John’s Horror Corner: Wishmaster (1997), explaining why evil Djinn genie jerks can’t even earn their freedom by granting wishes
MY CALL: This was one of the more fun horror movies of the 90s, complete with a broad diversity of deaths, gore and effects. MORE MOVIES LIKE Wishmaster: Urban Legends (1998), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).
This movie is based on the idea that man was born of earth, angels of light, and Djinn of fire. These Djinn dwell in “the void.” Now, I’m no theologian, but when they next say that if a Djinn grants three wishes it’s freed upon the earth, I’m guessing that’s not from any religious text that folks study in seminary school.
Okay, so the Star Wars movies took place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” where the Emperor wears his favorite hoody, shaves his eyebrows, suffers from red eye, and has powers. The Djinn is way old, shares all of the same qualities, and his hoody is tattered from eons of imprisonment. He also lives in “the void”, which I doubt is in our galaxy. BRO!!!! I think they’re the same dude!
Our story begins in 12th century Persia when some jerk wishes to be “shown wonders.” Can we just start by criticizing this stupid wish? A “wonder” to a wealthy Persian would wildly differ from a “wonder” to a homeless person. Purely subjective. If I were that genie I’d take “wonders” literally and make it so that the wisher could see thought bubbles hovering over people’s heads that showed what they were thinking. What follows is a gloriously gory sequence loaded with fun, diverse special effects ranging from a woman being attacked by a monster that formed from a man’s guts, a snake man mutant, a man’s stop-motion animated skeleton rips itself from its skin and attacks people, and some other fun stuff. After this delightfully entrail-rich sequence I think we all know we’re in for a fun ride!
This reminds me of Kuato, the psychic mutant stomach twin from Total Recall.
The hooded Djinn (Andrew Divoff; Lost) sounds just like The Emperor from Star Wars! They must be related. He would surely have take over the earth had a man not imprisoned him in a large ruby. Fast forward to present day and some gemologist (Tammy Lauren) rubs the ruby during an appraisal, thus resetting the pandemonium.
This poor dude made the classic blunder of wishing his eyes were melted shut. He probably thought it was going to be way cooler.
Directed by special effects artist Robert Kurtzman (Jinn, Texas Chainsaw 3-D, John Dies at the End), clearly we see influence from the great horror of the 80s. For example, the Djinn “hatches” from the ruby looking quite similar to the quadruple-aputee monster that Craig T. Nelson vomits out in Poltergeist II (1986). Then, after granting his first wish, he slimily metamorphoses a la Hellraiser (1987) to his crusty Djinn form.
Here’s the Djinn’s BEFORE PHOTO…
Here’s the AFTER PHOTO.
But he’s still just one peeled and borrowed face away from…
This dashing fellow!
To gain his freedom, the Djinn wanders around town trying to find Alexandra, the somewhat cute gemologist that rubbed his ruby prison. Now, every other genie pretty much ever appears immediately when its lamp is rubbed. It seems to me that if this Djinn was just more punctual, he wouldn’t have missed her after he emerged. He’s just lazy! During his search he coaxes (even fools) people to make wishes which he swiftly Monkey Paws, often resulting in their death. A bum, not realizing the genie’s power, trades his soul for a shower and a jug of Jack Daniels. A cop wishes he could convict a felon, who then shoots several of his colleagues in front of him at the precinct. A woman wishes to be beautiful forever and is turned into a mannequin. You get the idea. Yet, for all the evil genie’s power, he needs to ask around and interrogate people in order to find Alexandra so that he can force her to make three wishes.
The Djinn animates a gang of golems to help him.
It occurs to me that this genie would have been free long ago if he wasn’t such a jerk. I mean, think about it. If he granted wishes like the nice Robin Williams Disney genie, then people wouldn’t be afraid of him or his twisted wish-granting. He’d grant a wish, the wisher would be happy, he’d grant two more wishes, and he’d be free! It’s not like he has to ruin the wishes. He’s just an ass about it. If you ask me he deserves to be trapped in his gem prison without cable TV or Netflix for eternity!
Two more unfortunate wishes gone wrong. I tried to tell them that “an arrow through the face” and “a crushed skull” weren’t good wish ideas. They didn’t listen.
The special effects are abundant, gory, fun, and result in a variety of entertaining deaths. Also enjoy all the familiar faces of horror icons. Look for cameos by Ted Raimi (Oz the Great and Powerful, Drag Me to Hell), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hatchet, Galaxy of Terror), Tom Savini (Machete Kills, The Theater Bizarre), Tony Todd (Final Destination 5, Hatchet), Kane Hodder (Chillerama, Hatchet, Ghoulies Go to College) and narration by Angus Scrimm (John Dies at the End, Phantasm, Subspecies, Chopping Mall).
Kane Hodder gets a rather interesting cameo death.
This movie was one of the horror highlights of the 90s. It’s not conventionally considered “good” in any film classes, but it’s fun and entertaining. I enjoy it as much today as I did when it came out in 1997.