WISHMASTER COLLECTION Review (Vestron Video Blu-Ray)
WISHMASTER COLLECTION Review (Vestron Video Blu-Ray)
The Wishmaster Collection features a nice combo-pack of all four Wishmaster films; however, only two out of four are actually good. There are a lot of special features for the first Wishmaster film, but ultimately the other three feel a little lacking. The transfers on this set are good but not amazing. Viewers will need to decide whether owning all four films is worth the somewhat pricey expense.
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell
Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled
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All four films in one Blu-Ray collection
Hours of special features for Wishmaster and Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies
Transfer on the first two films is good but not great
Never has there been a more obvious film embodiment of the phrase “be careful what you wish for” than Wishmaster, the 1997 horror feature from director Robert Kurtzman. Kurtzman is primarily known for his special effects work, a prominent part of Wishmaster‘s modus operandi; however, the film also gained notoriety at the time because of Wes Craven’s attachment to the production, emblazoned across posters and box art. Wishmaster is certainly a product of its time, featuring a joke-heavy script from Peter Atkins and a slasher villain that borders on cheesy rather than creepy; still, the fun comes from the film’s ability to make wishes reality – in much the same way A Nightmare on Elm Street got away with the fantastical – and its blood-soaked action scenes.
Wishmaster follows Alexandra (Tammy Lauren) after she accidentally comes in contact with an ancient gem that houses an evil djinn; once released, the Djinn (Andrew Divoff) collects the souls of anyone who makes a wish, filling the gem with power until he’s finally able to grant Alexandra three wishes and unleash the rest of his hellspawn on the world. Alexandra is plagued with visions of the Djinn until eventually he makes contact in the form of a handsome man who tries to grant her wishes by asking if she wants a drink or some food. Just kidding – it’s a lot gorier than that.
Wishmaster has a lot of cool elements to it, including its opening scene involving a Persian massacre at the hands of the Djinn before he’s ultimately trapped in the gem for centuries. However, it quickly becomes clear that the film doesn’t have the most effective writing or acting; Atkins’ dialogue is often hokey, but it doesn’t help that our lead character Alexandra is a wooden and uninteresting person. Lauren does what she can with the protagonist, but too often Wishmaster feels like a grittier made-for-television special than a theatrical release, and the more expository scenes with Alexandra attempting to track down the Djinn in his human form as Nathaniel Demerest tend to fall flat.
Luckily, Kurtzman doesn’t put much stock in this and alternates between Alexandra and the Djinn, depicting Demerest granting people wishes whenever he can trick them into asking for something stupid. Wishmaster utilizes that age-old slasher approach: the more kills the movie can get in the better, even if those people aren’t relevant to the plot. Kurtzman turns to a couple of horror film veterans – including Robert Englund as a haughty art collector with knowledge of the ancient Ahura-Mazda figure that houses the Djinn’s gem, Kane Hodder as a rough-and-tough security guard, and Tony Todd as a nightclub bouncer – to pull in fans but also to contradict the usual dichotomy with these actors: now they’re the ones being killed rather than doing the killing.
And Wishmaster has a lot of great practical effects from KNB EFX Group, aided by Kurtzman’s own knowledge. Body modification is a strong part of the film, and KNB does an awesome job capturing Atkins’ twisty takes on wishmaking. The film takes those wishes and makes them into mini-fables, using puns and playing with word choice to provide some memorably creative scenarios. Even its conclusion is inventive, with Alexandra’s final wish reversing the entire film and eliminating the need to find a physical way to vanquish the Djinn.
Some will not enjoy Wishmaster because of its goofy nature, but the film is better seen as more of a horror comedy, especially with Divoff chewing the scenery. It’s not a perfect specimen for sure, but the practical effects and violently creative kills make this a film worth seeing. I wouldn’t wish it any other way – then again, if Wishmaster is to be believed, any wish is a bad one.
Click next for the Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies review.
