Robert Kurtzman’s “Wishmaster” owes a lot to Clive Barker. While the entire film feels like Clive Barker lite material, everything right down to the premise feels like someone was really admirer of the artist. The premise is right out of “Hellraiser,” while our villain, the djinn, feels like Pinhead, with the design of one of Barker’s Nightbreed from Midian. Kurtzman even includes appearances by a slew of horror heavyweights like Kane Hodder and Robert Englund for good measure. “Wishmaster” is one of the more unremarkable horror fantasies to enter the genre in the nineties.
In a decade bereft of a lot of fun and silly horror movies, it came off like a bit of a jolt that the horror fandom needed. Director Kurtzman doesn’t just include a ton of great special effects by Gregory Nicotero, but he flaunts a ton of interesting walk on roles from horror regulars like Angus Scrimm, Tony Todd, Reggie Bannister, and the like, all of whom become interesting canon fodder for the Djinn. After the evil wish granting Djinn was locked in a gem centuries ago, he’s accidentally unearthed when a worker accidentally drops a priceless statue bearing the gem that imprisons the monster. With the stolen gem circulating around, the djinn takes advantage of a violent accident, allowing his fellow djinn to roam free once again in our civilization.
Bearing an unusual psychic connection with a gemologist named Alexandra, she begins scrambling to find out how to stop the Djinn. Meanwhile the monster is on a mission to collect the souls necessary to open up a portal to allow his fellow demons to enter Earth. In spite of Andrew Divoff’s fun performance, the Djinn is just never an interesting enough monster to warrant a whole movie to him. Granted, he does symbolize a lot of the darker aspects of humanity, but the movie and script never turns him in to an enticing being. Instead the script reserves a lot of his screen time to goofy puns and sight gags that are humorous but never fully exploit the perverse seductive nature the Djinn can possess.
It’s tough to fear a monster that can be beaten by simply applying logic and proper wording in a sentence or phrase, after all. A lot of “Wishmaster” turns the Djinn in to a prankster more than a seller of wishes (“Needful Things” explored this concept so much better), turning a woman in to a mannequin when she wishes for eternal beauty, or trapping a security guard in a tank of water when he wishes for an “escape.” “Wishmaster” is an otherwise solid genre diversion, that isn’t so much spooky as it is a dark fantasy. It’s heavy on camp, light on scares, and pretty much dashes all of Djinn’s appeal mid-way.