uses the first of the “official” three wishes: her first being to know her opponent, the djinn. Which leads the djinn to teleport her to his terrifying world within the gem, thus demonstrating his true nature to her. Next, she wishes herself back to her apartment, alone. You can already see that after 3 wishes, Alex is a complete idiot and wastes 3 wishes on completely trivial things that do nothing for anybody. Also, while some of the gore effects are highly impressive, there are a few moments when certain sets and effects look really cheap and give the movie a “B” movie type feel; most notably when Alex enters the jewel.
The Djinn had been threatening Alex’s sister, so Alex sets about finding Shannon. She races to Beaumont’s party and Nathaniel follows. While talking to Nathaniel at the party, Beaumont makes the mistake of wishing his party would be unforgettable, and Nathaniel begins wreaking havoc by causing the art pieces to kill the guests.
Once again the film really turns it up in terms of gore, there are some really awesome effects and kills; the body count really rises here. There’s even a clever moment when you see that Jack the ripper has left a painting and begun murdering party guests.
The djinn finally corners Alex and traps Shannon, trying to scare Alex into making the ultimate third wish. Alex wishes that the dockworker had not been drinking on the job two days ago, undoing the events that followed (and presumably reviving the djinn’s victims back to life) and trapping the djinn in the opal. The dock scene is shown again and the now sober operator has no trouble lowering the crate containing the statue. Alex goes to see Josh at the lab. He notices that Alex is strangely pleased with herself, but she will not say why.
Back on the statue, which is now in Beaumont’s private collection, the camera zooms inside the jewel and shows us the djinn on a throne, waiting to be released.
I’m not too sure why Alex is was pleased with what she’d done. I mean she hasn’t destroyed the djinn; all she has done is slightly put off the inevitable. Also, she has puts a whole lot of faith into that one dock worker being competent regardless if he’s sober or not.
The plot of Wishmaster isn’t overly original; we’ve seen movies where the wish granter doesn’t exactly give the wish maker what they want. An issue I have is that you don’t even need to say the words “I wish” with the djinn; you can simply say that you would like something to happen which seems rather unfair to me. Also, are you trying to tell me that before the djinn was trapped inside the jewel it existed for 1000s of years and never managed to find a single idiotic human to make 3 wishes when they don’t even have to say “i wish”? It’s clear to me that the djinn just aren’t trying hard enough.
That’s the problem with being able to wish anything; you could very easily get rid of the djinn forever without having to kill it.
Wishmaster is a fun, entertaining horror with comedic elements. There are some really cool gore effects and then again there are some really poor looking gore effects, so it’s a mixed bag in that regard. I found Andrew Divoff highly amusing and he delivers quite a number of witty one liners that add to the film. The rest of the cast don’t do anything special or outstanding but it is what it is. Another issue with Wishmaster is some of the sets that are used look like just that, sets. You never get the feeling that this is happening in the real world which is probably due to the films small budget. If you enjoy cheesy 80s horror movies with over the top gore then I guarantee you’ll enjoy this.