If you could wish for anything, what would it be? Maybe riches? Or love? What if what you wished for came with deadly consequences? Would you still make the wishes? It is 2017 and just last month we saw the release of the film Wish Upon, a movie about a young woman who was able to make seven wishes but with deadly consequences attached. This film just so happened to come out 20 years after another film with a similar premise. In 1997, producer Wes Craven along with director Robert Kurtzman brought us a film about a genie who granted wishes with consequences. So let’s celebrate 20 years of Wishmaster.
By 1997, Wes Craven had become a household name after writing and directing 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and directing 1996’s Scream. He was riding the huge wave that Scream had created for him and the horror genre. He branched out from directing and entered the world of producing. A string of films with his name above the title would come out during this time even including one film, 2002’s They, that he literally had nothing to do with. Wishmaster was a film about a genie, played brilliantly by Andrew Divoff, who lived in a gemstone and would grant whoever released him three wishes. The catch was that the person had to word what they wanted to wish for correctly, or else dire consequences came from the wish.
The film opens in 1127 where we see all kinds of craziness happening branching from the Djinn’s wishes. The Djinn is eventually trapped in the gemstone and hidden away until present day. After a freak accident the gemstone is found and eventually the Djinn is released by an antique appraiser named Alex, played by Tammy Lauren. The Djinn takes the form of a dead man and makes his way out into the modern world. He grants the wishes of a few random people causing one man to rapidly die from cancer and turns a woman into a mannequin. The Djinn offers Alex three wishes and she uses two of them to learn about the Djinn and his world as well as to return from the nightmare world he had taken her to. After being constantly stalked by the Djinn, Alex finally makes her third and final wish causing the entire film to never have happened, and in turn returning the Djinn to his gemstone.
The film features cameos from some horror greats such as Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees), Tony Todd (Candyman), Angus Scrimm (Phantasm) as the narrator, Reggie Bannister (Phantasm) and Ted Raimi (Army of Darkness). Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) played a major role in the film as well. I like to think of the cameos as a way of saying we are welcoming Andrew Divoff to this great roster of horror movie characters.
To me, the film is great. I have always enjoyed the idea of making wishes and having the consequences added to it. The film was a modest hit, making $15 million against a $5 million budget. Though widely panned by the critics, audiences must have been clamoring for more because three sequels would follow. In 1998, the first of the sequels came out direct-to-video. In Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, Andrew Divoff returned as the Djinn, but Wes Craven was no longer involved with the series. Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell would follow in 2001 with Andrew Divoff leaving the series after part 2 and being replaced by John Novak. Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled was released in 2002. Even though the original film wasn’t without its goofiness, the sequels became more and more goofy. The original film was a bit more serious whereas the sequels seem to have completely lost their way. For example, in the second film there is a scene where a prisoner wished for his lawyer to “go fuck himself”, and then the lawyer did exactly that. It’s a very weird and bizarre scene and one can’t help but laugh, but not in a good way.
Wishmaster may be a forgotten film at this point but it had its place in horror history. It came during a time when the slasher genre was returning and it was able to get some attention because of it. Before Scream, this film probably would have been immediately relegated to direct-to-video but because of Scream and Wes Craven’s involvement in the film, it was able to find its place. I think it’s a fun film and definitely one any horror film should check out. The sequels? Not so much. I don’t mind the second one, but the third and fourth films are pretty hard to sit through.