I first saw Wishmaster at a midnight screening at the London Trocadero in summer 1998. I had been awake for nearly 24 hours but needed to kill some time. I was only 17, not old enough to get into the 18-rated movie, and it scared the hell out of me.
As we get older, fewer and fewer movies have the ability to scare us as we all get more savvy and jaded to the formulaic nature of most horror films. I don't know what it was about Wishmaster that spooked me so bad, but I've been a fan of the film ever since.
On a technical level, Wishmaster suffers from shoddy production design and direction that is barely above that of a cheap daytime soap opera. The acting is mostly appalling (with the exception of Andrew Divoff, who ravages the role of the Djinn/Demerest), and some of the dialogue is clunky. But, as a whole, the movie excels on pure energy alone. I mean, not only do you have more in-jokes than you can possibly count but even Jack the Ripper himself turns up before Lemmy sings hard rock over the closing credits.
There's so much potential, imagination, and over-the-top carnage that the film just whizzes by. A lot of the potential isn't taken full advantage of (the 90 minute runtime keeps things to the bare minimum) but it sets up enough mythology to justify three sequels, the first sequel being the only decent one, however.
The plot focuses on the Djinn, that's Wishmaster to you, and his efforts to take over the world. As you can see...it's pure hokum but it's the gory bits in between and the Djinn's wisecracking that make this movie worth the money. The Djinn will never be as infamous or as iconic as Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers etc, but that's not to say that he's not an utterly brilliant character. Divoff is absolutely perfect in the role. Even if all he did was real aloud from phone book he'd be mesmerizing.
If you like gore, ghoulish make-up effects, and don't mind horror humor that feels like it was conjured up by a bunch of drunken frat boys, then you'll find plenty to like about Wishmaster.
The franchise is as low-profile as it can be, but it hit its height with Wishmaster 2, which improves upon the original in terms of story, but is restricted by a lower budget.
That doesn't stop director Jack Sholder from going completely over-the-top with the gore effects or pushing the series more and more away from horror and into black comedy. Once again, Andrew Divoff is absolutely brilliant as the wisecracking Djinn/Nathaniel Demerest. Words fail to describe how funny and clever he is. He completely owns the movie despite the hotness of Holly Fields as the lead character, a thief who accidentally frees the Djinn from the fire opal.
The series descended into straight-to-DVD trash after this (which Divoff wisely passed on), but don't misjudge Wishmaster 2, it's surprisingly good and more intelligent than you'd expect.
The DVD is old and murky. Lionsgate really ought to issue a Blu Ray double feature.