Friday, August 12, 2016

Wishmaster: 19 Years Later

by Adam Riske
I used to be a Wish kid. Now I’m a Wishmaster General.

I normally wait for a 20 year anniversary to celebrate a movie with its own column, but this past weekend was such a Wishmaster love fest I couldn’t wait until next year to give props to this classic horror movie (maybe just in my own mind) from 1997. Here are 15 reasons I love Wishmaster.

Please note: This column is “for the fans.” If you haven’t seen Wishmaster yet, go watch it right now. If you have and don’t like it, you and I can never be soulmates.

1. The design of the Djinn, aka the Wishmaster (and all of the gore and special effects for that matter), are really imaginative and fun and an example of the tremendous practical creature effects work of KNB from the mid-'90s when creatures and gore effects in horror movies were king. You can tell this movie was a real labor of love for the company.
2. Andrew Divoff’s (nicest guy ever) performance as the Djinn is a blast to watch. He’s a character actor who has made a career out of playing henchmen and villains, but with Wishmaster he was given the opportunity to show off a lot of personality as the titular suave trickster (never thought I would type those three words together). From my recent visit to the Flashback Weekend convention, you could just tell that this role means the world to Mr. Divoff (he makes Djinn rings and Djinn beer for crying out loud) and that makes me really happy for him in a sincere way.

3. The theatrical one-sheet for Wishmaster is stop-you-in-your-tracks amazing. I remember staring at it for several minutes the first time I saw it (after seeing Spawn…yeesh) and being out of my mind excited for the movie. I saw it opening night and was not disappointed in the slightest. I’ll never forget the dude in my theater who yelled out “GORE!” excitedly during the crazy, amazing opening sequence where the Djinn unleashes his powers upon ancient Persia.

4. The opening credits are the best, from the font to the long pan of an opal being made. I always nerd out when I see shots of things being forged in powders, mixed in liquids, lava poured over coals and all that shit.

5. The score by Harry Manfredini is great. I love how he replays the Dun-DUN! Dun-DUN! again and again at the end of the opening credits. It’s like three times too many.

6. The opening text explaining the set-up for the film is wonderful. “Fear one thing only in all that is…Fear the Djinn!” It’s narrated by Angus Scrimm of the Phantasm series.
7. I love that the cast is littered with horror icons like Reggie Bannister, Robert Englund (a snobby and sleazy delight), Kane Hodder, Ted Raimi and Tony Todd just to name a few.

8. Everything about Regal Auctioneers, from its offices to its employees (especially the manager, Nick, and his V-neck green sweater). It’s the best. It feels so porno in a charming way.

9. Tammy Lauren’s every line delivery. She’s a Dollar Tree Meg Ryan and I love her.

10. This exchange used to establish Tammy Lauren’s character’s status with her bestie Josh: “How ‘bout dinner and a movie?” “How ‘bout hot dogs and a ball game?”

11. The corny as hell jump scares.

12. Every scene with Tammy Lauren’s children’s basketball coaching is gold. “It’s all about stillness.” “See it. Find it. Shoot the ball.” Then #44, later in the movie, makes a basket and is like “Stillness Ms. Amberson. That’s how I did it. Stillness, just like you said.” It’s also great that this is how Tammy Lauren defeats the Djinn – stillness, people.

13. Tammy Lauren’s screaming/freaking out face.
14. Jenny O’Hara’s character as the woman from the Folklore department who explains the backstory of the Djinn. She sounds (and sort of looks like) Dustin Hoffman. It’s always fascinated me.

15. The late ‘90s rock songs are the bomb. I love when horror movies include 20 seconds of generic sounding rock music to transition at the beginning of a scene.

Wishmaster is so perfect that I haven’t even watched any of the sequels for fear that they will tarnish the original. That puts it in the same pantheon of Saturday Night Fever and 2001: A Space Odyssey. #ThatWhichIsEternalCannotDie

Questions for you all:

1) Do you like Wishmaster?

2) What “embarrassing” horror movie do you secretly adore and maybe are too afraid to tell anyone? Tell me quickly – while you still have a soul!

31 comments:

  1. I definitely like Wishmaster and hell I would even say there is some fun to be had from Wishmaster 2 (Its like Poltergeist 2 to Poltergeist 1 quality level wise, stay away from Wishmaster 3 and 4 No Divoff to be found).

    My own embarrassing horror movie I like is probably The People Under the Stairs, the acting is way over the top but by god I can't tell you how many times I have been in traffic in Orlando and screamed "May they burn in hell, forever and ever in hell"

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    1. There is nothing to be embarrassed about linking PUTHS, that movie is great!

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    2. Seconded. The People Under the Stairs is better than even Wishmaster :-)

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    3. I need to reevaluate People Under the Stairs. After some more thinking I think I might go with the body hopping Horace Pinker serial killer movie Shocker, the one where he is jumping from TV to TV Stay Tuned style. I don't think I am gonna get as many defenders on that one

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    4. Nothing embarrassing about films directed by Wes Craven. He's arguably the greatest Horror film director of all time.

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  2. I love Wishmaster and my guilty pleasure is Leperchaun 2 which I'm probably the only one who thinks this but I enjoy it more then the first one

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  3. Great article, Adam. I, too, am an unapologetic Wishmaster fan. That opening scene is really terrific.

