Recap #41 – Wishmaster (1997)

wishmaster

Title: Wishmaster

Directed by: Robert Kurtzman

Released: 1997

Description: Magically delicious powerful. Supernaturally evil. The ancient entity know (sic) in human legend as the Djinn can grant a person’s wildest dreams. And in the process, it unleashes your darkest nightmares. The moral of this explosively terrifying, special-effects-powered, horror-fantasy spectacular: Be careful what you wish for!

Nostalgia Time!


It was 1997, I was sixteen and running wild through the streets, the local movie theaters weren’t bothering to card teenagers buying tickets to R-rated movies, and somehow my cousin and I had enough disposable income to go see pretty much every fucking movie that came out that year. I was extra motivated to go see this one because Robert Englund is in it, and like I think I mentioned in my Mangler recap, 1997 was right around my peak Freddy Krueger obsession. (A year later I would go see Urban Legend with a different cousin for the same reason.) Anyway, I don’t know why this detail sticks with me, but I remember that while we were sitting in the movie theater parking lot before the movie started, my cousin sat in my car and pierced her nose with one of those shitty plastic ear-piercing guns. Good times. I ended up loving this movie so much that I went to Hollywood Video on the day it was supposed to be released for rent, only to find out video release had been pushed back and I had to wait another couple weeks before I could watch it again. Yes, I was that obsessive weirdo. This movie introduced me to Andrew Divoff (who it turned out had already been in a shit ton of things I’d seen), and featured appearances by Ted Raimi, Tony Todd, and Kane Hodder. My horror-nerd self was in heaven, and I still love this movie to death. Whether it deserves it or not.

Recap


The movie opens with a gem-making montage (including ingredients being taken out of a wooden box that looks suspiciously like a larger version of the puzzle box from Hellraiser). Because what we need is a montage, right?

Oh, okay, now is a good time for on-screen text and Angus Scrimm giving us voice-over narration, I guess. This can basically be summed up as “Don’t fuck around with the Djinn, because getting your wishes granted will bring about the end of the world. Also, the term “genie” is a slur and Disney is full of shit, thanks.” I may be paraphrasing quite liberally here.

We come back from the black screen full o’ text to a palace in Persia in 1127 A.D. and the Djinn (Andrew Divoff) telling King Something-or-other to make his second wish. The king wishes to be shown wonders, and he doesn’t seem to be at all wary while making this wish, so I have to wonder what the first wish was. Must have been something super simple that absolutely didn’t backfire in any way. Also, what a superficial asshole. “Show me wonders”? Not, I don’t know, “Hey, let’s end the Crusades and, like, keep a bunch of people from killing each other in the name of their god”? Damn, dude. Seriously.

Of course this whole “show me wonders” bullshit goes horribly wrong, with everyone in court dying in, yes, wondrous ways. My favorites are a dude’s skeleton tearing its way out of his body and murderizing the people closest to it, and a guy who’s been turned into a snake. I like this movie much more when it sticks to the practical effects; less so when it does CGI. The palace sorcerer walks through the “wonders” that this idiot king wished into being and arrives at the throne room as the king is throwing a hissy-fit about this not being what he wanted. Again, what the fuck was his first wish, which apparently went so well? Did he just wish for a nice pair of socks? Is he Dumbledore? The Djinn tells him to use his third wish to fix his second wish if it’s not what he wanted, and the sorcerer storms in like, “For fuck sake you moron, no more wishes!” and tells the king that if he makes his third wish, the Djinn can open the gateway between worlds and bring all of his kind here. And, you know, that sort of clusterfuck is probably not what we really want, right?

Hey, remember the montage? That was the sorcerer forging this here red gemstone that sucks the Djinn inside and traps him there after saying a nifty little incantation! That’s handy, isn’t it? Crisis averted, but I can’t help wondering how often the sorcerer has to stop the king from selling his kingdom for some magic beans, or sending all his money to a Nigerian prince. Honestly, being this king’s babysitter sorcerer must be exhausting.

Skip forward to Present Day America (well, 1997 present day, at least), on a dock where requisite douchebag rich guy Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) and his assistant, Ed Finney (Ted Raimi) are eagerly awaiting delivery of the statue of the god Ahura Mazda.

