Film Review: Wishmaster (1997)

SYNOPSIS:

A demonic djinn attempts to grant its owner three wishes, which will allow him to summon his brethren to earth.

REVIEW:

1997 was a pretty good year for horror films. There were quite a few titles that I really latched onto, “The Wishmaster” being one of them. Horror was ready for a new franchise characters, and with that came a demonic Djinn named “Wishmaster” (by movie title only, that is).

Directed by FX genie himself Robert Kurtzman, “Wishmaster” was one I went to the theatre to “actually” see. I was surprised at attending a pretty empty theatre hoping I didn’t throw down $8 for a dud. However within the first 5 minutes as this diabolical Djinn from beyond unleashes pure hell and chaos….well, I knew I was in the right place. This first entry wore the exclusive branding of “Wes Craven Presents”, which was sort of an early approval rating for horror fans.

The franchise went to an additional 3 films. Actor Andrew Divoff stuck around for its sequel and then moved on (The next Djinn was played by actor John Novak). It’s probably just as well, with the 3rd one being a complete piece of crap.

Andrew Divoff is the Djinn incarnate (one evil genie). His human form of Nathaniel Demerest is able to quickly transform into a wickedly striking demon that indulges others with wishes. The catch, like any proper demon is that Djinn likes to play games and trick its requestor usually ending very badly and very inventively for the summoner. A unique comedic point is the Djinn’s ability to twist a request with a play on words to grant a most viscously inventive kill. I was reminded of the stylings of Freddy Krueger who also indulged in such a way. Though still the Djinn is his own beast and has his own set of rules to abide by. One of which is being trapped within a jewel when tricked into being imprisoned. In many respects, the Djinn is regarded as being a supreme evil being with omnipotent powers but it does have its limitations.

The opener Angus Scrimm narration is one for the books. I’ve included the little piece here

“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 to rule the earth. Fear one thing in all there is…fear the Djinn”

If you didn’t catch it in the quote, an owner is granted 3 wishes. To be more specific, if the owner receives 3 wishes, the evil Djinn will kindly summon his brethren of Djinns to earth to destroy the world as we know it. Kind of like a portal opening into Hell that is opened upon the world.

In a most memorable opener, an emperor asks a Djinn to “to show him wonders”. This opens the floodgates of hell upon this Persian group setting causing a mass form of murder, bloodshed and mutilation….good stuff indeed. The Djinn is tricked and thus is sucked into a “fire opal”.

Fast forward to present day of where wealthy Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) has obtained an ancient relic for his collection. One thing leads to another and a botched transport unleashes this very same fire opal into the wrong hands.The jewel finds its way into a lab and is unfortunately tampered with releasing one bad ass Djinn.

Alexandra Amberson, a jewel appraiser becomes involved as the primary owner to the opal. The Djinn only needs to be asked for 3 wishes to complete his dark intentions. Disguised in the human form of the “now” dead-man Nathaniel Demerest, the Djinn does all he can to trick Alex into granting those 3 wishes. One is wasted when she asks him to kill himself. Being immortal this proves to be a useless request. Alex does manages to devise a wish that traps the Djinn back in his jewel prison, but as with many of these first-timers, the Djin just needs to await the next owner to try again.

“Wishmaster” indeed launched a franchise worthy of taking note. It was reported as doing ok in the box office which helped the film win more sequels. To date, I still regard this as actor Andrew Divoff’s most memorable movie role to date. Most would agree that Andrew Divoff “IS” the Djinn of which there is no replacement. Andrew Divoff also starred in a film by the name of titled Faust (2000) that had him playing the enigmatic and corrupted “M”. You might say that the role was quite similar to his Wishmaster character in some respects. For those taking note, I thought Faust (2000) was also pretty cool.

Wishmaster may have fizzled out but to date, the character of the original Djinn was one for the horror books.

Wishmaster (1997)

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