In a decade best known for Scream and the brief slasher-lite renaissance along with the Silence of the Lambs-inspired serial killer thrillers, you’d be forgiven for not remembering Wishmaster. Like its evil genie, The Djinn, Wishmaster has languished in a prison of obscurity. Believe it or not, Wes Craven himself produced this forgotten 90’s horror entry. Similar to Puppet Master or Children of the Corn, Wishmaster even kicked off its own lower-tier horror franchise. To date, three sequels followed the 1997 original. And Wishmaster did see a theatrical release, even making a small profit. Now thanks to multiple streaming platforms, horror fans can re-visit this forgotten mid-90s B-horror movie. So should you include Wishmaster on your horror streaming wishlist? Or should you just wish this one back to the 90’s?
When God created life, the fires spit out The Djinn, evil creatures trapped between heaven and hell. Hundreds of year ago, a Persian sorcerer trapped a Djinn inside a fire opal before an Emperor could make a third and fateful final wish. Now in present day, jewel appraiser Alexandra Amberson inadvertently sets The Djinn free from his eternal prison. Now Alexandra must find a way to trick The Djinn back into the fire opal before he can force three wishes from her, taking her soul and freeing all Djinn onto the Earth.
Wishmaster Overcomes B-Movie Plotting with Impressive Creature Effects
Don’t be fooled by Wes Craven’s name on the movie. Though the credits refer to the movie as “Wes Craven’s” Wishmaster, it’s not a Wes Craven movie. However, director Robert Kurtzman had an extensive special-effects background that clearly shows. Prior to Wishmaster, Kurtzman had worked on several notable genre movies including Night of the Creeps, Predator, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors. Not surprisingly then, Wishmaster’s make-up and gore effects are well done. Some effects aren’t much better than what you’ll find in your average SyFy Network movie. That is, Kurtzman’s imagination occasionally overextends its budget. Nevertheless, The Djinn’s makeup effects are impressive – it makes for a visually memorable antagonist. Moreover, several gore scenes boast the kind of DIY innovation that’s missing from a lot of contemporary horror. Chances are pretty good that Kurtzman blew a chunk of his budget on the movie’s opening scene. It’s an impressive assault of grotesque imagery that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Hellraiser movie.
…several gore scenes boast the kind of DIY innovation that’s missing from a lot of contemporary horror.
Speaking of Hellraiser, Wishmaster often feels like a B-movie mash-up of Elm Street and Hellraiser movies. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an intentionally pulpy movie that mixes 80s horror movie sensibilities with what feels like older genre eras. Given its willingness to embrace the silliness of its own premise, Wishmaster’s dialogue and puns don’t really feel strained. Peter Atkins’ screenplay sets up a simple but interesting endgame with a narrative that never overburdens itself with unnecessary detours. What you ultimately get with Wishmaster is a surprisingly focused movie that stands out – and maybe even feels retro – in a decade where horror had moved far from of the 80’s more cheesy tendencies.
Wishmaster Conjures Up A-List Horror Cameos, B-Movie Performances
Horror fans will undoubtedly delight in picking out the cameos from horror icons. Expect a ‘who’s who’ of 70’s and 80’s horror performers. Straight out the gate, Angus Scrimm (Phantasm), ‘The Tall Man’ himself, lends his unforgettable voice to the movie’s opening narration. Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) has a more extended supporting role as a sleazy art collector. But keep your eyes open for quick appearances from Kane Hodder (Jason X, Victor Crowley), Ted Raimi (Evil Dead), Tony Todd (Candyman, Hell Fest), Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead), and Reggie Bannister (Phantasm). Aside from Englund’s role, none of the appearances forward the story. Still it’s another nod to a genre that Wishmaster clearly loves.
As The Djinn, Andrew Divoff isn’t going to make horror fans forget Freddy Krueger or The Candyman. Nevertheless, Divoff looks like he’s having fun with the role.
Perhaps more importantly, the cameos compensate for what’s clearly B-movie lead performances. Central protagonist Alexandra Amberson, played by Tammy Lauren, won’t compare well to stronger female leads found in recent horror movies. And Lauren is pretty limited in her delivery. As The Djinn, Andrew Divoff isn’t going to make horror fans forget Freddy Krueger or The Candyman. Nevertheless, Divoff looks like he’s having fun with the role. He brings playful menace to the character and it’s a performance that’s in keeping with Wishmaster’s tone. Like Lauren, Divoff’s range is limited but the makeup effects often distract from these limitations.
Wishmaster is No Classic, and It Doesn’t Much Care
No one is going to confuse Wishmaster as a classic of 1990’s horror. In fact, in many ways, Wishmaster feels more like an 80’s horror movie. This is pure B-movie cheesiness much in the same vein as Leprechaun. But after a decade of slashers and supernatural retreads, Wishmaster and The Djinn are welcome departures for the genre. Unlike Leprechaun, Wishmaster’s B-movie charms also feel less forced. At just 90 minutes, Wishmaster never overstays its welcome, achieving a suitable balance between genuinely good creature and gore effects with eye-rolling cheese.