The guy operating the crane holding the crate that holds the statue is blatantly pouring his flask into his coffee cup in front of everyone. Was . . . was that acceptable behavior on the docks in 1997? For some reason Finney thinks it’s a good idea to stand directly under the crate while yelling at Mr. Crane Operator about being a dumbass. Hmm. Irony. Mr. Crane Operator promptly knocks his cup full o’ booze over onto the crane controls, somehow causing the crane arm to drop the crate directly onto Finney, who is smooshed and splattered everywhere. (I know Sam Raimi wasn’t involved with this movie, but I still like to imagine he showed up on set that day just to be the one to drop the crate on his little brother.) The look on Mr. Crane Operator’s face is less “Oh my god I just killed a man” and more, “Oh shit, there goes my buzz,” and Beaumont is obviously just upset about the statue he’s been waiting for for ten years being nothing but a pile of bloody debris now. Meanwhile, a dockworker finds a bit of smashed statue with the Djinn-stone embedded in it, and pockets the stone like the most obvious thief ever. Seriously. He is not subtle.

Terrible Dockworker Thief Dude apparently ran right out to the pawn shop, because our next scene is Pawn Shop Owner walking into Regal Auctioneers and telling the owner, Nick Merritt, and the receptionist (??? okay, I’m not actually sure what her job is), Shannon Amberson that a dude came in telling him he got the stone from his grandmother. Nick is like, yeah, grandma, right, while his eyes are practically bugging out of his head looking at this thing. Shannon says it looks like something their gemologist, Alex, should take a look at, and cut to –

– a man and woman playing tennis while some very 90s music plays. I’ve seen this movie so many times that this doesn’t really occur to me any more, but I think we’re supposed to assume that the guy is Alex? Anyway, he’s not. He’s Josh Aickman, and the woman is Alexandra Amberson (Tammy Lauren), Shannon’s sister. There’s some banter between the two about some dude Alex used to date, and it becomes clear pretty quick that Josh wants to be more than friends, but Alex is hesitant because she doesn’t want to lose him as a friend. Josh is acting like a bit of a friendzoned douche, which is disappointing because the way I remembered it, it wasn’t so egregious. Viewing it now, yeah, he’s being pretty pushy. Then he gets in his top-down convertible by opening the passenger door and sliding across the front seat. Um, Josh? Yeah, that’s not how you get in a car. You okay, buddy?

Back at the auction house, Alex examines the gem, which we now find out is a fire opal, while boss man Nick literally hangs over her shoulder bugging her about its worth. She runs him off, then breathes on the opal and rubs it against her sleeve. You know, as you do when appraising a gemstone. She starts seeing flashes of the Djinn and some weird shit in the microscope, then gets jump scared by Nick teleporting in and hanging over her shoulder again. Alex tells him there may be something wrong with the gem, and I’ve never seen a man lose his boner faster. Alex then takes the opal to Josh to run some sort of spectroanalysis on it – he’s not a gemologist, but apparently he does science-y things. Alex says she owes him, and Josh calls after her, “Well how about that dinner, then?” Are we supposed to like you, Josh? Because I don’t. I thought I remembered you being okay, but I guess I’ve grown as a person since then. Take this whole “I’ve put in the requisite time performing friendship actions, now you owe me a date/sex/romantic attention” attitude and shove it up your ass, mmkay? Thanks.

Cut to Alex coaching what looks like a middle school girls’ basketball team. I kinda love this. They took the time to make Alex a well-rounded, well-written character with varied interests and complexity, rather than some one-dimensional final girl. Plus, she’s a pretty awesome coach, telling the girls they need to find stillness to make their shot. Stillness of the mind when everything outside of themselves is moving too fast to take the time to focus. Hmm, foreshadowing much?

Meanwhile, Josh is in his lab running tests on the gem with the most 1990’s movie lasers ever. The opal starts heating up (and glowing – when I was in high school, I had a big ring, looked like a Ring Pop, that had an LED light in it that would flash. Point is, the light from inside this gemstone looks exactly like that. Yay, special effects team!), then explodes, sending lab equipment shrapnel everywhere. Alex is apparently connected to the gem (and the Djinn) now, and senses something is wrong, and tries to call Josh from a payphone with the Pacific Bell logo on it. Payphones! PacBell! 1997!

