The Test of Time: Wishmaster (1997)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Robert Kurtzman
Starring: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, and Robert Englund

I’m sure we’ve all had that one title that we’ve browsed past for years. Never renting, never clicking for one reason or another. Usually, a lot of those titles fade away, but then again, some just keep hanging around year after year, begging for someone to join a supposed cult following. Well, sometimes a movie will surprise. Sometimes…not so much. Case in point: a Wes Craven produced feature that spawned three sequels, whether or not if folks wanted them.

Under the examination: WISHMASTER.

She looks...scared?

THE STORY: Long ago (like 1127 A.D. in Persia), weird shit is going on. A djinn (which is a supernatural genie from early Arabian mythology) is a real asshole until he’s captured by a sorcerer and held captive in a big red jewel. Flash forward to 1997, Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) has had an ancient statue (with the jewel) shipped to America. A drunken dockworker drops it from a ship, crushing poor Ted Raimi. Another dockworker steals the jewel and it ends up at an auction house, where Alexandra Amberson (Tammy Lauren) accidently releases the Djinn (Andrew Divoff). He might say he’ll grant three wishes, but he’ll only turn people’s fears against them. Then he starts to chase Alexandra, because she’s the female lead and it would be stupid if their stories didn’t connect.

No, Kane! Keep it together.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Probably the best thing about WISHMASTER comes from the amount of horror players who appear (or sorta appear); a who’s who of horror. With Wes Craven’s name big and bold on the poster as producer, he no doubt helped rope in the late Angus Scrimm as the narrator, and Englund in a hefty role as a rare art collector. But then the cameos come: Reggie Bannister (PHANTASM), Tony Todd (CANDYMAN), Kane Hodder (it’s Jason!), George “Buck” Flowers (playing another homeless dude just like in THEY LIVE), Ted Raimi (EVIL DEAD), and even Verne Troyer appears two years before he got famous as Mini-Me. That’s an impressive collection for a $5 million flick. Hell, it even ends with a Motörhead track.

While WISHMASTER starts off terribly, thankfully about 20 minutes in things finally get interesting, with some weird, quality special effects as Djinn is reborn or something. Then a lot of cheesy scenes with the occasional moment of horror where Djinn does something bad to someone (like turning a hot chick into a mannequin to remain beautiful forever or removing the eyes from some poor med student as Djinn puts a corpse's face on his own). I have to admit that the final act in the museum is pretty damn good, almost making the movie worth watching. It’s not only brutal as hell, but the special effects remain impressive, from the walking killer statues to the brutal, gory deaths of those poor nameless security guards.

Walk it off, buddy.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: I was duped by WISHMASTER’s longevity. As stated earlier, WISHMASTER is one of those titles that consistently invades a different platform every three months. It won't go away. I could only avoid the movie for so long.

Despite the fact it was released in 1997, it plays like a 1992 soft-core porn film, without, you know, any of the sex and nudity. Instead, it all looks cheap from the acting to the dialogue to the settings to the entire production. How the hell did Wes Craven and other producers see the final product here and decide the world needs more of WISHMASTER? Obviously, that whole five million was blown on the special effects. And thank god, because without the blood and splatter, this thing would be nearly unwatchable.

The Legion of Doom.

THE VERDICT: Since the point of this column remains to challenge a movie on whether it holds up or not, WISHMASTER does not. It’s probably about 92% shit, leaving only 8% to entertain with some quality horror necessities like faces being smashed or bodies being ripped apart. That 8% helps, but this is one title that isn't worth a revisit.


No production photo, so here's a lady without a face.

Extra Tidbit: What are your thoughts on WISHMASTER?



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