Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wishmaster (1997)

For the month of March, in all its Irish pride and love of all things green, I will be looking at a horror series based around a mythological creature. It’s a strange, campy world where ridiculous things happen and people with elaborate makeup try to scare the shit out of you.

That’s right, it’s Wishmaster.

Director: Robert Kurtzman
Starring: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff

Part of the quirky 90s days of horror where movies like this could get three sequels somehow, Wishmaster is a gem of hilarity. Campy lines, ridiculous death scenes and lots of over the top scenes – that’s the bread and butter that makes up this sandwich of insanity. If you’re not ready to dive into this movie, just wish it – and it will be so.

We start off with a party in ancient Egyptian times. Someone says they’re bored and wish the party would get exciting, so a magical genie decides to fuck up the entire party by making everything go insane. We have bloody skeletons popping out of their bodies:

People ripping off Alien:

And people turning into whatever the hell this is:

It’s just a mess. I mean, who invited a genie to the party anyway? I have to say this re-imagining of Aladdin isn’t what I expected.

We then switch to the most logical thing ever after all that blood, violence and mayhem: a guy and girl arguing over him being friendzoned. Apparently the girl, Alex, just broke up with her boyfriend, and the guy, Josh, is trying to get in on the rebound.

"Will you go out with me? Will you go out with me? Will you go out with me?"

Jesus. Next I bet he’ll go online and start a blog about how all women only like jerks because this one doesn’t mistake his obvious pussyfooted sleaze-ball attempts as anything actually worthy of romance, because you know, the best way to get to any girl’s heart is by being her friend but begging like a pussy to be something else all the time. But I digress.

If you can believe it, Alex works at an auction house selling off valuable antique gemstones and stuff and Josh works as a scientist who studies gemstones. How convenient! We know this because of a freak accident where this screamy shouty guy gets crushed by a box containing an ancient statue, and a red gemstone falls out. Somehow Alex gets a hold of it. But little does she know that it's actually the gemstone that holds the evil Djinn inside!

Oh, and before I go on with the rest of the review – yes, Robert Englund is in this. Apparently still trying to prove he has a career outside of Freddy Krueger. Okay, okay, that’s a bit cruel. I mean, it’s not his fault the film is so desperate for street cred it actually fit Jason Voorhees (well, one of the actors that played him, anyway) and the Candyman in here later on, too. But I’ll get to that when it comes.

At least he doesn't start doing terrible puns along with the genie in this.

Meanwhile, Josh looks at the gemstone and discovers that red gemstones sometimes have explosive properties:

"That's the last time I mix gasoline with fire ... worst science fair experiment ever!"

And can also spawn horrifying demonic skeleton babies that look like Frank from Hellraiser crossed with Freddy Krueger and mixed with just a splice of DNA from the first Alien movie. Well, I wouldn’t have expected such a thing, but apparently that’s just the way genies work. The movie is the expert, after all.

Can you tell this director is most famous for makeup effects? He actually did work on movies like Army of Darkness and From Dusk Til Dawn.

So the genie kills him, and that somehow makes him strong enough to become full-sized again. I’d say this was a huge rip-off of Hellraiser if it wasn’t actually a lot better than Hellraiser ever got. The genie escapes, but the cops get there in true lay-z-boy donut-eating movie-cop fashion, too late. They find Josh’s body right before Alex comes running over and sees her friend dead. She comes running up, hysterically calling Josh’s name, when one of the cops stops her. His brilliant deductive work leads him to ask the following question: “I take it you knew this Josh?”

"I WAS JUST SHOUTING HIS NAME AT RANDOM! I like running around crying and screaming peoples' names around murder scenes! It's just how I get my kicks."

Yes, because a woman who comes running and screaming a dead person’s name at a murder scene might know the victim! Did this guy get hired by mistake? I’d look into that as soon as possible.

Then we get adventures with a homeless man. He gets into an argument with a shop manager or something about being a bum and paying taxes. The homeless man’s wording is exactly what you’d expect from a homeless guy insulting someone: “Piss conflected afterbirth of a Chinese gangbanger!”

This guy would make a good Internet reviewer. Give him his own blog!

Yeah, isn’t that what you’d expect a homeless guy to say? Oh well. He comes across the genie and says he hopes that guy in the store gets cancer and dies. So then the genie tells him to go look in the store, and he does. What he sees is probably the same thing that happened to the producers of the movie when they realized this wasn’t going to be the next classic horror series, and instead just a punchline to a joke that nobody was telling.

Also, it’s amazing that this spontaneous accelerated cancer death isn’t looked into or investigated. But then again, with police in this world who can’t tell someone knows a murder victim when she’s calling his name and crying, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

We then get some med student stumbling across the genie while he’s trying to steal a body so he can look normal. The genie asks the kid if he “doesn’t wish to see anything else,” and the kid nods his head. So what does the genie do? He … sews the kid’s eyes shut.

Well that's one way to avoid seeing the movie you picked to be in.

Okay, seriously, that kid didn’t even fuckin’ say anything; he just nodded his head! How does that count as a wish? This genie is a big old cheater!

On second thought this is all too exciting for me. What’s going on with Alex? Well apparently she’s hangin’ out with her sister, crying over Josh because it was her fault he died. Alex’s sister apparently has been cast in the role of Magical Exposition Fairy, as she does nothing in this scene but spew background on their past: apparently when they were kids, a fire burned down Alex’s house and her parents died inside, so Alex has been blaming herself for that ever since.

