Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Retro Review: Wishmaster

 Today's Retro Review is a special one for two reasons:

 1. It was the first movie I watched with Professor Murder, and largely the reason we became friends shortly thereafter.

 2. For better or for worse, it's the catalyst for Cap'n Howdy becoming the "trash savant" that you dear readers will assume is going to watch literally any shitty film that comes out. And you're right. Sometimes.

 While it is true that I would rent nearly anything from Carbonated Video that looked interesting for years prior to the release of Wishmaster, young Cap'n Howdy had a slightly more discerning taste when it came to seeing something on the big screen. I stopped hanging out with a friend in high school because he tricked me into seeing Biodome and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls on separate occasions (also, he stole my yearbook and burned my German textbook after borrowing it). To be fair, I also saw 12 Monkeys and Pulp Fiction with said person, so you can understand why I'd fall for two proto-Trappenings.

 It is also true that I saw McHale's Navy earlier in 1997, and while that is barely a watchable film, the large group I went to see it with all went for the same reason: Bruce Campbell. We support our Bruce, even when he's a third banana in a Tom Arnold TV-make.

 What distinguished Wishmaster from those films, and what began a regular trend afterward, was that the entire reasoning behind seeing a movie that in no way looked good was predicated on The Rocky Horror Picture Show experience: see the shitty movie, mock the shitty movie. It's a low-rent version of MST3k, another show I was (and am) a huge fan of, and one that continued for years and years.

 (For the record, we have certain rules in place when we do this: we always sit close to the screen, usually three rows back, so we'll never be louder than the movie. We also try to keep ourselves separated from the poor souls who wanted to see something like Lost in Space or Ghosts of Mars so that we don't ruin your experience of a horrible piece of shit. We don't like to be interrupted during movies we like, so we limit our interaction with said schlock to our own sphere).

 At the time, I knew of Professor Murder* from high school drama productions but didn't actually know the guy. We were actually kind of at odds - the musical he was starring in was preventing our smaller production from being able to rehearse, and we'd received word that he thought our Literary Revue was "stupid." When he leapfrogged from Drama 1 to Drama 3 between the 96-97 and 97-98 school year, we found ourselves in the same class, and didn't really know how to navigate that.

 The solution came when we both signed up for a series of classes on Shakespearean acting from Burning Coal Theatre, who was putting on a production of... Love's Labours Lost, I think with a student who graduated two years before me. As we were the only students from our school (and we were riding with our drama teacher every day), we got to know each other, our senses of humor, and the many ridiculous interests we had in common.

 One day, after getting back early and having time to kill before our rides got there, we decided to walk from high school to the nearby Imperial Theatre (now The Galaxy) to see a movie. And why not see Wishmaster? It was produced by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), written by Peter Atkins (Hellbound: Hellraiser II), directed by Robert Kurtzman (the "K" in KNB Effects), and featured cameos by many of the "big names" in horror, and was about an evil Genie. How bad could it be? Very, we hoped.

 And bad it is - I remember we had a nearly constant running commentary about the logic gaffes, bad acting, and the scenery chewing Djinn, played Andrew Divoff. Whether in his Djinn "monster" makeup or his "human" form of Nathaniel Demerest, Divoff was a hoot as the deliciously EEEEEEVVIIIILLLL villain that tricked people into making wishes so he could punish them ironically. There's the girl who wants to be beautiful forever (he turns her into a mannequin), the guy who wants to escape (he gets put into a tank full of water), and the guy who wants to see him "walk through him" (he turns him into glass or something).

 The last two are interesting because they were played by Tony Todd (Candyman) and Kane Hodder (Jason Vorhees), who appeared alongside Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) and the voice of Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man) in Wishmaster. Also appearing: Reggie Bannister (Phantasm), Ted Raimi (Army of Darkness), Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead), Danny Hicks (Evil Dead 2), and uhhh... Verne Troyer (Pinocchio's Revenge)! I'd also like to point out something I just discovered, which is that Andrew Divoff was not only the Djinn in Wishmaster, but also Mikhail, the one-eyed Russian from Lost. I did not know that.

 It's a loaded cast (and crew) for a movie that amounts to surprisingly little - it's a slasher movie structure but with a supernatural genie that can make anything happen as long as someone wishes for it. He needs to collect souls or something to become real or take over the world... honestly I don't remember. It's bad of the Cap'n to not go check but let's be honest, there's only one scene that sticks out for me, and it involves Kane Hodder as a security guard who won't let the Djinn get by. The genie says "ask me for something", and Hodder replies "I want you to leave."

 The Djinn, forced to walk away, begins saying "no, no, I have to get inside," setting up the ironic kill. It's hilarious. In fact, here it is (the encounter begins at the 2:26 mark, but you might want consider watching the scene in the police station too, which is also silly).

 After Wishmaster, the Professor and I were on the same page, and we banded together with the rest of the gang to see terrible movies and give them what-for, even if only for our personal enjoyment. It also meant we intentionally sought out movies that were worse than Wishmaster and accordingly earned us a reputation of being willing to see every terrible movie that someone released (in theatres or on VHS / DVD). I cannot say that we didn't earn the rep, but I've been living that down ever since. The Professor? Well, he doesn't really care. He's the reason I saw Satan's Little Helper, Monsturd, and Dinocroc vs Supergator. Then again, I'm the reason he saw ThanksKilling, so I'd say we're even.

 And Wishmaster? Well, there are three more sequels, only one of which I've seen part of. Wishmaster 2 somehow sends the Djinn to prison, so that Divoff can spend most of the movie without his makeup and grant wishes like "I wish my lawyer would go fuck himself," which of course literally happens as the lawyer is trying to get the guy released. Divoff couldn't be bothered to play the Djinn again in parts 3 and 4, and I guess I couldn't be bothered to watch them. Someday... they're probably good Cranpire Movie candidates.

 * I don't use his actual name because of the sensitive work the Professor does, but most people familiar with the Cap'n know exactly who I'm talking about. I also can't claim any credit for the nickname - he earned it while away at school.

No comments: