Wishmaster (1997)

A demonic djinn attempts to grant its owner three wishes, which will allow him to summon his brethren to earth.

Wishmaster’ puts a new spin on most people’s perception of genies. Most people think of a genie that fulfills your greatest wishes. But asking the Djinn to do so could have horrible consequences, as he twists your wishes in order to steal your soul.

It begins in the 12th century when a Persian king is locked into a pact with the Djinn, who unleashes unholy suffering on the King’s people. A man is frozen into a wall; a woman turns into a tree; another man’s skeleton bursts through his skin and walks around; and another man turns into a crocodile. It is only through a magician’s work that this suffering ends, as the Djinn is imprisoned in a fire opal that is then buried inside a statue.

Fast-forward to the present day, when the statue is being unloaded at a Los Angeles dock for a collector, Robert Beaumont (Englund). An accident, however, kills Beaumont’s assistant and breaks the statue open, revealing the opal. One of the dock workers steals it and turns it over to a gemologist, Alexandra Amberson (Lauren) for appraisal. During her examination, she unwittingly wakes the Djinn inside, and soon he is on the loose. First, he starts collecting souls by granting a single wish to certain people. One of the first is a homeless man, who sees a nasty pharmacist (Reggie Bannister of ‘Phantasm’) die a violent death from cancer after wishing for it. The Djinn then takes on a human appearance, sneaking into an anatomy lab and peeling the face of a cadaver off then plastering it onto his own face. Now he is Nathaniel Demarest (Divoff, who also plays the Djinn), a classy man-about-town. As Demarest, he continues his mission of misery by collecting souls – including that of a young sales girl by turning her into a mannequin.

Eventually, he tracks down Alexandra to her place of work, and after taunting & killing the guard (‘Friday the 13th’s Kane Hodder) after the guard challenges Demarest to “go through” him, he confronts Alex’s boss. He eventually obtains Alex’s home address after granting her boss’s wishes, and shows up menacingly in her apartment. Alex, meanwhile, has found out through a friend of Beaumont’s that the Djinn are truly evil creatures who are devious & not to be trusted. When Demarest reveals his true identity, Alex is horrified when the Djinn starts asking her to make her wishes. When she wishes him to destroy himself, the Djinn fires a pistol into his head – which instantly regenerates! He taunts Alexandra by warning, ‘That which is eternal cannot die. But if it’s any consolation at all, sweet Alex – THAT HURT LIKE HELL!!’ Alex is then taken by the Djinn into his hideous red world, where she learns about his origins. When she returns to her apartment, she heads immediately for Beaumont’s party where her sister is.

Demarest arrives just behind Alex, where he is confronted by Johnny Valentine (Tony Todd, star of ‘Candyman’ & ‘Night of the Living Dead’ [1990]). Valentine warns Demarest to leave, but Demarest tricks him – ‘would you like to “escape”?’. When Valentine says yes, he finds himself chained in a steel-and-glass box filled with water! ‘Houdini did it in 2.5 minutes,’ Demarest says as he walks in.

The party soon becomes a horror show, starting when one woman turns into a glass statue and then explodes. Demarest reveals his real identity to Beaumont, who backs up against a wall then flees. As Alex makes her way through the halls of the museum she is attacked by statues of historical warriors, including a Roman Centurion & Genghis Khan. The Djinn then tries to extort Alex’s third wish from her – after which he will be able to rule the world. To give Alex some incentive, he shows her sister trapped in a fire, the flames licking at her back. Through some creative thinking, Alex words her wish to suck the Djinn back into the fire opal – the same way he had 8 centuries earlier.

While the Djinn had some particularly bizarre ways of dispatching his victims, he also showed a demented sense of humor in doing so. Wishmaster also brought together several prominent horror film actors (Angus Scrimm & Reggie Bannister of ‘Phantasm’, Robert Englund of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, Tony Todd of ‘Candyman’ and ‘Night of the Living Dead’, and Kane Hodder of ‘Friday the 13th’) together.

This is an original take on horror since most of us don’t consider genies to be evil. It offers more than the standard slasher fare the dominated 1980’s horror.