“Master! Apprentice! Heartborne, 7th Seeker Warrior! Disciple! In me the Wishmaster.” Ah no wrong section, get thee out of here Nightwish! Actually only the mighty belong and that’s Motorhead who get the closing credits song, but let’s go back and start at the beginning. I have to admit Wishmaster was a film I never really bothered with and had not seen prior to it turning up here. Coming out in 1997 it kind of missed the video shop raiding period for anything and everything. One thing I didn’t realise is what a wet dream for horror geeks the film actually is. It’s directed by Robert Kurtzman the K of KNB FX who also naturally handle the gore with much gusto. Wes Craven is the executive producer and Freddy himself Robert Englund is in the cast. Scanners producer Pierre David is also involved as is Hellraiser 2 (plus) script writer Peter Atkins. Watching the film though anyone who is anyone pops up and it’s like playing I spy the horror film greats. Angus Scrimm (Phantasm) narrates, there’s Jason Kane Hodder, Candyman Tony Todd, Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister having a ding dong with an incredibly sweary George Buck Flowers, Tom Savini, Day Of The Dead’s Joe Pilato and even Ted Raimi who gets literally squashed into the action. Watching it yourself you may well find yet more surprises but with this calibre of people involved who cares if the film itself is a bit of a dud? Well truth be told it was actually better than I expected.
Obviously you know the stories of genies and three wishes and the fact that these evil so and so’s are not to be trusted and only want freedom to wreak havoc. That’s the score in Ancient Persia where an emperor has freed one and makes the mistake of wishing to see wonders. Wonders we get as KNB FX get crazily imaginative mutating his court into all sort of latex nastiness. The splatter is great and one skin splitting scene with a bloody skeleton emerging is particularly exceptional. The mayhem gets yer eyes a popping but naturally the action skips to modern day USA where a statue and a giant ruby get in on the plot and it’s not long before the djinn is unleashed granting wishes to flesh him out (very Hellraiser) and cause mischief and mayhem. The main person responsible for freeing him is Alexandra (Tammy Lauren) who bonds with the djinn in a psychic link as it destroys those around her leading up to a final battle with her, its creations (effectively stone warriors through the dynasties and serial killers jumping out of paintings) and there in a nutshell you have it.
Seriously though the plot is slightly messy as is the gore and it is that and the various cameos that will be of most interest to horror fans. There’s bad acting, over acting and am I gonna be in this long enough to bother acting. The Djinn itself played as both human and monster by Andrew Divoff feels like it is being set-up to be the next Freddy or Pinhead with its one-liners and to be fair the film spawned no less than three sequels. The rubber monster effects are passable but when the team plaster the screen with gory gags it’s as exuberant as anything you would be likely to see in a classic film of the Gordon, Yuzna stable. The deviousness and twisted granting of wishes are amusing and each time one is fulfilled you can’t help wincing. You simply cannot really fault a film that has George Buck Flowers as a homeless bum cussing Reggie Bannister with the words “You big, bald-headed baboon! Miscomplected afterbirth of a Chinese gang-banger!” either, or one that ends with Motorhead banging away. All in all good fun and as far as the extras are concerned; again there are hours-worth.
First if you are so inclined and have the time are two directors’ commentaries and isolated score with interview from composer Harry (Friday the 13th) Manfredini. I uncorked the features going straight to Out Of The Bottle an interview piece with Kurtzman and co-producer David Tripet. They talk (separately) about the hands on set-up with such an effects laden film, Wes Craven’s involvement and budgetary funds which were tight once cast payments etc were made. The main players are discussed, Divoff a perfect choice suitable for roles of the Djinn in human and monster form. The studio really wanted Starship Trooper Dina Meyer to play Alexandra but couldn’t work things out so Kurtzman bagged his first choice Lauren. Apparently they decided to “pepper” the film with recognisable faces, well they certainly achieved that and Robert Englund was more than pleased not to be wearing make-up for once. Plenty of aspects and anecdotes are found here from on set accidents through to the success of the film, distribution and immediate sequel. For me the original Djinn author will always be Graham Masterton who wrote his novel around the same time as The Manitou. Holding Peter Atkins in high regard and having read some of his books I was interested in hearing from him on the shorter “Magic Words” segment. He makes me laugh saying that even though he thought it was a dumb idea he jumped at the chance of making a script about an evil genie, did the minimum of research and came up with some bullshit! That’s honesty for you. Not only did he get away with it he was paid to stick around on set. You just can’t knock the cheeky Scouse chappie.
Main actors Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren are up next. Venezuelan actor Divoff strikes as a genuine fan of the genre and wanted to model himself on the greats like Karloff and Lugosi and he has come a long way from playing the part of Doc in cult (awful) 1986 film Neon Maniacs. The more I think about it as he talks about the mask is that his djinn face does look a bit like he has escaped from Midian and the superior Nightbreed Clive Barker’s 1990 feature. There’s nothing bad in particular about Tammy Lauren as far as her acting is concerned in the film but one does have to wonder why she was chosen as she is a bit of a square peg amidst so many horror luminaries as it’s not a genre she has any real affiliation with. She holds her own in both the movie and interview though, is a black belt in karate and even though she admittedly played a basketball coach who couldn’t even dribble and got so carried away she stabbed herself in the leg during the film I wouldn’t say anything against her! “A giant complex puzzle that I can get lost in” is how director of photography Jacques Haitkin describes his part in the whole process of filming horror movies. He has done no shortage of them either, good and bad from Nightmare On Elm Street to The Hidden and Scanner Cop. The fun of it he states is working it all out and doing things in front of the camera and you can’t help but agree that the advent of CGI has certainly taken a lot out of that particular craft. Haitken comes across as a very likeable guy. Wrapping up these features are the killers and victim of various infamous slashers Robert Englund, Kane Hodder and Ted Raimi. They all seem to have nothing but praise for the film and are impressed by its longevity. Its interesting seeing Hodder in a strong but not silent part, Englund definitely adds a touch of theatrical luvvieness to it all and a touch of light relief, as for Raimi, well splat!
Perhaps I underestimated the appeal and the cult of the Wishmaster and if you are a fan you will get plenty of insights into the picture with all the aforementioned features, some extra vintage ones, trailers, radio and TV spots, galleries, storyboards and behind the scenes footage. What’s the worst that could happen if you put it on your wish-list? Well you might end up with an album of symphonic power metal, now that truly would be twisted!