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies Review
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies is effectively the same movie as the original Wishmaster, albeit with new faces (besides Andrew Divoff, who reprises his role as the Djinn and Nathaniel Demerest) and a new writer/director in Jack Sholder. Sholder’s no stranger to slasher sequels – he wrote and directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge – and here he manages to capture the overall spirit and style of the original quite well, repeating a lot of the same themes while infusing a new religious aspect into the plot.
That adherence to the structure and tone of the original film would seem problematic, but Wishmaster 2 copies all of the best parts. That includes bringing Divoff back for his hammy performances, who actually gets to maintain his human persona for a large chunk of the film. Nathaniel Demerest goes to jail after an art heist involving Morgana (Holly Fields) goes bad, but that’s actually the Djinn’s plan; in human form, he can gather a multitude of souls in prison because it’s full of people wishing for things. Sholder recognizes that, for the most part, Divoff is the most interesting character in the Wishmaster series because of his sneering smile, comedic presence, and incredibly deep growl; Wishmaster 2 effectively uses that at every turn, opting to showcase a couple of creative death sequences involving a man squeezing himself through prison bars or a lawyer literally fucking himself. It’s all over the top, and it’s just as imaginative as its predecessor.
Fields is quite good in her role as Morgana, although most of her scenes are wasted on the film’s more overt religious themes. Wishmaster 2 chooses to focus on human redemption by giving Morgana a chance to repent for her past mistakes – including killing a security guard in that art heist – but ultimately these moments lack strength because Sholder refrains from giving the audience much of a backstory for her character. It’s unclear whether she’s done these heists before, and the film’s final moments where Morgana needs to become pure before she can cast her final wish to vanquish the Djinn seem shoehorned in, an attempt to change things up from the first Wishmaster‘s ending.
The formulaic approach to this sequel also creates one other dilemma: Wishmaster 2 can’t maintain the crazy dynamics of the first film, and Sholder eliminates a lot of the gore and carnage in favor of storytelling. While there’s still heavy use of practical effects, these elements are too dispersed throughout the film; chaos doesn’t occur until the final casino scene, and it’s a little too long to wait.
Still, Wishmaster 2 is a surprisingly effective followup to the original tale and one of the few sequels that manages to conjure up the same atmosphere. While there are obvious changes and tweaks to the film’s universe, Sholder crafts a compelling storyline with a particularly attractive female protagonist and adds just enough differences – religion being the most apparent – to differentiate this from Wishmaster while using the same formula.
Click next for the Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell review.
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell Review
If I could be granted one wish, it would probably be to get my 90 minutes back after watching Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell. This 2001 sequel to Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies was not only unnecessary but also unworthy of bearing the title; Andrew Divoff does not reprise his role as the Djinn, the writing and themes don’t match either of the two prior films, and ultimately there’s very little point to the whole thing besides meeting a quota of direct-to-video knockoffs of popular/somewhat popular franchises. Remember when video stores used to have a bargain bin full of DVDs? One would expect to find fifteen copies of Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell buried in that picked-over mound.
The film takes very little cues from the first two, instead introducing a Hellraiser-esque Pandora’s Box that contains the mystical gem housing the Djinn (this time played by John Novak). Besides looking cool, the box makes no difference later on, and writer Alex Wright fails to give much context to the way the Djinn miraculously appears out of thin air after our main character Diana (A.J. Cook) touches the thing. But from there, Wishmaster 3 follows the same formula as the other films, except in this case it manages to be infinitely more boring while featuring less creative wishes or gore.
It’s difficult to write an appropriate review for director Chris Angel’s film. Its opening scenes are reminiscent of the worst DTV teen slasher films, with annoying character tropes and bad acting in spades. As Wishmaster 3 continues, its more overt religious views seep in, cribbing from Wishmaster 2 but also ignoring most of the mythology created in those original movies. Instead of using the creativity and imagination present in the conclusions of the first two films, Diana makes a wish what transforms her dead boyfriend Greg (Tobias Mehler) into St. Michael the Archangel, who carries with him a flaming sword necessary to vanquish the Djinn despite, you know, his having been trapped twice previously without the need to actually fight him. It boils down to a cringe-worthy final action scene that, by that time, had sapped any enthusiasm I had for the rest of the series.
