Wishmaster Collection - Wishmaster Blu-ray Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Blu-ray released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Directed by Robert Kurtzman
Written by Peter Atkins
1997, 90 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on March 28th, 2017
Tammy Lauren as Alexandra Amberson
Andrew Divoff as The Djinn / Nathaniel Demerest
Robert Englund as Raymond Beaumont
Chris Lemmon as Nick Merritt
Wendy Benson as Shannon Amberson
Tony Crane as Josh Aickman
Jenny O'Hara as Wendy Derleth
If I were to say to you, before you opened this review, to quickly give me three horror icons off the top of your head, the odds would be heavily in my favor that the Wishmaster would not be on that list. Hell, I'd even go as high as seven before I'd start reconsidering the amount of money to be laying down. It wouldn't surprise me if Blade from Puppet Master or Spike from Gremlins hit that list before the Djinn from Wishmaster. Don't get me wrong, I'm not judging; I'd be just as guilty, and for the life of me I can't figure out why this is. When you consider that the film was not just strong enough to spawn three sequels, has a great villain, and a who's who of horror icons both in front and behind the camera, the evil Djinn simply does not get the love he deserves (at least his first film).
The story of Wishmaster is an evil Djinn (Andrew Divoff, a man who was born for the role) is released from his captivity after an imprisonment of hundreds of years. Now he's on a mission to find the woman, Alexandra (Tammy Lauren), who discovered his existence in order to grant her three wishes. Of course, this guy is a bit of a dick, and once the trio of wishes are fulfilled, the Djinn can unlock the gates of wherever his type is from, allowing his brothers and sisters to take over the world. Hilarity ensues.
As you can imagine, while trying to get to Alexandra, the Djinn grants random wishes along the way and he's very literal, leading to some great death set pieces. These scenes are just unique, but the effects are handled by two of the men behind the amazing KNB EFX, director Robert Kurtzman and Greg "Now Kicking Ass on The Walking Dead" Nicotero (who was also second-unit director here). From the opening scenes you can tell Kurzman, Nicotero and company are there to have fun and you're right there with them for the ride. And even though the effects are now two-decades old and you are watching a beautiful transfer of the film, they hold up quite well.
Actually, the entire movie holds up quite well for one that seems damn near forgotten. I can't remember where I first saw it, but I enjoyed it enough to catch it a few times since (although I never picked it up on home video for some reason). In addition to the still-impressive effects, the acting is solid from the final girl Alexandra to the big bad Djinn and all the sweet cameos in between. (And while there are three of the more popular folks you're going to see mentioned in the credits above, I can think of four more off the top of my head that I didn't mention; just keep your eyes out.) Actress Tammy Lauren is at ease as our heroine with the weight of the world on her shoulders (and Lauren is no slouch, having done a ton of TV work both before and after Wishmaster). Andrew Divoff is equal parts car salesman and sociopath as the guy trying to conquer the world. Ironically, as great as the Djinn suit is, Divoff is far creepier in his human form. And while he might get dangerously close to the line of hammy, he never crosses it, always managing to be unsettling with his quips (think Freddy in Nightmare on Elm Street, parts 1 - 3. Once you hit 4, he's lost his edge.). Oh, speaking of Freddy, did I mention Wes Craven produced Wishmaster? Yeah, there's that too.
All things considered, it's not fair that Wishmaster gets lost in the shuffle of horror films. Sure, it's not as good as the powerhouses like Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it's certainly better than many of the sequels those films produced. If you've never seen Wishmaster, now's the time to fix it, and if you have, it's time to give it another go.
Video and Audio:
As part of the still-new Vestron Video Collector's Series, there's already an expectation of high quality audio and video, and Wishmaster does not disappoint in either aspect here. For a film that was low-budget when it was first released two decades ago, the picture is shockingly free of flaws. Colors pop when necessary, and there isi fine detail you've not noticed before (I literally saw a fleck of silica on one of the rocks in the opening scenes).
The audio too is clean of defects, with dialog never being overtaken by score or effects. I would have liked more of a work out of the surrounds, but that's just getting nitpicky.
- Audio Commentaries:
- Director Robert Kurtzman and screenwriter Peter Atkins
- Director Robert Kurtzman and stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren
- Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with composer Harry Manfredini
- Out of the Bottle - Interviews with Director Robert Kurtzman and Co-Producer David Tripet
- The Magic Words - An Interveiw with Screenwriter Peter Atkins
- The Djinn and Alexandra - Interviews with Stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren
- Captured Visions - An Interview with Director of Photography Jaques Haitkin
- Wish List - Interviews with Actors Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Ted Raimi
- Vintage Featurette: Making of Wishmaster
- Trailers, Spots, Galleries:
- Teaser & Theatrical Trailers
- TV & Radio Spots
- Storyboard & Still Galleries
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation
As you can see, the amount of features to be had here is ridiculous. Of the two commentaries, the one with Kurtzman and writer Peter Atkins is the go to. The two spend more time talking than watching (the trap the second commentary falls into) and Nicotero makes an appearance as well.
Out of the Bottle (21:55) consists of behind-the-scene photos and interviews centering on the beginnings of Wishmaster, from how Kurzman and others got involved and why he was chosen, Wes Craven’s role, how Divoff and Lauren were picked and their contributions, and more.
The Magic Words (13:55) is an interview with screenwriter Peter Atkins. He is a delight and is brutally honest. He pretty much starts the discussion with he had no interest writing a screenplay about an evil genie. I want to drink with this guy.
Stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren are the focus on The Djinn and Alexandra (25:57). They discuss the usual things you’d expect; working with one another, the director, how they approached the roles, and what it was like on set. Pretty standard stuff.
In Capture Visions (12:43) director of photography Jacque Haitkin tells of his experiences shooting Wishmaster.
Wish List (12:04) focuses on the great cameos in the film.
The behind-the-scenes piece Wicked Wishes: Making the Wishmaster (24:43) is a vintage piece from when the movie was made. It's a mixture of interviews interspersed with scenes from the film.
I dig the Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation (11:58) piece because it’s true to its title. It’s nothing more than someone running around with a video camera catch the filming of the movie. There’s a little dialog here and there, but overall it’s a short fly-on-the-wall piece.
Also offered are a teaser, trailer, radio spots, vintage EPK (5:39), storyboard and still gallery.