Wishmaster (1997)
Wishmaster (1997)

Genre: Fantasy and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: September 19th, 1997 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Robert Kurtzman Actors: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, Robert Englund, Chris Lemmon, Wendy Benson, Tony Crane, Jenny O’Hara, Tony Todd, Ricco Ross, Gretchen Palmer, Buck Flower




he djinn are creatures condemned to dwell in the void between Heaven and Earth. As legend has it, the one who wakes a djinn will be given three wishes; but upon granting the third, the unholy legions of the djinn shall be released (for usurpation) upon the Earth through a hellish gateway. In Persia in 1127 A.D., the ruler gets carried away with his wishes, nearly causing the total ruin of his people. But thanks to a wise court sorcerer, the lead djinn (Andrew Divoff) becomes trapped in a magical ruby (the Stone of the Secret Fire).

In present day America, antiquities buyer Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) almost acquires the ruby, safeguarded in an ancient statue, which is accidentally dropped and destroyed as it’s being offloaded from a ship. One of the dockworkers discovers the artifact and brings it to Regal Auctioneers, a company that specializes in rare items. When the gem ends up on Alexandra Amberson’s (Tammy Lauren) desk, she analyzes a defect that, when run through a laser scanning program, unleashes the imprisoned djinn for some modern-day terror.

The opening moments feature a skeleton that bloodily bursts out of a person and begins attacking fleeing Persians, while a half-crocodile person drags himself across the floor, begging for help. With outstanding makeup and gore effects, this sequence foreshadows the amusingly gooey mayhem to come. A face is peeled from a cadaver, a jaw is ripped from a head, a clerk virtually melts away from cancer, and eyes are plucked from a screaming visage – to name just a few of the numerous yucks.

Countless jump scares also arise, with characters appearing suddenly onscreen, accompanied by loud noises (and Harry Mandfredini’s screeching violin music), which are momentarily effective – but cheap. Visually, “Wishmaster” is a lot of fun, though several of the deaths lack the creativity that should have come naturally with this budget and these special effects. The puppeteering never disappoints (a few scenes are like hyper-violent takes on Ray Harryhausen’s adventures), and the djinn’s head tendrils are an intriguing embellishment, but his one-liners tend to fall flat (his hokiness clearly borrows from Freddy Krueger) and his gravelly voice sounds sillier than it does unnerving.

“I am despair!” It’s not explained how exactly the djinn is reborn, or why he grows (as if from the harvesting of human flesh, like in “Hellraiser”), or why Alex has some sort of psychic link to the monster. The film also doesn’t bother to provide strict definitions concerning how many people can make wishes, how the djinn infiltrates nightmares, or why he’s garbed in a dirty shawl – as if homeless – before assuming the form of a blue-eyed businessman. In many ways, this antagonist is a supernatural jester, creating mischief and death through requests and suggestions that are twisted and distorted in horrifically comical ways.

Obviously, the film hopes to work on the notion that everything transpires according to some set system of occult beliefs and lore, and that audiences will accept it all without question. Little of it makes sense (including the cleanly wrapped-up resolution), however, but the djinn’s powers of deception are quite humorous (like a horror version of the plot of “Bedazzled”), and the look of the picture is unexpectedly impressive. “Careful what you wish for!”

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10