Wishmaster (1997)
Live Entertainment
Cast: Andrew Divoff, Tammy Lauren
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Biographies

Although Wes Craven had hardly anything to do with "Wishmaster", having merely lent his name to the movie mostly in order to give it better box-office exposure in the wake of his smashing success with "Scream", the movie displays a Cravenesque note throughout. This isn’t at all a bad move – it ensures that more people will be watching this highly entertaining, magic spectacular. "Wishmaster" presents us with a new villain in the best tradition of horror flicks, the deliciously evil and intelligent Djinn.

In the aftermath of an accident that shatters an age-old statue during its unloading from a ship, costing the life of a man, a dockworker steals a big jewel from the scene. When he sells it to a pawnbroker, the precious fire-opal lands in the hands of Alex (Tammy Lauren), an evaluator for a local auction. What she doesn’t know is that a genie has been captured inside the jewel for hundreds of years, waiting to be released. When she inspects the jewel and finds a flaw in the stone, she gently rubs it with a piece of cloth, leading to the Djinn’s rebirth. As in traditional fairy tales, the obedient Djinn (Andrew Divoff) has to grant wishes, but in this movie he has his own interpretation of people’s wishes, wreaking havoc on people, unleashing their nightmares, trying to release an evil army of genies to our world in the course of fulfilling their desires.

It is a pleasure to watch Andrew Divoff as both the Djinn and his human persona, eloquently teasing wishes out of his victims and then delicately savoring his power to twist human words and wishes to his pleasure. His Djinn oozes a malicious menace while being somewhat sympathetic yet always intriguing and multi-faceted. Because he is not limited to the human domain, he is as interesting a character as Freddy Krueger originally was. He is able to take us to places and worlds we have never seen before and ever so often you will find yourself wondering if what you see is real or a surreal vision. His mystical, exotic background and his witty dialogues make him an outstanding, enigmatic villain – a villain who is both powerful yet limited to people’s wishes. Part of the fun watching this movie is actually figuring out how the Djinn will grant the wishes of its summoners with the intent of destroying them, before the camera finally reveals the result.

One of the better touches to "Wishmaster" are the cameo appearances of some of the best-known genre actors that have inspired and entertained a whole generation of filmmakers and audiences. The most recognizable one is obviously horror icon Robert Englund, who is better known as Freddy Krueger from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series. There are many more to be seen in short appearances throughout the movie. Kane Hodder (Jason from Friday the 13th), Tony Todd (Candyman), Reggie Bannister (Phantasm), as well as the movie’s director Robert Kurtzman, who finds his death in a very Hellraiser-inspired scene. Despite its budget limitations, "Wishmaster" looks like a really big movie. The lush production design and sets are very detailed. The make-up and special effects work of the movie can easily keep up with the best in the industry, even though computer-generated effects are kept at a minimum. It probably helped that director Kurtzman’s own effects company KNB has been working with Wes Craven on many of his past movies, as "Wishmaster" is clearly an effects powerhouse that will not easily be forgotten. A relatively small team of very enthusiastic horror-fans and genre veterans got together for this motion picture to create what might turn out to be the most memorable character in years.

"Wishmaster" comes as a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> and a <$PS,pan&scan> version on one disc. The transfer is meticulously without noise. The colors are rich, and even in the heavily red-tinged sets in the Djinn’s domain are without even the slightest of noise. The disc also contains the movie’s theatrical trailer, production notes, cast and crew bios, and a roughly 30-minute-long "Making the Wishmaster" documentary, all selectable from the gorgeous animated interactive menu. As another bonus, "Wishmaster" has an exciting full-length running commentary by director Robert Kurtzman, writer Peter Atkins, and second-unit director Greg Nicotero, which sheds light on many aspects of the movie’s creation and the people involved in it.

Harry Manfredini created an atmospheric and modern orchestral score for this movie that has been transferred to an active <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix. The soundstage is energetic, wide, and makes good use of the surrounds. The soundeffects are very animated and rich, setting the right mood for this movie. There are no foreign language versions on this disc to be found, however, and no subtitles.

"Wishmaster" is a great, imaginative, fast-paced horror flick, and the only thing one could possibly criticize about it is that it is too short. Running merely 90 minutes, it will definitely leave you aching for more. The story and the character are so rich that it should have been easy to fill another 30 minutes with some of the Djinn’s malevolent tricks. This somewhat unsatisfied feeling, I am afraid, might lead to sequels of the movie – not that I wouldn’t like to see them, but we should hope that the Djinn will not suffer the same uninspired demise as many of his fellows in the Horror Hall Of Fame.