Josh is still alive, but seriously injured on the floor while Alex leaves a message on the answering machine. From the outgoing message, we now learn that Josh works in the geophysics department. The outgoing message is also all cutesy about how they can’t come to the phone because they’re probably turning lead into gold. I was unaware that geophysicists possessed the gift of alchemy, but okay. Maybe I need to go back to school and get my geophysics degree. For some reason the floor of the lab is all covered in fog, and as Josh lies there dying, Baby Mutant Djinn crawls toward him. It’s kind of goofy-looking, but also really gross and freaky, so . . . yeah. It asks Josh if he wants the pain to stop, and gee I wonder if the Djinn will just kill him when he says yes? Oh, yup, that’s exactly what happens! Granting that one random wish powered the Djinn up a little, and he morphs and grows and looks oddly like Freddy Krueger for a hot minute. Alex feels all of this and is freaking the fuck out on the payphone, while the Djinn finishes his morph and gathers up the pieces of his stone.

Alex rushes to the lab and finds the police there and Josh dead, and now the lab looks normal again instead of being a stunt double for the swamps of Degobah. She talks to a lieutenant named Nathanson, who tells her it was an equipment malfunction and asks if she knows what Josh was working on. Alex, of course, blames herself. I mean, I guess “blame the evil genie” is too big of a logical leap to make at this point. Just because I’m always on the lookout for it doesn’t mean everyone else is.

Cut to an old homeless guy outside a pharmacy, asking people for money and pressing his face to the window like an Oliver Twist street urchin. The pharmacist (Reggie Bannister from the Phantasm series) comes out and runs him off in real asshole fashion, leading to an exchange of insults and the homeless man still yelling and cursing the dude as he walks down the street and encounters the Djinn in an alley. The Djinn asks him what he’d give to have those curses come true, and Homeless Dude tells him all he’s got is a cigarette and a handshake. But Djinn is all like, lol nope, you’ve got a soul. Homeless Dude would apparently trade that for a shower and a jug of Jack. Which, okay, this guy should have a talk with Homer Simpson, because that sounds like a much better deal than selling your soul for a doughnut. Especially if it was a cake doughnut. Cake doughnuts are trash. Yeast doughnuts all the way. Anyway, Homeless Dude humors the Djinn and says that Pharmacist Reggie should only get cancer and die, and I’d like to know what the fuck form of cancer the Djinn has at his disposal, cuz Pharmacist Reggie shrivels and oozes and dies within seconds. Alex sees flashes of this while she’s still at the lab with the cops, and Homeless Dude freaks out and runs away from the Djinn, who says to run and tell everyone that there’s something loose in the city that feeds on wishes. Um, but dude, why give everyone a heads up? That seems more like a helpful warning, you know? Like, “watch out for this weirdo who wants to grant your wishes, he’s probably evil and shit”? Also, I’d like to point out that the Djinn does not look like Andrew Divoff yet. He looks like this:

djinn
Yeah, I’m totally talking to this guy in a dark alley

Do you really think anyone is going to hang out and have a casual convo with this dude instead of noping right the fuck on outta there? Let alone humor him while he’s talking about wanting your soul? Nope, bye Felipe!

Back at home, Alex and Shannon have a conversation in front of the fireplace about Josh’s death, and we find out that there was a fire years ago that Alex rescued Shannon from but was unable to save their parents, and she blames herself. Just like she’s blaming herself for Josh’s death, because she thinks there was something wrong with the opal (the fire opal! it’s all making sense now!) that caused it to explode. Well, yeah, but I bet “evil genie” still isn’t on your list of the “something” that might be. Shannon is either a total bitch or very into tough love, because she’s pretty harsh while telling Alex none of it is her fault. I can’t tell where this movie is trying to land with its portrayal of mental health, because there’s a lot of talk about this sounding crazy, then the revelation that Alex had some sort of breakdown after the fire, imagining things, seeing a therapist, and Shannon is worried that it’s all going to happen again. And Alex is like, nope, this time it’s all real and I’m definitely not crazy. Because, you know, god forbid anyone have mental health issues even after trauma, amirite?

Alex has a nightmare about the fire and Shannon trying to get out of the house, and how long ago was this fire supposed to be? Shannon mentions that it was “years ago,” but in the dream she looks exactly the same age as now. Anyway, Alex startles awake on a bench at the tennis courts, to find Zombie Josh beside her. Oh, look a dream within a dream. Original! Alex wakes up for real, screaming and sweating in her own bed and hears the Djinn’s voice telling her he can smell her fear. You sure it’s not just one of the three (count them – three!) candles she’s got burning on the trunk at the foot of her bed, bro? For someone who almost died in a fire, she sure is blasé about fire safety.

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This is the appropriate number of candles for someone traumatized by fire, right?

