ByDrew Huber, writer at Creators.co

Wishmaster (1997)

Director: Robert Kurtzman
Writer:
Peter Atkins
Stars:
Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, Robert Englund

Synopsis:

A long, lost artifact that plays host to a Djinn is found and comes into the possession of a young appraiser. Mysterious events begin to unfold until the Djinn finally reveals his plan: to grant three wishes to the woman and release his kind from their realm to rule the Earth.

The Good:

I really like the concept of this movie. The idea is a fascinating one, which is no surprise given Wes Craven has made a living out of coming up with good ideas. The idea of taking the old "genie in a bottle" myth and making it a fairytale told to cover up the existence of the Djinn is clever. The movie works well within the guidelines of that story.

While the film is not at all scary, it has a number of really good, effective scenes... even by today's standards. The party scene near the end of the film is beautiful chaos and very well imagined by the director. Some of the effects are dated a bit, but it is disturbing nonetheless. The acting is adequate and the script isn't half bad. Andrew Divoff, who plays the Djinn, is actually more effective out of make up than in it.

Also, the "wish" format is intriguing. Part of the Djinn's devious nature is tricking people into making wishes they thought were going to give them treasure, etc. In essence, the Djinn does in fact grant the wish, he just does it in a way that brings pain and sacrifice to the wisher. It's a pretty clever mechanism and makes the film work.

The Bad:

All the things I said about the originality of the idea aside, it could have been done better. I just felt that parts of the script (and possibly the budget) held up the idea that Craven created. The movie could have been a whole lot "bigger" in scope with the ramifications of a Djinn invasion not localized to one protagonist. It was like the only one aware of the Djinn and apocalypse heading for the planet was this one girl. I get that they tried to make her interesting... giving her a past that made her susceptible to weakness and ultimately, redemption. It just made the stakes too small for me. Craven has always done this though, so maybe it was more the limitations of the budget or quite possibly, it was that the idea was to be more single character-centered... like he did with Nightmare on Elm Street's Nancy.

In Summary:

I found a lot of similarities with Wishmaster to Craven's cornerstone franchise, Nightmare on Elm Street:

  • The evil comes from a parallel or dream-like state
  • The protagonist is a young female
  • Much of the dialogue feels much like the early Elm Street movies.
  • The evil is trying hard to bust through into our world and finds a way to manipulate those of us on "the outside".
  • This movie even has an unmasked Robert Englund.

Some of the originality is lost in this, because at times it feels a bit like a newer Elm Street movie with less of the cheesiness that came to drag down some of the movies in the franchise. I also feel like a lot was borrowed from the Hellraiser series as well. Even some of the imagery was similar - like a man hanging with his chest ripped open by chains and hooks. By the end of the film, I felt like I watched a decent movie that had maybe borrowed one too many scenes from other iconic horror movies.

That said, it's a decent watch for all you horror buffs out there looking for a nice, late 90's flick reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm Street.

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