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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Kurtzman|
|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. The film was executive produced by Wes Craven, and is the only film of the Wishmaster series with his name attached. The plot of the film concerns a djinn, a wish-granting, evil genie 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 and enslave 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. The emperor is horrified, but the djinn tells him to use his third wish to set things right. 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 crane operator Mickey Torelli (Joseph Pilato), is drunk and drops the box, killing Beaumont's assistant Ed Finley (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, having been informed of Josh’s death by Lieutenant Nathanson (Ricco Ross), 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; the djinn grants wishes in exchange for souls, but the wishes are granted in a way that makes them have undesirable results upon the wisher. 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 kills a pharmacist (Reggie Bannister) with the wish of a vengeful vagrant (George 'Buck' Flower) and grants clerk Ariella’s (Gretchen Palmer) wish for eternal beauty by turning her into a mannequin. Searching for Alex, he goes to Nathanson to gain her file; Nathanson refuses to do this, though the djinn grants Nathanson’s wish to easily prove a criminal’s guilt by having the criminal go on a shooting spree inside the police precinct.
He next visits Nick, killing a security guard (Kane Hodder) along the way, acquiring Nick’s cooperation by offering him a million dollars. Nick is given the money when his mother is killed in a plane crash. Alex sees troubling visions of every time the djinn grants wishes. 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 his wound heals instantly, revealing the djinn is 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. Granting her wish to know what he is, the djinn explains, "To you, I am this: The cry of the abandoned child. The whimper of the whipped beast. I am the face that stares back at you from the shadows of your mirror. The hollowness at the heart of all your hopes, Alexandra. I AM DESPAIR." 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. Alex tells doorman Johnny Valentine (Tony Todd) to hold the djinn, as he is trying to kill her, and Valentine holds the djinn back. The djinn, however, manipulates Valentine into making a wish, allowing the djinn to drown Valentine in a Chinese water torture cell, making his way into the party. The djinn charms Beaumont, who wishes his party would be unforgettable, and thus the djinn causes artwork to kill Beaumont, the guests, and the security guards called in to help. Eventually the djinn corners the sisters and attempts to scare Alex into making her third wish by trapping Shannon in a burning painting. Alex wishes that Torelli had not been drunk at work, undoing the events that followed and trapping the djinn in the fire opal again.
The now sober Torelli 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 sits on a throne, waiting to be released.
- Tammy Lauren as Alexandra Amberson
- Andrew Divoff as The Djinn / Nathaniel Demerest
- Robert Englund as Raymond Beaumont
- Chris Lemmon as Nick Merritt
- Wendy Benson as Shannon Amberson
- Tony Crane as Josh Aickman
- Jenny O'Hara as Wendy Derleth
- Ricco Ross as Lt. Nathanson
- Gretchen Palmer as Ariella
- Angus Scrimm as narrator (voice only)
- George 'Buck' Flower as Homeless Man
- Ted Raimi as Ed Finney
- Kane Hodder as Merritt's guard
- Tony Todd as Johnny Valentine
- Reggie Bannister as Pharmacist
- Gretchen Palmer as Ariella
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 Candyman, 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. A Pazuzu statue, a personification of the demonic figure which possessed Linda Blair's character in the Exorcist series, also appeared. 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 not formally referenced. A veiled reference to the Cthulhu Mythos can be heard in the incantation used to imprison the Djinn; the words "Nib Shuggurath", a Spoonerism of Shub Niggurath. Makeup artist Tom Savini also appears in a cameo as a customer at the pharmacy when Reggie Bannisters character dies.
Many crew members, including director Robert Kurtzman (man killed by piano), had small cameos in the film.
Writer Peter Atkins, also known for his work on Hellraiser films, 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 24% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 29 critics with an average rating of 3.5/10, qualifying it as "rotten". San Francisco Chronicle called it "an extravaganza of bad special effects and worse acting". Of the few positive reviews, The Times of Northwest Indiana critic Christopher Sheid gave it a B+ and stated that "Considering that the djinn itself is essentially a combination of Pinhead and Freddy, it's safe to say "Wishmaster" is a movie respectful of its influences. It's also respectful of its audience's intelligence, which is to say this shocker doesn't bore us with the pretense of trying to be smart... You couldn't wish for a better low-budget fright flick." 
- "Wishmaster (1997) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "Wes Craven Presents Wishmaster - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- Stack, Peter (20 September 1997). "Gory 'Wishmaster' Is a Screaming Bore". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
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