Having survived another night of tempting the fire fates, Alex shows up on the dock and talks to the dockworker who sold the opal to Pawn Shop Dude. Dockworker Thief Dude sexually harasses Alex because of course he does, but she manages to shut him down long enough to find out how he got the gem. She references the statue as “the Beaumont piece,” and Creepy Dockworker Dude is all like I dunno, there was some dude here waiting for it. As Alex walks away, he says he got a couple hundred for the opal, and did he get fucked? Alex tells him, “royally,” but I think the entire world narrowly avoided getting fucked here. Think about what would have happened if this guy had woken the Djinn. We’d all be stuck in a nightmarish hellscape for all eternity so this dude could wish for a bigger cock and the ability to totally crush puss.

We see the Djinn walking into the generic School of Medicine before we rejoin Alex at Raymond Beaumont’s mansion. She tells him how sorry she is about what happened, and he’s all, yeah one of a kind, irreplaceable. See, it’s funny because she was talking about the death of his assistant, while he was talking about the destruction of the statue! Now laugh, dammit! She asks him about the statue, finds out it wasn’t bejeweled (but was it Bejeweled Blitz?), and then Beaumont takes her to his Room of Lost Gods. Look, I know he’s rich, but is he running a museum out of his house? I’ve seen this same room at my local Museum of World Treasures, and this dude’s house could easily hold every museum in my city. Alex asks him about Ahura Mazda, and he claims it’s the objects he collects, not the theologies. So, ignorant cultural appropriation ahoy! But then he goes on to give her a lecture on Ahura Mazda that my Comparative Religion professor would have been proud of, so . . . I mean, this is interesting stuff, but turns out not to be pertinent to the story in any way. Also, it’s not even accurate info, but are we really surprised by that?

Meanwhile, at the School of Medicine, the Djinn is busy removing Andrew Divoff’s face from a corpse. Wait, did the Djinn somehow manage to watch Face/Off while he was imprisoned inside that opal? (Fun fact: in the DVD scene selection, this scene is actually titled “Face Off”. So there’s that.)

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Great, now I can’t stop imagining Nic Cage as the Djinn. Help me.

Some student or something walks into the anatomy lab and catches the Djinn’s little reenactment of the amazing Nic Cage/John Travola movie, and freaks the fuck out. Finally, someone having an appropriate reaction to seeing an ancient monster! Although, to be fair, it might just be the fact that he’s slicing a corpse’s face off with his fingernail. The Djinn asks the lab student if this is something he wishes not to see, then magically welds the guy’s eyes shut. Alex sees visions of all of this and is down on Beaumont’s floor, screaming. It probably doesn’t help to have Freddy Krueger hovering over her, to be honest. When she gets herself together, Beaumont reminds her about his party – you know the one, it was supposed to be celebrating his new acquisition? Oh, first time we’re hearing about it? Yeah. Okay. Maybe now it can be a wake for his squished assistant (squishistant?). Poor Ted Raimi; is there a horror movie he doesn’t die horribly in?

Alex shows up at the college to talk to a folklore professor Beaumont knows, Wendy Derleth (Jenny O’Hara). Prof Derleth gives us all the exposition we need about the djinn. This is where all the “Disney is full of shit” talk comes into play, with the professor telling us that the djinn is the face of fear itself. So, it’s a clown marionette? That’s the scariest thing I can think of! (Fun story – I Google image searched “clown marionette” on my phone, then shut it down and forgot about it until the next time I opened my browser and almost shit myself with all of those little demon clown faces looking up at me. I just wanted to check my bank balance for fuck sake!)

Fuck, I forgot how much this movie likes to cut between Alex and the Djinn. It’s fine for watching, but a bitch to recap. Did the editor take their cues from Pet Sematary 2? Anyway, we’re back with the Djinn, who now looks like this:

Wishmastersuit
Better, but I’m still not sure I’d talk to him in a dark alley. If I’m attracted to him, he’s probably evil.

Actually, right now he’s shopping for that very suit, and the sales girl, Ariella, is totally hot for him, suggesting something “tighter.” Oh, girl, no. Run. The Djinn checks out her ass, because even immortal, ancient beings aren’t above indulging in the Male Gaze. He introduces himself as Nathaniel Demerest, then asks her which she would prefer when she asks if this will be cash or charge. She says cash, and I call bullshit. I’ve spent considerable time working retail, and trust me, most cashiers prefer cards because all they have to do is press a button. Cash is more work. But, whatever, she says cash and then a wad of bills appears in her bra. Hahaha . . . why? 