Movie, do you really think you can pull this storyline off? I mean the rest of your run-time is full of silly skeletons popping out of bodies, people turned into cartoon characters melded into jail cell bars and horrible, horrible lines from the genie. And you’re trying to pull off a serious “parents died in a fire” story? Thankfully it doesn’t really try. Actually, it’s mostly just glanced over – which makes it kinda hilarious. Point of the story is, Alex should see a psychiatrist.

But a psychiatrist wouldn’t solve all her problems – like the head-splitting visions that cause her to scream like a crazy person whenever the genie kills anybody.

I sure hope they paid her extra for trying to force a camera down her throat here.

And nobody ever questions it. When she does it this one time around Robert Englund’s character, he just says she “fainted.” That isn’t fainting you numbskull! She’s screaming at the top of her lungs and clearly in pain!

Next we get one of my favorite scenes in the film – the store clerk scene where he buys clothes. What can I even make fun of first? Maybe how the female clerk suddenly loses all sense of professionality when he walks out wearing the suit:

"Hur hur, I haven't seen an attractive man in seven years!"

I mean, yeah, the guy’s a hot piece of ass. I get it. But even most guys wouldn’t react this way if it was a beautiful woman! She’s just so hysterically amazed by him that it’s cartoonish. I know; something cartoonish in this film? God forbid.

Then you have the dialogue where he’s talking to her about how she’ll get old, wither and die. She doesn’t even bat an eyelash and doesn’t seem to find this weird in any way. I guess being attractive does excuse everything. Absolutely everything.

And finally you get what he does to her. Somehow, the genie cons her into “wishing” she would be beautiful forever. Ignoring the obvious misogyny of that, I do like his imagination for these wishes. She turns into a store mannequin! It’s kinda like a reject from the early episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only with less kung fu fighting.

This is just how the genie gets around paying for stuff; turn the employees of the store into mannequins forever.

Alex spends her time running around trying to figure out what’s going on, and the genie is trying to find her I guess. He goes to a police station and gets this one officer guy to “wish” that this one criminal would go on a killing spree with everyone watching so they could arrest him. Well, guess what happens?

The ironic thing is, I don’t even think the genie had to swing things to make this happen. What if that guy going on a rampage that way was just a coincidence? Maybe he had just had enough.

Oh well. He gets a business card with Alex’s name and then goes to find her work. Here we get the Kane Hodder cameo – if you don’t know, this guy played Jason in some of the shittiest entries in the Friday franchise, later in the game. So appropriately enough, they have him “wish” to see the genie “go through him.” Naturally, the genie just punches his lights out and goes on his way, right? Noooooo. That wouldn’t be coke-addled enough for this movie. So instead we get this image:

The absurdity of this is so complete that I just have no clue what the movie makers were thinking. I mean, how do you even come up with this image?

I’d love to make a joke about it, but honestly I’m not sure what is going on and it scares me a little, so I’m just gonna move on. There’s another scene where Alex’s boss says he’ll give up her location for a million dollars. So the genie has his mother killed in a plane crash so he gets the insurance money – you know, fuck it; I really want to see some of these weird characters’ stories played out after the genie’s done with them. What happened to the homeless “piss conflected afterbirth” guy with the cancer fantasy? Maybe he turned his life around and got a job working at an animal shelter.

What happened to the boss who got a million bucks when his mom died in a horrific flaming accident? Did he feel interminable guilt over the deaths of dozens of people on that plane, crying every night and blowing his nose into hundred dollar bills? Maybe he donates it all to a foundation for airline safety and turns his life around.

I HAVE TO KNOW. It’s more interesting than what’s actually going on: a laughably long scene of the genie talking to Alex about nothing. He actually says “the shit just hit the fan.” A millennia-old genie just said “the shit just hit the fan.” I think that just broke all of cinema. I think that’s just the end of cinema as we know it. You might as well just fuckin’ have Jesus in the new movie Son of God impersonating Kanye West.

Never mind the absurdity of this grotesque looking monster sitting in a nice old lady style living room...

So, I guess after that we get the Candyman – Tony fucking Todd himself – as some bodyguard at the hotel where Robert Englund is having a party. He says he wishes he could escape, so naturally the genie puts him in a water tank a la Houdini and leaves him for dead. Because, I guess, Houdini did escape tricks, so now Tony Todd has to! It doesn’t really make a lick of sense.

I’m guessing the Wishmaster genie is the socially awkward nerd of horror movie killers. Like the guy who everyone hated in high school because he never had any good ideas, just weird, ridiculous and implausible ones, but who you put up with at the high school reunion out of plastic conventional niceties of our suffocating society. Like that, yeah! Point is he sucks at these kills. I mean he’s just so desperate – anything even remotely connected to a “wish” and he gets creative. What a gyp.

Like the next scene, where he gets Englund to “wish” there was a party the world would remember for years afterward. What ensues is a repetition of the opening scene:

My favorite part of this scene is when people try to shoot those stone guys behind him - like yeah, really, try and shoot rock-solid stone. That's a brilliant idea!

There’s some kind of overly long, dull scene where she defeats him through something tangentially connected to the parents-died-in-a-fire thing – I really don’t give a fuck. The end result is, the entire movie gets erased and Alex gets to go back in time to when Josh was still alive and make a relationship with him. Hooray for anti-friendzoning! Does this mean the money I paid for the DVD gets refunded to me too?

This whole movie was just a delight. I guess there were a few boring parts, but overall it was a lot of fun. Recommended if you wanted to see I Dream of Jeannie remade as a horror film. And hey, there are sequels? Well, what more could I wish for?!

Wishmaster 2 coming soon!

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