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|
|September 19, 1997|
|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.
A narrator, Angus Scrimm, explains that when "God breathed life into the universe…the light gave birth to Angels…the earth gave birth to man..the fire gave birth to the djinn, creatures condemned to dwell in the void between the worlds." If a person wakes a djinn, that person will receive three wishes but the third wish will free legions of djinn on Earth. In 1127, the djinn (Andrew Divoff) asks a Persian emperor to make his second wish. When the emperor wishes to see 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, explains the consequences of the third wish and reveals a fire opal, which pulls the djinn inside and traps him.
In present day America, Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) supervises workers lowering a box containing an antique statue of Ahura Mazda onto a ship. The worker who is operating the crane is drunk and drops the box, killing Beaumont's assistant (Ted Raimi) and destroying the statue. A dockworker steals the fire opal from the rubble and pawns it. Eventually the jewel reaches Regal Auctioneers, where Nick Merritt (Chris Lemmon) instructs appraiser Alexandra "Alex" Amberson (Tammy Lauren) to examine it, which wakes the djinn. Alex sees something inside the jewel and leaves it with her close friend and colleague, Josh Aickman (Tony Crane), to analyze. As he is collecting data, the gem explodes, destroying the lab and releasing the djinn. Josh is killed, upon his wish for relief from his physical pain.
Alex tracks the gem to the statue which she tracks to Beaumont, who sends Alex to visit Wendy Derleth (Jenny O'Hara), a folklore professor, who explains the history of the gem and the djinn. Later, Alex learns that the djinn needs to power the gem with human souls and then grant her three wishes before he can open the gateway to release the djinn on Earth. Meanwhile, the djinn takes the form of a dead man and uses the name Nathaniel Demerest. He grants wishes in exchange for souls while he searches for Alex. Each time the djinn grants a wish, Alex sees troubling visions. She consults Derleth, but realizes that she is talking to the djinn, who has killed Derleth and taken her form. The djinn confronts Alex and offers her three wishes, as well an extra "test" wish; she orders the djinn to kill itself. He shoots himself in the head with a gun but he wound heals instantly, revealing the djinn as an immortal. Using the first of the official three wishes, Alex wishes to know her opponent, the djinn. He teleports her to his world within the gem which terrifies her. She wishes herself back to her apartment, alone.
The Djinn had been threatening Alex's sister, Shannon (Wendy Benson), so Alex hurries to a party Beaumont invited them to earlier. The djinn follows, again disguised as Nathaniel Demerest. When Beaumont wishes his party would be unforgettable, the djinn causes artwork to kill the guests. Eventually the djinn corners the sisters and attempts to scare Alex into making her third wish. Alex wishes the crane operator had not been drunk at work, undoing the events that followed and trapping the djinn in the fire opal again.
The now sober crane operator lowers the crate with no problems. Alex visits Josh—now alive again—who notices that Alex seems pleased with herself, though she does not explain why. Inside the jewel on the statue of Ahura Mazda—now in Beaumont's private collection—the djinn waits 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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