The Djinn lays a line on Ariella, asking her if it bothers her that she won’t be young and beautiful forever, then tells her to wish to be beautiful forever. Um, isn’t that entrapment? That is not sporting, sir! However, Ariella repeats after him, and the next time we see her, she’s been turned into a mannequin. Sigh. Will people never learn? (Also, this is exactly what happened to the girl in the Goosebumps episode I just recapped who wished to be admired. Did Wishmaster rip off Goosebumps?!)

Back to Alex and the prof, and an exposition extravaganza. Djinn are ancient and evil, obliged to grant wishes, but really just looking to usurp our world. They power up granting single wishes, then tear down the walls between worlds and bring hell on earth once the one who woke them makes their third wish. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why!

Meanwhile, our Djinn visits Nathanson at the police station to try to find out Alex’s address. Because he can make money appear in your underwear, but looking in a phone book is beyond his abilities. Nathanson is a good cop and no frickin’ way he’s giving out Alex’s address to this creepy weirdo, but he makes the mistake of wishing that this criminal (who looks like a bootleg Alice Cooper) sitting in the station would be caught, dead to rights, everyone’s a witness. Oh, dude. No. Bootleg Alice Cooper grabs a cop’s gun and starts shooting the station up, then rips a guy’s jaw off before being shot about a hundred times. But good news! This kerfuffle gives the Djinn a chance to rifle through Nathanson’s files and find Alex’s business card, with her work address on it. So, good for him?

Alex is doing research, learning about the Stone of the Secret Fire and things we already know about the Djinn. The only new info we get is that the Djinn’s power is limited to the granting of wishes. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Er . . . right?

Switch to the Djinn showing up at the auction house where Alex works, and enter Security Guard Kane Hodder. The auction house is closed, and it’s appointments only after hours, and Security Guard takes his job very seriously. The Djinn asks him if he knows how frustrating it is to have unlimited power but only be able to use it when someone asks you for something, because the movie thought we needed a concrete example of the thing Alex just read to us thirty seconds ago. The Djinn tells Security Guard to ask him for something, so, displaying a wealth of common sense not generally seen in this type of movie, he tells the Djinn he wants him to leave. I have never seen a man lose his smile so fast. As he’s unwillingly walking away from the doors, the Djinn is all like, “No, no, I have to get inside,” and this is where Security Guard drops his pretense of common sense and says the only way inside is to go through him, and that is something he would love to see! Oh, honey. I had such hope for you. Of course the Djinn sort of makes him meld together with the glass doors, then walks right through him, shattering the glass. (I hate this CGI. Like I said earlier – the practical effects are great, the CGI not so much. Even for 1997.) So, I guess this eliminates the need for a Wishmaster Vs. Jason movie, then?

The Djinn walks into Nick Merritt’s office, still trying to get Alex’s address. Dude. Did you even check to see if her address is listed in the phone book? Seriously. He changes a little vase thing into solid gold with gems pouring out of it to bribe Nick into giving him the address, but Nick’s still being cagey, so the Djinn asks him what it will take. Nick goes straight to the old “million dollars” standby, because Nick clearly doesn’t remember the story of the Monkey’s Paw. The next thing we see is an old lady at the airport, filling out a flight insurance form and filling in her son, Nick, as the beneficiary for a million dollars. Dun dun DUN! Then the plane she’s on explodes. Really. No visible cause, just KABOOM! Goddamn United Airlines.

Meanwhile, Alex has lost track of time doing research, and Shannon has to remind her that her girls have a basketball game. It’s fine; I’m sure these twelve year olds can coach themselves, right? At the game, Alex keeps borrowing Shannon’s cell phone (1997 cell phones were fucking adorable) to call Prof Derleth, but keeps getting the answering machine. (See, kids, our voicemail used to be recorded on little tapes in these little machines hooked up to the landline telephones. See, kids, there used to be these phones you had to plug into the wall to use . . .) When Alex goes back to the game, we see the Djinn sitting behind Shannon, and he asks to use her phone. She happily hands it over while making “fuck me” eyes at him, because her creep radar is obviously broken. He hits redial and finds out Alex has been trying to call the professor. Keep this in mind for later, because I only just realized something about it that I’m going to point out a couple scenes from now. Alex looks up and sees the Djinn sitting behind her sister, and has some “oh shit” face like she recognizes him, but she has literally never seen him in any form before. Okay. When some basketball players pass in front of her, he’s gone. Because teleportation seems to be par for the course for all supernatural beings in movies.

