I Wish This Movie Hadn’t Been So Mediocre

Main Cast: Tammy Lauren and Andrew Divoff

Director: Robert Kurtzman

There are several things about the 1997 movie Wishmaster that surprised me. First I’m surprised it was only 1997. For a long time, before actually seeing the movie, I thought it was from the 80s (I believe I was confusing it with 1989’s Warlock). The second, I’m surprised it not only had a theatrical release, but that it performed really well. Well, it performed well enough to earn a sequel, which eventually turned into four movies in the Wishmaster series. And finally, I’m surprised it was directed by Robert Kurtzman. If told Kurtzman, as the K in K.N.B. EFX, was doing the makeup effects for the movie, that wouldn’t have surprised me–K.N.B. are practically the gold standard in makeup effects, and their work in this movie is superb–but it’s sort of like when I see Greg Nicotero’s name as Executive Producer or Director of an episode of “The Walking Dead”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just always surprises me. But in a good way. Bravo for them.

As for the movie itself, let’s be honest. It’s not good. I mean, it’s not bad. I’ve seen much much worse, obviously, but there’s almost nothing about this movie that doesn’t scream cheese with every frame. Which is another thing that makes me think this one would have been a better 80s movie than a late 90s one. Or maybe even an early 90s one. This could have been released on a double bill with the first Leprechaun movie and seemed right at home.

The story (written by Peter Atkins, Hellraiser II, III and IV) involves a djinn who, in “present day” LA, is released from his prison–a fire opal hidden inside a damaged sculpture–who then sets about tracking down the woman who freed him. Because if he can make her take advantage of the three wishes he’s granting, then upon speaking her third wish, a gateway will open between our world and the world of the djinn, releasing them to cross over and rule the world.

Our heroine Alexandra, however, now has some sort of psychic link to the djinn, and she gets flashes of what he’s doing to people around town as he tracks her. He gives a pharmacist cancer at the behest of a homeless man, he traps a vain cashier inside a mannequin so she’ll be beautiful forever, and he causes a criminal to go on a killing spree inside the police station just so one of the cops will finally have the proof to put the man away. And, seeing the terrible things the djinn is doing, Alexandra learns all she can about her foe in order to beat him.

But, as the djinn tells her when they finally meet up, he can’t force her to make a third wish, just as he can’t kill her–but he can make her wish she were dead.

Tammy Lauren (Home Improvement) plays Alexandra, and she does a pretty decent Sarah Connor impersonation with her role here–minus the ripped physique and guns. Then again that could be because Tammy Lauren bears a small resemblance to Linda Hamilton–at least I think so. Either way, Alexandra is a strong, competent character who has neither the time nor the desire to deal with bullshit from anyone. She’s definitely a no-drama type, who is suddenly thrust into the middle of this incredibly dramatic situation and then, by the strength of her own will and wits, has to find a way out of it.

That’s one thing I liked about this character; she didn’t feel the need to get help from anyone in dealing with the djinn, almost as if the very idea of asking for any kind of help from anyone would have been a foreign concept. And Tammy Lauren plays that part well.

Andrew Divoff (The Hunt for Red October, Air Force One) plays the djinn, but not nearly as well as Lauren played Alexandra. Sure, he’s menacing and evil, but he’s also overdoing it throughout most of the movie. Maybe it’s Divoff’s long history of playing the heavy and he’s coasting along on autopilot here, but I think in this case a little restraint could have a long way.

The rest of the cast is mostly made up of horror royalty, and it’s a great time playing Where’s Waldo while watching it. Robert Englund is Beaumont, the art collector who buys the statue inside which the opal was hidden. Ted Raimi plays Englund’s assistant. Howard Berger (the B in K.N.B.) plays a security guard and Tony Todd is the doorman at Beaumont’s party. Whether intentional of not, John Byner plays a pawnshop owner named Doug Clegg (Douglass Clegg is a relatively well-known horror author) and Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm also both have minor roles as the pharmacist and narrator respectively.

Like I said, Wishmaster isn’t a good movie, but it’s not really bad, either. It is what it is. If this had been the only one ever made, I would have quickly forgotten it after the credits rolled. But I can’t say I regret watching it. It certainly wasn’t a waste of 89 minutes. Wishmaster was good clean fun in a horror movie way. The effects were killer, the main character was worth rooting for, and the puzzle presented by the villain just hard enough to solve that, when Alexandra finally figured out how to beat him, I was surprised that the answer didn’t feel like a big cheat but instead felt like an ah-ha moment. Of course, why didn’t I think of that?!?

Now, I won’t suggest everyone run to their Netflix page and call it up, however if you DO think about watching Wishmaster, I wouldn’t try to dissuade you, either. That’s about all I can offer.

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