Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Kurtzman|
|Produced by||Pierre David
Russell D. Markowitz
Noël A. Zanitsch
|Written by||Peter Atkins|
|Narrated by||Angus Scrimm|
|Music by||Harry Manfredini|
|Edited by||David Handman|
|Distributed by||Live Entertainment|
|Release dates||September 19, 1997|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Box office||$15,738,769 (domestically)|
Wishmaster is a 1997 American horror film directed by Robert Kurtzman. It was executive produced by Wes Craven, the only film of the Wishmaster series with his name attached. The plot of Wishmaster concerns a djinn, an omnipotent, supremely evil entity who is released from a jewel and seeks to capture the soul of the woman who discovered him, thereby opening a portal and freeing his fellow djinn to inhabit the earth. The film stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren, and features many actors from other popular horror movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Candyman. Three sequels were released: Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell and Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled.
The narrator, Angus Scrimm, in his only words in the film, introduces the audience to the creatures called "djinn" with the following statement:
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.
The next scene is set 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. The djinn uses his powers to torture and mutilate people in the palace. Before the emperor can make his third wish, Zoroaster (Ari Barak), 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.
In present day America, 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 Merritt (Chris Lemmon) gives it to appraiser Alexandra Amberson (Tammy Lauren) to examine. Her examinations of the jewel wake the djinn.
Thinking she saw something inside the jewel, Alexandra takes it to her lab worker, best friend and potential love interest Josh Aickman (Tony Crane) to analyze. 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 named Wendy Derleth (Jenny O'Hara) to find out more about Ahura Mazda and the gem. He also invites Alex and her sister Shannon (Wendy Benson) to a party he is hosting. The folklore professor tells Alex about the jewel, the djinn and its evil history. Later, Alex learns that the djinn needs 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 Demerest. 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.
Alex is haunted by visions whenever the djinn grants a wish. She goes to Wendy Derleth's house to consult with her 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 is immortal, he cannot be killed. Alex then uses the first of the "official" three wishes: her first being to know her opponent, the djinn. He teleports her to his terrifying world within the gem, thus demonstrating his true nature to her. Next, she wishes herself back to her apartment, alone. 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.
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 Ahura Mazda. 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 of Ahura Mazda, 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.
Casting and cameos
Wishmaster is notable for featuring many actors from popular horror films. Robert Englund, who was Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, played an antique collector and Kane Hodder, who played Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th series, played a security guard. Also in the film were Tony Todd from Candyman, Ted Raimi from Darkman, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, Ricco Ross from Aliens, Joseph Pilato from Day of the Dead, Reggie Bannister and the voice of Angus Scrimm (both of the Phantasm films), Jenny O'Hara from the later Devil, Jack Lemmon's son Chris Lemmon from Just Before Dawn and George "Buck" Flower (who was often used in small parts in various horror-movies of the 1980s and early 1990s, often directed by John Carpenter). Verne Troyer of later Austin Powers fame appears as the smaller Wishmaster when he first escapes from his gem prison. It is also interesting to note the appearance of a Pazuzu statue, a personification of the demonic figure which possessed Linda Blair's character in the Exorcist series. This can be seen in Beaumont's collection room and on display during the party scene where it attacks some of the guests, though it is never formally referenced.
Many crew members, including director Robert Kurtzman (man killed by piano), had small cameos in the film.
Writer Peter Atkins intentionally made some surnames of characters in the film (Beaumont, Finney, Etchison, Clegg, Derleth, Merritt and Aickman) match the names of writers of horror and fantasy fiction. Josh Aickman (played by Tony Crane), explains to Alexandra Amberson (played by Tammy Lauren) that he can't test the opal immediately because he has, "...about 2 hours worth of Professor Leiber's bullshit to take care of first." This Professor does not make an appearance in the film and is not listed in the credits but is a reference to horror, fantasy, science fiction writer Fritz Leiber.
Wishmaster was shot on an estimated budget of US $5,000,000 and its total domestic gross was US $15,738,769. During its opening weekend in theaters, 19–21 September 1997, Wishmaster made US $6,000,000, putting it in third place at the box office, behind In & Out (which was debuting in first place) and The Game (which was in second place during its second week).
The film was widely panned by critics. It currently holds a 21% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, qualifying it as "rotten". San Francisco Chronicle called it "an extravaganza of bad special effects and worse acting".
Wishmaster spawned three sequels, all of which were released direct-to-video.
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, directed and written by Jack Sholder, was released in 1999. Andrew Divoff reprised his role as the Djinn. To defeat the Djinn in Wishmaster 2, the heroine uses the incantation the sorcerer used to imprison the Djinn at the beginning of the first film.
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell, directed by Chris Angel, written by Alex Wright, was released in 2001. Divoff did not return for this film and the Djinn was instead played by John Novak. To defeat the Djinn in this film, the Waker wishes for the aid of the angel Michael and with his sword eventually kills the Djinn.
Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled, directed by Chris Angel and written by John Benjamin Martin, was released in 2002. Filming for Wishmaster 4 began after the weekend following the completion of Wishmaster 3 in 2000. The role of the Djinn was again played by John Novak. In this final movie, the Djinn is killed by the Waker's paraplegic boyfriend through a wish he made to have a weapon that could kill the Djinn. The Waker actually made a third wish early on in the movie, but the Djinn is unable to grant the wish (for the Waker to love him for who he really is since love must be given freely).
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