The Djinn stands in front of an apartment building at night, then we fade to daytime and he’s not there anymore – he’s inside an apartment, walking around fucking with shit. He sits down and holds the broken shards of his opal in one hand, then magically welds the stone back together while claiming the souls of those he’s granted wishes to. He’s also got his monster face back on. I’d love to see Shannon make “fuck me” eyes at him now.

Nathanson calls Alex and manages to tell her that some guy was looking for her before his soul is claimed, which looks like either a seizure or headbanging, the jury’s still out. We see all the people who made a single wish (Nathanson, Bossman Nick, Shopgirl Ariella, Old Homeless Dude, and Blinded Med Student) jerk around and . . . die, I guess? Alex “sees” it, too, and ends up down on the floor screaming in sympathy soul pains.

She hangs the phone up, and it immediately rings. It’s the Djinn, taunting her about how she’s the only one who can end their suffering and set them free. I assume we’re talking about their souls, because I’m pretty sure they’re all pretty fucking dead. She hangs up, and we see the Djinn again, sitting in a room that is now lit so supernaturally red that M. Night Shyamalan is jealous of the danger we’re telegraphing. He’s caressing the gem and urging patience, and uh, I’m not quite sure who he’s talking to. Himself? The souls? The audience? I just want to mention here that the Djinn’s voice is all creepy-deep and evil sounding, and I read somewhere that no voice effects were used; Andrew Divoff got his voice to do that by eating a bunch of jelly beans and getting all phlegmed-up, and uh, I’m not so sure that’s all it was. It deffo sounds like some effects were used. Then again, I can totally do the Gremlins voice naturally, so there’s that.

Side note: so, once again, the Djinn has Alex’s phone number but can’t figure out how to get her address? Mm-hmm, uh-huh, okay.

Alex shows up at Prof. Derleth’s apartment and tells her the stone is charged. Derleth is like, ha ha you expect me to believe this fairytale-sounding bullshit; keeps trying to offer Alex something to drink or eat or to turn the heat up for her; mentions Alex’s boss even though Alex never told her who she works for; then tells her she’s basically fucked because no spells or sorcerers exist in this “rational” age and that if the Djinn existed, he would have a fine old time, wouldn’t he? Then she starts laughing like it’s the funniest thing ever.

Not at all obvious what’s going on here, nope.

Alex explodes on her, asking why she keeps trying to do things for her, then falls into the old social conditioning that requires women to be polite and nice at all costs, apologizing and saying she’s just stressed. Derleth goes on to delight at the thought of Alex pitting her tiny 20th century brain against one who walked the spaces between the worlds and trod angel’s wings under his conquering feet, and if we weren’t convinced by now that Derleth was really the Djinn in disguise, I’d say she’s dripping wet for him.

Alex says she “really must go now,” proving that the dialogue in this movie is directly lifted from “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and starts to head out, only to hear Djinn voice behind her, demanding she sit down. When she turns around, he has Divoff-face rather than Monster-face, so that’s something.

And right here is the thing I wanted you to keep in mind from earlier. The Djinn somehow found Derleth’s apartment simply after seeing her phone number on Shannon’s phone. But he got Alex’s phone number and still couldn’t get her address because . . . ? I’ve never been so annoyed by this before! Analyzing things closely for recapping purposes: ruining my enjoyment of those things since 2017, y’all.

Anyway. We get a flash of Derleth in the bedroom, dead and missing her face. Hey, did Game of Thrones copy this whole face thing? Are we going to find out Arya Stark is running around in here somewhere? The Djinn rehashes the whole “I can’t kill anyone unless they wish it” thing, saying that he showed Derleth his true face and simply asked if she wished to be released from her fear. I guess immersion therapy would have taken too long. Easier just to kill her. Then he asks Alex how her “tasty” little sister is doing and does this tongue thing that I don’t even want to get into. I full-body cringed for the second time in three recaps. I’m sure this unlocks some sort of recapper achievement.

The Djinn puts Monster-face back on and demands Alex make her wishes. She asks what would happen if she wished him dead, and he offers it to her as a free wish. Showing a complete lack of any awareness, Alex tells him to blow his brains out. Alex. Do you really think it’s going to be that easy?! Why not wish he had never existed? Or wish that he had never escaped his gem? Are those wishes too broad? Not specific enough? Or is it that we’ve got almost half an hour left and we have to have you carry the idiot ball around a little longer? Also, gonna point this out again – we have half an hour left in this movie, and this is the first time Alex and the Djinn have come face to face. Mostly because he can’t figure out how a phone book works.