Don’t be fooled – under no auspices would I recommend Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell, not even to watch as a joke. There’s very little to like about the film and, more than that, none of it is memorable or interesting. Luckily, most of the actors – like A.J. Cook, who went on to star in Criminal Minds – bounced back from this film, but it’s easy to believe that most of the cast and crew are wishing for this film to be wiped from their resume.
Click next for the Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled review.
Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled Review
Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled was planned and shot at around the same time as Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell by the same director, Chris Angel, so anyone coming off that previous trainwreck will probably not have much faith in this final sequel in the series. However, Wishmaster 4 happens to be a hell of a lot better than its predecessor, sporting a better cast, a more intriguing storyline, and some better effects that even incorporate more Djinn into the plot. Surprisingly, this is a solid follow-up to some of the ideas left unexplored in the Wishmaster universe.
This film was written by John Benjamin Martin and follows yet another young woman – this time named Lisa (Tara Spencer-Nairn) who accidentally awakens the Djinn (John Novak) after she receives the red gem from her lawyer/potential lover Steven (Michael Trucco). Lisa’s suffering from a disastrous marriage after a bike accident leaves her husband Sam (Jason Thompson) paralyzed, and the Djinn manages to worm his way into Lisa’s life while tricking her into asking her three wishes without even knowing the Djinn mythology.
This is a smart direction for Wishmaster 4, especially since the past three films focused on the Djinn appearing to the waker in full demon form and forcing them to make all three wishes at once. This film foregoes all of the boring stuff – no more thousands of wishes before the Djinn can seek out the Waker – and instead gets right to the good stuff. In this case, the good stuff happens to be the Djinn’s pursuit of love, taking over Steven’s persona and getting close to Lisa while also goading her into making wishes that improve her home life.
Martin’s script is a strong point here, since it crafts a compelling backstory for Lisa and Sam and gives them a reason to make some ill-fated wishes. At the same time, Wishmaster 4 often relies on stupid logic to get over certain humps; its characters often ignore red flags, and ultimately the Djinn’s need for human love is never really explained, a factor that really needs some exposition in order for the audience to truly believe that he would go against his race’s demands for freedom for a chance at true happiness.
Still, Wishmaster 4 is a surprisingly serious affair for the most part, and Angel definitely has a better handle on the material than in his previous outing. There’s even some room for more gore effects, which aren’t incredibly intricate but still a welcome addition to the film. There’s also a Highlander-esque swordfighting scene which… well, that’s probably better left unmentioned as a weak, cheesy point in the movie.
Another interesting element is the incorporation of more Djinn, who tend to give off a Cenobite vibe whenever they’re shown. While the makeup effects aren’t particularly great – especially when our main Djinn is in natural lighting – it’s good to see Angel attempting to show more of the djinn race rather than relying on the main Djinn throughout this film.
Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled is far from perfect, but it’s certainly better than the sequel before it. This one at least makes strides to develop the series’ mythology, and it shakes things up a bit with the tension that the prophecy will actually be fulfilled after Lisa makes her three wishes. It’s a good movie on which to end the series, mercifully retiring the Djinn without subjecting him to any further story deterioration.
Click next for the Blu-Ray review.
Vestron Video Blu-Ray Review
Vestron Video has released all four Wishmaster films in one collection, comprising three discs – Wishmaster and its special features make up disc 1, Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies is on disc 2, and Wishmaster 3 and 4 are both on the final disc. This release gets new cover artwork and a slipcover case for its physical representation.
For ease of use, I will break each review down by film.
Wishmaster features a fairly good transfer, much better than Lionsgate’s original DVD release. With that said, it certainly has its share of problems that are similar to some of Vestron’s other releases. The film features some gate wobble during credit scenes which is otherwise unnoticeable during the film itself. There’s also some chunky grain patterns in the backgrounds of scenes, notable in dark scenes or any exterior shots; while it’s much clearer than the aforementioned DVD, I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily the best that Wishmaster could look. Still, the film’s colors are well-represented and the red-hued scenes in the Djinn’s layer have better clarity. While some viewers may ultimately be disappointed by this transfer, I would urge anyone with qualms to check out how the original DVD looked over at Caps-a-holic to see vast differences in some of the film’s key scenes.
