The ‘90s often get a bad rap with horror fans. After the numerous successful slashers and creature effects films of ‘80s, the ‘90s offered a different variety of horror fare. Though there were plenty of hits, hidden gems, and misunderstood classics, the ‘90s usually don’t get the kind of love that other decades get when it comes to horror. It’s time to change that.
For a movie that spawned three sequels, we really don’t talk about Wishmaster a whole lot. The 1997 fantasy flick didn’t blow audiences (or critics) away, but it seemed tailor-made for hardcore horror lovers. Wes Craven was hot off the success of Scream, and his marquee value was tapped into with a bold “Wes Craven Presents” slapped onto every piece of marketing for the film. With Craven as executive producer and effects guru Robert Kurtzman in the director’s chair, Wishmaster was a clear effort at celebrating numerous icons in the horror landscape.
Seriously, the number of people involved in this movie makes it feel like an issue of Fangoria brought to life. You’ve got appearances from Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Ted Raimi, Joe Pilato, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos from Tom Savini and Howard Berger. Not to mention the behind-the-scenes talents of Peter Atkins, Harry Manfredini, Greg Nicotero, Screaming Mad George, and Gary Tunnicliffe. The pedigree of these amazing talents alone should make Wishmaster a film we all can enjoy.
But it gets even better.
The film’s plot centers around an evil djinn — the basis for our modern concept of genies — who can collect souls by granting wishes. If the person who released the djinn from his magical gem asks for three wishes, the djinn will release his fellow demons from captivity and the world will become one bummer of a place. This allows the movie to continuously set up wicked gags in the form of twisted wishes. And by the time the movie reaches its climax, an entire party has been turned into a cavalcade of nightmarish delights. It really is a joyous display of effects wizardry.
Still, the gory spectacle wouldn’t be half as fun if it wasn’t for Andrew Divoff. Divoff’s portrayal of the djinn is delicious and devilish in all the right ways. Even detractors of the film will give credit to Divoff’s wicked performance. We rarely get characters in films that are both pure evil and relish it without a trace of sympathy or humanity. Divoff is magnetic with his silver tongue and dark chocolate voice, and he gets even wilder when he’s decked out in the entire djinn makeup. In a better world, the djinn would have become the ‘90s version of Freddy Krueger.
Wishmaster is a gleefully unhinged explosion of everything you could want out of an effects-focused horror film. Is it the greatest story ever told? No, but it’s breezily paced and keeps delivering the goods all the way up to the end. If you’ve never seen Wishmaster, it’s certainly worth 90 minutes of your time. And if you have seen it, give it another watch and let its devil-may-care attitude wash over you.
This is a gem worth rediscovering.