So, obviously blowing his brains out accomplished nothing, but if it’s any consolation, it hurt like hell. Okay? Good, I guess?

Alex says she always tells her girls to know their opponent, so she wishes to know what he is. Oh, cool, no way this could go wrong, is there? Aaaaaaand I just facepalmed my glasses into my eyeballs. Groovy.

Of course, of fucking COURSE this ends up with Alex trapped in the Djinn’s gem (say that five times fast) with him, and all the souls he’s collected in various states of torture while he elucidates about how he’s the shadow in the night, the monster at the end of the book, the toothbrush dropped in the toilet; he is DESPAIR, get it? He’s probably also the reason your high school crush never called you back or something, I dunno.

Then these slimy demon dog things start chasing Alex through these weird organic tunnels filled with fog, while the Djinn tells us “be careful what you wish for.” Cue the whole “I didn’t wish for this,” “then you should word things more carefully” bit. Then Alex has to waste her second wish on getting out of the gem after the Djinn threatens Shannon. But at least he doesn’t do the tongue thing again. One full body cringe per recap is quite enough, thank you.

Alex is alone in her apartment and realizes Shannon is at Beaumont’s party. The phone rings once and the machine picks up (mmm, nope) to the Djinn taunting Alex about how connected they are. Hmm, what sort of stalking laws were in place in 1997? Then Alex picks up the phone and yells “fuck you,” and it always makes me laugh because it’s so sudden and over-the-top. Man, the acting in this is worse than I remembered, good lord.

Cue Alex tearing ass off to Beaumont’s fancy dress party wearing her Casual Friday outfit. Yup, she’ll blend in. Also, she causes at least five wrecks and almost vehicular manslaughters two pedestrians on the way there. Monster-face Djinn breaks her window when she slams on the brakes to avoid killing innocent bystanders, then appears leaning against her car (with Divoff-face) once she parks at Beaumont’s mansion. Seriously, 1997 stalking laws; what were they?

Alex runs up to the door and tells Security Guard Tony Todd, whose character’s name is Johnny Valentine (bask in the awesomeness of that name) that this guy is crazy and dangerous (so we’re not even coding that crazy = dangerous here, we’re just stating it outright? Cool cool cool.) and tried to kill her, then runs into the party while Valentine confronts the Djinn. Wait, so, even though Alex is on the list, Valentine didn’t confirm that before turning his back and letting her run in the door. I’m not sure he’s very good at his job.

He refuses to let the Djinn inside after some semantic argument about whether or not the Djinn is invited (he says he’s expected and wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Beaumont; Valentine’s like cool story bro, but if your name’s not on the list you’re not getting in); snarky insults and threats abound; then the Djinn asks if this is all he wants out of life and wouldn’t he like to escape into a more exciting profession? Valentine’s not having any of his shit at first, but then admits yeah, he’d like to escape. Goddammit, so much for this Wishmaster Vs. Candyman movie.

Valentine ends up in a big glass water tank, shackled and in a straightjacket. The Djinn tells him that Houdini did it in two and a half minutes, and I read somewhere that they just wrote that in the script without caring if it was accurate, then found out later that they were right about the two and a half minutes. Google is giving me a lot of “two minutes and one second” escapes, so I guess we’re gonna go with “close enough” on this one. Anyway, RIP Johnny Valentine, we hardly knew ye.

Cut to inside the fancy party and Alex in her casual gear pushing through the crowd assaulting random blonde women because she thinks they’re Shannon. When she does find Shannon, she refuses to leave because she’s spotted Divoff-face Djinn talking to Beaumont and has her “fuck me” eyes on again. Oh, honey.

The Djinn tells Beaumont that the last party he attended was remembered for centuries, and Beaumont says he would love to throw a party like that. I’d love it if I could stop face-palming my way into a migraine, but apparently we can’t all get what we wish for. Also, what are the rules here? Is the Djinn still walking around handing out single wishes? I thought that was just to charge the stone.

Whatever. Literally everything anyone says at this party starts coming true. A woman tells someone he can see right through her, then she turns to glass and breaks apart, slicing everyone up. Ugh, CGI effects again. Stick to the practical effects; it’s what you’re good at! That . . . wasn’t even a wish, but okay. Piano wire flies out of the piano and decapitates a man (this is director and special FX wiz Robert Kurtzman, FYI), then Beaumont looks back at the Djinn who now has Monster-face on. He says “my God,” the Djinn says “not yet,” and was this fresh dialogue in 1997? Because I don’t think it was, guys.

