For anyone not familiar: In the Wishmaster films, some unlucky soul inevitably unleashes the centuries-old Djinn who then wreaks havoc and pandemonium on whomever set him free. He usually has some sort of plan to bring the world to an end and the person that gave him his freedom must then work to prevent the end of the world as we know it.
The recently released Wishmaster collection from Vestron Video and LionsGate includes all four films in the series but I don’t have anything nice to say about the third and fourth installments, so I’m going to focus the majority of my attention on the first two. I really dig the first and second films and look at the inclusion of the third and fourth as something of a bonus. But I will touch briefly on parts three and four in a moment.
The first Wishmaster film probably shouldn’t have worked. It’s an outrageous concept from an effects artist turned director, it was made for a modest budget, and none of its leads were particularly big names. But, somehow it does work. And it works very well.
Television actress Tammy Lauren is great as Alex. She’s smart, capable, and resourceful. She brings the character to life in a believable (in light of the subject matter) way. And Andrew Divoff is perfectly cast as The Djinn. His sadistic grin and ability to convincingly depict what can only be described as an insatiable appetite for destruction are unbeatable.
Although director Robert Kurtzman was busy behind the camera, he had his crew at KNB EFX on hand to deliver out-of-this-world FX work. The transformation scene in the lab is still one of my favorite achievements in practical effects to this day. And Reggie Bannister’s death scene is grotesque to the point of being almost nauseating.
One of my other absolute favorite things about Wishmaster is that it plays out like a who’s who of genre film icons: We get to see cameo appearances by Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Reggie Bannister, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Ted Raimi, and Angus Scrimm even lent his vocal talents as the narrator.
The second film feels, in some ways, like a bit of a retread of the first and doesn’t have quite the same charm but it’s still well worth a watch and it serves as a very enjoyable companion piece to its predecessor. In spite of not being as original as its predecessor, Wishmaster 2 still has a lot going for it. It was helmed by one of my favorite underrated horror directors, Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Alone in the Dark 1982). And it also has Andrew Divoff returning as The Djinn. Holly Fields isn’t quite as enjoyable in the lead role as Tammy Lauren in the original but she wasn’t given as much to work with as Lauren was. And Fields turns in a solid performance, nonetheless.
What I will say about the third and fourth films is that they sealed their fate with the recasting of Andrew Divoff. Divoff is The Djinn. And without him, those films did not stand a fighting chance. Both were directed by Chris Angel (No, not the illusionist). And both lack almost all of the elements that made the first two films so enjoyable. The budget of the third and fourth features was noticeably less than that of the first two installments. Parts Three and Four were filmed back-to-back, which made it impossible to get any kind of feedback from the third before jumping into the fourth. With a director like Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) the strategy of shooting back-to-back can be effective but in this case, the approach was more detrimental than anything.
The picture quality of this set is better than I’ve seen from any previous release of the Wishmaster films. It’s not perfect, but it’s a substantial improvement, nonetheless.
This is minor but as a collector, it’s a big deal to me: I really appreciate that the first and second films are presented on their own disc. Those are the main attractions and LionsGate and Vestron really seem to have taken that into account when releasing the set.
The bonus features are robust, as per usual with this recent series of Vestron Video re-releases. In fact, they are too numerous to name in detail. But the highlights include a director’s commentary on all four films (the first and last even have two separate commentary tracks), a host of featurettes, trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and much more.
You can grab your copy of the Wishmaster Blu-ray set starting March 28, 2017.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Robert Kurtzman, Jack Sholder, Chris Angel
Writer(s): Peter Atkins, Jack Sholder, Alex Wright, and John Benjamin Martin
Stars: Andrew Divoff, Tammy Lauren, Holly Fields, Jason Connery, and Tara Spencer-Nairn
Release: March 28, 2017 (Blu-ray)
Studio/ Production Co: Vestron Video, LionsGate