Wishmaster Blu-ray Review
Three wishes and you unleash hell? Did anybody warn Aladdin?
1997's b-movie horror, Wishmaster, plays off a very flimsy genie-in-a-bottle premise, with some hokey but committed acting and pretty average effects.Whilst the three wishes premise gives way to some decidedly inventive horror effects, the evil genie idea is a bit of a stretch in terms of actually getting anybody to make wishes (you ask to be "amazed" and he'll bring on a biblical plague, for example, which is a bit of a stretch of the interpretation of the word), thankfully soon devolving into more plausibly securing bad wishes of evil towards other men (only here, again rather implausibly, in return for souls). Wishmaster's Djinn (arabic for genie) could have done with a crash course in seduction from the Devil, and perhaps even a little direction in terms of overall purpose beyond his "grant three wishes and hell gets unleashed" quest. As a consequence, both the Wishmaster character and the very film itself appear to be borne out of little more than a flimsy excuse to string together a number of horror setpieces, none of which are desperately scary - or indeed scary at all.Sure, it's cute having cameos from Freddy Krueger's Robert Englund, Candyman's Tony Todd and Jason from Friday the 13th's Kane Hodder, and another go-to 90s villain actor Andrew Divoff (Toy Soldiers) as the main antagonist the Wishmaster himself, all in the same movie, and sure the female protagonist, played by little-known TV actress Tammy Lauren, is a little more interesting than average - her relatively late-stage vying with the villain providing the most, and perhaps the only, vaguely decent bits in the entire affair - but Wishmaster ultimately plays out like a bad Stephen King adaptation (think Thinner, only with dozens of wishes/curses rather than just one), which offers a couple of interesting ideas but gets too wrapped up in its premise and frequent doling out of horrible 'wishes' to realise that it probably actually needs some kind of vague story to subsist and actually maintain your interest.
Picture QualityLionsgate's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of Wishmaster grants the film a decent enough 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen which never even comes close to demo territory, but frequently looks pretty good for what it is, and certainly looks the best that it is ever likely to look.
The best that this film is ever likely to look
Detail is mostly acceptable and sporadically quite good, delivering decent finer flourishes, strong skin textures and some nice close-up background nuances (hell, even a couple of the practical effects are resolved quite nicely), holding up in the variable lighting conditions, and even standing out in the red-hued hell-scape sequences. Black levels are strong enough, sometimes blurring into the abyss, and not exactly exemplary in terms of shadow detail, whilst colours boast some nice sporadic vibrancy (Divoff's blue shirt, Tony Todd's red bow tie, and a few other flourishes) that go beyond the otherwise generally 90s-typical palette.
Sound QualityLionsgate's UK release of Wishmaster comes complete with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which does a decent enough job with the material (as an aside, its US counterpart was released with just a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track but, due to a packaging misdescription as a 5.1 mix, Lionsgate instituted a replacement program - clearly for the later UK release they didn't bother making any mistake in the first place).
About the best we're likely to hear from this film as well
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array, afforded clarity and coherence throughout, whilst the decent enough score tries its hardest to inject a sense of urgency or even scariness into the proceedings, unfortunately with little joy. Effects bring the, well, effects to life as best they can, possibly at their most inventive during the opening prologue and closing setpieces, with the Wishmaster a whole bounty of slimy, creepy noises all to himself. There isn't anything particularly bombastic, even a semi-offscreen plane explosion doesn't really provoke much of a response from the LFE channel, but there's enough surround action and engagement to do justice to the mid-range material. It's a solid track that's about the best we're likely to hear from this film.
ExtrasOnce again, Lionsgate go above and beyond in the extras department, compiling a staggering collection of features that should more than satisfy even the most hardcore fan. Headlined by not one but two Audio Commentaries - the first partnering the Director with the Screenwriter, and the second partnering the Director with the two lead stars, Divoff and Tammy Lauren - there are also a number of strong Interview-based Featurettes including the overview Featurette with the Director, Out of the Bottle; The Magic Words with the Screenwriter, and The Djinn and Alexandra with the two leads, each running a healthy 15-25 minutes.
An impressive package and all you could wish for
Captured Visions spends 12 minutes with the DOP, whilst Wish List spends the same amount of time with some of the cameo actors, including Englund. There's also a vintage 25 minute Making-Of Featurette, which is decidedly cheesy and eminently fluffy, and a further 5 minute vintage EPK, as well as a 12 minute Behind the Scenes Footage Compilation of B-roll footage, a couple of Galleries, and a number of Radio and TV spots, and Trailers. It's an impressive package and all you could wish for.
Blu-ray VerdictPlays out like a bad Stephen King adaptation
Wishmaster is 90s b-movie horror schlock at its most mediocre, trading in a kind-of dark version of Aladdin's genie-in-a-bottle tale, but with little thought put in beyond the 'three evil wishes opens hell' premise. Lionsgate's Blu-ray release is all you could hope for from this movie, and more, delivering solid video and audio and an excellent selection of extra features that, alone, likely leave this a must-have for fans.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £13.30
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