    If I remember correctly, the Wishmaster sequels are all pretty awful, although fun in their own ways. I love that he spends the entirety of the second movie in prison ... and that he grants a dude's wish for his lawyer to "fuck himself." And some people have the nerve to think there's no artistry in genre fare.

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  4. This is, without question, the best 19 year retrospective I've ever read.

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  5. So many typos above, sorry, more than usual, which is a lot

    I'm gonna throw myself under the bus, not really horror but a monster movie!
    I really really liked Godzilla when it came out, it was my first actual Dvd, in my defence I had not seen any Original Godzilla films then, sorry JB, so I watched it as a monster movie and I really loved it, I know its not good but I like it, Sorry

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  6. Wishmaster was one of my first two horror movies along with the exorcist. I liked wishmaster better then...and still do. It granted all my wishes for thrills and chills.

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  7. 1. Yes, and "Dollar Tree Meg Ryan" is the best thing you've ever written.

    2. I still go to bat for Silent Hill. I know it's relatively new and not quite the same kind of horror you're looking at here, but I think I like it for the same reasons you like Wishmaster (effects, character stuff, etc). It captures the tone of the games while still doing its own thing, and it's nowhere near as lazy or cynical as a lot of video game movies end up being.

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    1. That's it! You and I are teaming up for a Silent Hill retrospective column during October. It's a good movie!

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  8. It has been ages since I've seen Wishmaster. I've also seen the first two sequels I think, plus I might conflate bits of the Leprechaun series in with my memories with the Wishmaster movies since the both heavily involve wishes. I'll try to rewatch it soon.

    Also, is there embarrassing horror anymore? As you guys have mentioned on the podcast just about everything gets reevaluated eventually. At one point I would have said Halloween III, but I don't think it's that uncommon to like it anymore. I kinda like the Howling III I guess despite understanding that it isn't a good movie. I find Return of the Living Dead 2 and 3 both to be watchable. Liking the Evil Dead remake still seems to be a bit controversial I guess.

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    1. I like the Evil Dead remake! But I didn't really the first time I saw it.

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    2. The Evil Dead remake was the most adrenaline pumped theater experience I've ever had. That movie rocks!

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    3. If I remember the podcast between JB, Adam and yourself the consensus was the movie was terrible. The word hate was actually thrown around a lot (not from yourself), however you were very close. Also, remember you all severely bashing Mr. Fede Alvarez. I think the words were why does this remake need to exist…something to the tune of he makes lame internet videos and doesn’t understand what movie he’s making/doesn’t make it his own or deviate from the original far enough to make it worthwhile. I truly am not trying to be a dick. I have these turnarounds as well. This seems like a good opportunity to understand why such a huge turnaround in a horror movie can occur with whom I considered my favorite critic/movie podcaster. Maybe can explain???

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    4. Not sure if you wanted me to chime in or just Patrick so just ignore this if you weren't asking me. I don't like the Evil Dead remake nowadays a lot but just enough. The bashing on the show that I did (particularly around Fede Alvarez) was juvenile and early in my time on the site. I would have approached it differently if it were present day me.

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    5. Mr. Riske always interested in your thoughts. In fairness, the whole of the site should be grouped in as my favorite critics/movie podcasters of which you are a huge presence. Anyhow, so it sounds like you’ve warmed slightly to the movie. What do you see differently now? I’ve always been able to detach it from the previous movies and just revel in the over the top nature/spectacle of horror presented. Clearly this is not a movie for everyone.

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    6. I don't know if I see a lot differently but I do remember doing that podcast right after seeing the movie and with more time to think about it I appreciate what it does well more than want to pick on what it doesn't

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    7. HAHA! Seems like your stance on this movie still hold's (how full/empty is the glass?). I respect that.

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    8. Guess I'm done beating around the bush. Is the new found love/like of the Evil Dead remake related to the Shock Waves interview??? Fede did seem like a great guy. What say you?

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    9. Nope. I'd say my slow turnaround came before that interview. My feelings about the Evil Dead remake are a lot like my feelings toward Ash vs Evil Dead which is that it's fine but I need more familiarity with it in order to enjoy it as much as Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness.

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    10. Very cool. Hopefully Don’t Breathe is more in your wheelhouse. It takes one hell of a horror movie to sit on the same level as Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness.

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    11. I got a chance to see Don't Breathe last week. I loved it!

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    12. I'm sure it can't be easy to talk about a movie on a podcast right after seeing it and trying to sort through your feelings while also trying to be entertaining. It's probably even harder when the movie you just watched is a remake, where no matter how much you want to take it as its own thing there's a bit of baggage you bring into the movie with you.

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  9. Just watched it on Am Prime. So good, so fun. I remember seeing this at the video store as a kid but never watching it. It delivered. I love when the stone snakes come flying out at the party and go in that dudes face. Damn, this is so unexpectedly gory.

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  10. Give the second a shot. Andrew Divoff is still in it (he was replaced starting with the third and it shows) and it was directed by Jack Sholder. I love the first and like like the second.

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    1. I will. I'm going to make Bromley double feature them with me.

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