Audio is presented on this disc in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio despite the packaging’s claims of surround sound. It sounds good, although the audio has a tendency to waver in volume (an issue that extends across all of the Wishmaster Collection). Still, no issues with the sound besides equalizing problems.
Wishmaster gets the bulk of the special features, including three different audio commentaries! One features director Robert Kurtzman and screenwriter Peter Atkins, another with Kurtzman, Andrew Divoff, and Tammy Lauren (very cool inclusion), and the last is an isolated film score with select interview moments with composer Harry Manfredini. This adds a lot of bonus content to the film, and the isolated score is a recommended listen (at least for the interview).
But there are over two hours of bonus content besides the commentaries as well. Interviews with Kurtzman and co-producer David Tripet, Peter Atkins, Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren, and director of photography Jacques Haitkin make up the bulk of this release’s extras, but there’s also the cool addition of interviews with Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Ted Raimi.
Besides the new interviews, there is also the inclusion of a vintage EPK and an old making-of featurette that adds additional content to this release. Theatrical trailers, radio spots, a still and storyboard gallery, and behind-the-scenes footage round of supplemental material.
Vestron Video has gone all-out with the Wishmaster extras, and for those most interested in the original film, this offering will be of huge interest.
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies features a nearly identical transfer to Wishmaster, with much of the same positives and negatives. For brevity, I ask you refer to the above review. The film does get a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which sounds quite good in its ambient moments; however, it again suffers from volume equalization, and one scene in particular – the first casino entrance – is unnaturally loud in comparison to the rest of the film.
Bonus content is sparse for this film, although it does get an audio commentary from writer/director Jack Sholder. It’s unfortunate that Vestron was unable to procure some more extras for this release – at least an interview with Holly Fields or Chris Weber.
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell gets a fairly equivalent transfer as the first two films, although there aren’t any issues with gate wobble here. Color vibrance is quite good, with some heavy green hues during outdoor shots. Still, grain is quite clumpy in some scenes and maintains a heavy presence throughout the film, and I’m a little surprised that this movie doesn’t look better than its presentation on this Vestron Video release. With that said, not many people are going to be running to Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell on this disc, so it ultimately doesn’t much matter. That’s a joke – kind of.
Audio on this disc is a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and it sounds quite clear and consistent throughout. I didn’t notice many volume spikes in this film, although the film doesn’t get much use out of its soundtrack or effects.
Vestron does include an audio commentary with Chris Angel, John Novak, Jason Connery, and Ouisette Geiss as a bonus feature for this film, which is probably more than most were expecting; it’s also the better way to watch the film, cutting out all the poor dialogue while Angel attempts to explain the making of this film.
Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled
This film’s transfer looks extremely similar to Wishmaster 3, as it should – they were filmed back-to-back. Again, some heavy grain presence but overall a solid image with some nice color vibrance. Audio for Wishmaster 4 is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, which is a strange decision considering Wishmaster 3‘s 2.0 setup. Audio sounds fine on this, although there’s not much use of the satellite speakers.
For special features, we get two different audio commentaries. The first is with director Chris Angel and stars Michael Trucco and Jason Thompson; the second features Angel and John Novak. While the two commentaries are more than generous, I’m not sure most viewers will have the stomach to sit through the film three different times. Also included is a vintage behind-the-scenes featurette showing the filming of various scenes, about seven minutes in length.
To sum up, this is a nice collection for fans of the Wishmaster series (particularly the first and second installments), although the third and fourth films could almost be considered filler on this release. The video transfers are good but not spectacular, but at least Vestron includes numerous special features for the first film and audio commentaries for the subsequent releases. Still, it’s hard to recommend this set to anyone that’s not a huge fan of the series.
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