Wishmaster Collection – Blu-ray review
By Brian M. Sammons
Director: Robert Kurtzman
Stars: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, Robert Englund
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies
Director: Jack Sholder
Stars: Andrew Divoff, Holly Fields, Chris Weber
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell
Director: Chris Angel
Stars: Jason Connery, A.J. Cook, John Novak
Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled
Director: Chris Angel
Stars: Tara Spencer-Nairn, Michael Trucco, John Novak
Lionsgate’s new Vestron Video Collector’s Series is rapidly turning into one of my favorite Blu-ray companies by rapidly releasing a bunch of quirky mainstays from the glorious days of VHS. Their latest offering spans the end of the 90s to the start of the aughts and is a four-pack of the Wishmaster series. Two of these came to theaters, and two went directly to video, so is this new set a wish come true, or a pack best passed on? Well grab your baggy pants, your favorite bronze lamp, and let’s find out.
The first film came out in 1997 and was directed by make-up special effects master Robert Kurtzman, the K in the glorious KNB effects company, well that is before he left them to do his own thing. So right away you know the effects will be practical and badass and that’s a good place to start with me. Here Robert Englund is an antique collector bringing in some ancient statues, when there is an accident, one of the statues breaks, and a big red gem falls out. Inside this gem is a genie, but he’s sure no Barbara Eden. Oh, and if you get that you are officially old, like me. Eventually the stone falls into the hands of an appraiser named Alex, who inadvertently releases the trapped djinn. The good news is that the spooky specter wants to give her three wishes. The bad news is that after that, the genie is free to destroy the world. Naturally Alex likes the world as it is, more or less, so she refuses the djinn’s advances, so he then starts to play hardball and tries to force her to make her wishes, but doing horrible and wonderfully creative bad things to everyone around Alex.
The strength of Wishmaster is watching Andrew Divoff as the evil genie ham it up and play all sorts of word and mind games with people. It’s the saw you’re heard a hundred times; “be careful what you wish for,” only taken to an extreme. This djinn has unimaginable power to warp reality to his will, but he can only do it when granting someone’s wish, so he always finds loopholes to twist those wishes against those that made them. Now sometime what constitutes a “wish” can be pretty weak. One time someone sees the Wishmaster doing something gross and freaks out. The genie says “Do I take it you wish not to see this?” The guy nods, so *poof* suddenly he doesn’t have any eyes. Someone else tells the djinn, when it is disguised as a human, “I’d love to see you go through me” so *poof* the guy is turned to glass and the genie walks right through him, shattering him in the process. So yeah, the kills here are corny as all hell, but they’re also a lot of fun and quite clever, most of the time. Things are certainly fun enough to keep you going for the length of the 90-minute movie.
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies came out in 1999, and was directed by Jack Sholder, of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, The Hidden, and Alone in the Dark (the 1982 movie) fame. Or infamy, depending on how you feel about those movies. Andrew Divoff reprises his role at the titular granter of wishes, and the whole thing is pretty much more of what you got from the first movie. More wordplay uses to bend the intended purpose of a wish against the one making it and more creative deaths. The whole thing is a worthy sequel, but it doesn’t hit the same heights as the original. Workmanlike is probably the best way to describe it.
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell and Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled were made back to back in rapid succession by the same director, Chris Angel. Both went directly to video in 2001 and 2002, and both had a new actor step into the role of the genie, John Novak. Mr. Angel wasn’t a prolific director before these movies, and followed them up with a couple of shorts and a Tom Arnold flick. John Novak, while okay here, is nowhere near as devilishly charming as Andrew Divoff as our wicked genie. The third movie takes place at a college, so there are shades of an 80s campus slasher here and there to add a little something different to the same old “I will make you wish three times so I can destroy the world,” and the fourth movie is sort of a romantic comedy with the djinn as the male lead. No, really. Both of these movies are watchable, but not memorable, and don’t warrant any repeat viewings. It’s easy to see why these quick cash-ins ended the series.
On to the extras and goodies that Lionsgate put on this new Vestron release. For the original movie there is an audio commentary track with director Robert Kurtzman and screenwriter Peter Atkins. Then Kurtzman comes back for another commentary with stars Tammy Lauren and Andrew Divoff. There is an isolated score and an audio interview with composer Harry Manfredini. Then there comes tons, and I mean tons of interviews with just about everyone imaginable who had a hand in this movie. All together they total 87 minutes. There is a teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, TV spots, radio spots, a vintage making-of featurette, a vintage marketing package, a behind-the-scenes footage compilation, storyboard gallery, and a still gallery. Whew, and all that was just for the first movie.
For the three follow ups, things are not as grandiose, but there are still some goodies worth talking about. For Wishmaster 2, there is an audio commentary with writer/director Jack Sholder, a trailer, and a still gallery. Wishmaster 3 has a commentary with director Chris Angel and actors Jason Connery, John Novak, and Louisette Geiss. There is a shier, almost six-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and a trailer. Wishmaster 4 has a commentary with director Angel and actors Michael Trucco and Jason Thompson. And then, surprise, surprise, there is actually a second commentary track here, again with Angel and actor John Novak. There is a bit of silliness called “Wishmasterpiece Theater” that runs seven minutes and it’s a collection of some behind-the-scenes bits. Then, of course, there is the trailer. So the sequels don’t get anywhere near the love that the original does, but they’re not exactly bare bones, either.
The Wishmaster movies are an uneven lot. The first one is silly but a whole lot of fun. The second is more of the same, but with a bit of a “been there, seen that already” vibe to it. Parts three and four are easily the weakest, have a tangible low-budget feel to them, and a “Fake Shemp” of a djinn that is a pale shadow to Andrew Divoff’s performance. No, the last two movies aren’t altogether bad, they just sort of feel tired and worn very thin. However, if you are a fan of the original, or any of these big bad genie flicks, this four pack is well worth a get. The movies look great all shined up in HD and at least the original comes packed with a ton of extras, with another gaggle of goodies sprinkled among the three films that follow. They’re not great cinema, and for horror films, they’re not even a little bit scary, but they are a whole lot of fun. If you are a fan of goofy, gory fun, consider these recommended.