Alex spots Shannon, but Fire! Screaming! Chaos! get in her way. For some reason a dead dude has tentacles coming out his neck. Okay. The Djinn tries to talk Alex into wishing this all away, and she refuses. She points out that he can’t kill her; he points out that he doesn’t need her dead, he just needs her to wish she was. Then the statues start coming to life. Alex runs into Beaumont, who starts puking up something that looks like a black slimy bloated face-hugger from Alien. I would pay real money if it were actually Snake Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street 3. So, I guess this is the end of Wishmaster Vs. Freddy?

Alex reaches a long hallway full of statues bearing all sorts of mean-looking weapons. Ah, this is Beaumont’s Hall of Warriors. Awesome, this is gonna go well. A security team shows up to help Alex out of the mansion, but the statues kill them all. Partly because they thought bullets could somehow hurt supernaturally animated bronze statues. The last security guard standing gets offed by Jack the Ripper jumping out of a painting. Hahaha what? Did I suddenly start watching From Hell by accident?

Alex comes across the empty plinth where the Ahura Mazda statue was supposed to go, the Djinn comes up on her with a couple of statues flanking him and shows Alex a painting of Shannon trapped with some weird Lovecraftian tentacles trying to get her (100% someone, somewhere, has made a hentai of this), then sets the painting on fire. As you do.

This of course reminds Alex of the fire that killed their parents, because fire can’t just be fire. Everything turns red and the walls start moving, showing the things that want to come through to this world. Alex starts flashing to newspaper articles about the statue’s destruction and, you know, Finney’s smooshing, and her flashback memory is crystal clear, because of stillness. Ah, foreshadowing paying off.

Alex wishes that the dock worker/crane operator, Mickey Torelli, hadn’t been drinking on the job two days ago. Wait, really, has it only been two days? It feels longer. I mean, possibly because I’ve had this recap sitting half-finished in my drafts for over a year, but still. Also, that is a very specific wish. How does she know he wouldn’t have fucked up on the job if he were sober? That was a hell of a gamble. Why not just wish he hadn’t shown up for work that day? Or wish that Beaumont had never bought the statue? Or wish that the statue had never gotten broken? Was this just to trick the Djinn into not knowing what she was really getting at? If you were an evil genie and someone made a wish that seemingly out of left field, would you not be like “wait, what?” So many questions, guys.

Anyway, this shit works, because the Djinn gets all sucked back into the stone while the nightmares recede. Alex asks “Wish you never met me?” and then we’re Groundhog Day-ed back to the beginning of the movie with Beaumont on the dock waiting for the statue delivery. Everything goes smoothly this time, and Ted Raimi gets to survive yelling at the crane operator. Yay, Ted!

Alex is hanging out with Josh at his desk, being all flirty, and asks him out to dinner and a movie. This time he’s the one thinking hotdogs and a ball game, at least until she kisses him and walks out. I’m less excited about Josh’s happy ending. Take that in any way you see fit.

Then we’re zoomed into the Ahura Mazda statue and the Djinn sulking inside it, and roll credits to the least Motorhead-like song Motorhead ever recorded. If you let the credits roll to the end, Djinn-voice again tells you to be careful what you wish for. You know, just in case you somehow missed the theme of the last 90 minutes.

Nostalgia Glasses Off


Look, I have zero perspective on this movie. I’ve always loved it and defended it as a good movie, but examining it closely enough for recapping, I realize it might just be a bad movie that I love. I didn’t think that was the case, but here we are. Oh, well.

Also, I had forgotten until I came back to recap the second half of the movie, but if you take too long in scene selection (trying to figure out what scene I left off at in my recap), the Djinn voice will tell you to make your wish. Like, settle down my dude, I’m getting to it, geez! Then when you select, he tells you “as you wish,” you know, just to really drive the point home.

Also also, most of the “wishes” in this movie really aren’t. “I’d love it if . . .” and “You know what I’d like . . .” aren’t wishes, dammit. Motherfucking disingenuous genies, I tell you what.

Also also also, all the characters were named after various science fiction/fantasy/horror authors (last names, at least), although Finney and Aickman were the only ones I recognized without looking them up.

 

 

One thought on “Recap #41 – Wishmaster (1997)

  1. Pingback: A Celebration of 90’s Horror: The Decade That’s Better Than You Remember – Oh God Why?! Nostalgia Reviews

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