“As You Wish:” Looking Back At Robert Kurtzman’s ‘Wishmaster’ (1997)

As of September 19, 2022, Robert Kurtzman’s (The Walking Dead franchise) second directorial project, Wishmaster, is 25 years young. Starring Andrew Divoff (our interview) and Tammy Lauren, the film is about a young jewel appraiser (Lauren) who is given a stolen jewel to look over, one that happens to have Divoff’s Djinn attached to it. He’s desperate to grant her 3 wishes so he can be free to release his Djinn brethren upon the world and unleash hell on earth… Needless to say, a lot of messed up wishes get granted along the way.

So, with a bevy of horror options being everywhere on streaming anymore, why should you check out Wishmaster? Today, I hope to give you at least a few reasons.

1. It’s A KNB EFX Spectacle

Founded by director Robert Kurtzman alongside Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, KNB EFX is a major FX studio in Hollywood, especially in horror and science fiction/fantasy. Being 25 years old, some effects, particularly those that were CG, may not particularly hold up, but the large majority of the practical FX work is grisly fun. Obvious gore warning, but check out the opening scene below to see what I mean:

This and the finale may be the largest set pieces, but they are not the only bits of gruesome practical FX. There’s plenty left unseen for those that love to watch for FX work! A big standout is the design of the Djinn himself, who feels like a nightmarish version of Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z. Which is ironic as it seems that the box office bomb, Dragonball Evolution, likely stole from the Djinn’s design to adapt (a loose version of) the character.

2. It’s Absolutely Loaded With Horror Legends

Top Row Left to Right: Andrew Divoff, Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Ted Raimi Bottom Row: Reggie Bannister, Joe Pilato, Angus Scrimm, Buck Flower

Speaking of that opening scene, longtime horror fans probably recognized that Narrator. If you didn’t, it was Angus Scrimm, often known as the Tall Man from Phantasm. While his cameo is voice only, his is definitely not the only one in the film. There are cameos from Tony Todd (Candyman), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees), Ted Raimi (Henrietta from Evil Dead), Reggie Bannister (Reggie from Phantasm), Joe Pilato (Rhodes from Day of the Dead), FX Guru Tom Savini (Sex Pistol from From Dusk Til Dawn), Buck Flower (Red the Bum from the Back to the Future franchise) and more, including Austin Powers’ Verne Troyer as the first form of the Djinn!

3. It’s Secretly A Sports Movie?

This is mostly a joke, but not from a lack of the movie trying. The protagonist, Alex (Tammy Lauren), has a minor subplot as a girls volleyball coach. The film tries to tie in the advice she gives her team, but it’s mostly pretty common sense. “Center yourself and focus” and “know your enemy” are the big ones, and while the latter gives her—and us as the audience—some insight into the Djinn himself, they ultimately only tie in loosely and just add a silly charm to the film.

4. Djinn Are Making A Comeback

Recently, it seems like Djinn in film are making a comeback. From 2021’s The Djinn (review here) to this year’s Three Thousand Years of Longing by George Miller, Djinn are coming back into the public consciousness. Some are good, and some are evil, but if you’re interested in the subject, you should check out the one that first made sure to announce itself as “not the Robin Williams’ kind of Djinn.” Wishmaster retains a decent bit of its mythological history and keeps the original Middle Eastern mythos around the entities. No bottles, no genies, and not your friend, this Djinn is otherworldly and terrifying.

On that note:

5. Andrew Divoff, The Djinn, and Nathaniel Demarest

Andrew Divoff shows off his Wishmaster ring

Ultimately, I could have made this article just on this subject alone if I wanted to. The design of the Djinn is unlike any other screen genie/djinn and helps sell his otherworldliness. Andrew Divoff is giving the role his all in both forms, both as the heavily made up Djinn as well as his travelling face, Nathaniel Demarest. As the Djinn, he puts on a voice that I can only describe as a combination of a buzz and a growl, and it sells this animalistic, not quite human element of the character. Some of the deepness of his voice comes straight from Divoff himself as can be heard when he’s in his human form of Demarest.

Unlike other onscreen genies, the Djinn gains strength by granting wishes, but he has little interest in following them to the letter. Divoff’s performance gives a strong impression that since the Djinn has no choice but to grant wishes, he’s going to intentionally become the worst rules lawyer you’ve ever met. He will make sure that yes, your wish is granted, but in the most uncomfortable, painful way that will make you regret you ever had any desires… and he’ll smile while doing it. Nearly every single wish granted is its own Tales from the Crypt-style ironic fate, a la Monkey’s Paw.

6. It’s Streaming Free and Legally!

Finally, if you needed one last incentive to check out this fun, underappreciated filmatic icon, it’s streaming free and legally in multiple locations. I re-watched Wishmaster on Tubi, but it is also streaming free (with occasional ads) on Vudu, PlutoTV, and FreeVee! It’s a clean and short 90 minutes and not perfect by any means, but it is some gruesome fun around wishing that I am glad to return to every now and again.

About Chris Filipowicz

Born in small town Montana, Chris is a writer, artist, raccoon rehabilitator, and general supporter of disability rights and awareness. He loves film, especially horror, sci-fi, and animation; and has read comics since he was a child.

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