Friday, October 18, 2019

Halloween Havoc: WISHMASTER 3: BEYOND THE GATES OF HELL (2001)

Damn, the Video Gods must have felt sorry for us as we’ve been getting off relatively easy with the WISHMASTER franchise. The first one is a perfectly acceptable time killer with enough FX gags and horror icon cameos to keep us interested. The second entry, while flawed, kept things entertaining enough with more latex slinging and some great unintentional comedy. Are we actually going to get through four films without experiencing any viewing pain? “Not so fast,” says WISHMASTER 3 & 4 director Chris Angel.

The third and fourth WISHMASTER films arrived during the direct-to-video horror flood of the early 2000s. A luxury born in the 1980s, the direct-to-video sequel programming exploded in the 1990s thanks to the efforts of guys like Charles Band (Full Moon Entertainment) and the Weinsteins (Dimension Films). It seemed like you couldn’t go a weekend with a new HELLRAISER or CHILDREN OF THE CORN popping up on the shelf. By the new millennium, things went into overdrive and seemingly any theatrical vehicle that had done decent on video got a makeshift sequel. From 2000 to 2005, viewers got (takes a deep breath) THE PROPHECY III (2000), THE PROPHECY: UPRISING (2005), THE PROPHECY: FORSAKEN (2005), LEPRECHAUN 5: IN THE HOOD (2000), LEPRECHAUN 6: BACK 2 THA HOOD (2003), MIMIC 2 (2001), MIMIC 3 (2003), DRACULA II (2003), DRACULA III (2005), THE CROW III (2005), VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS (2002), VAMPIREs: THE TURNING (2005),...(takes another deep breath)...SNIPER 2 (2002), SNIPER 3 (2004), TIMECOP 2 (2003), THE HITCHER II (2003), SLAP SHOT 2 (2002), TREMORS 3 (2001), TREMORS 4 (2005), THE SKULLS II (2002), and STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 (2004). Hell, we even got a sequel to 8MM (1999), which I’m still pissed they didn’t call 16MM. So, of course, we got two WISHMASTER sequels. How could we not?

Prophetically, WISHMASTER 3 opens with a car wreck. Troubled college student Diana Collins (A.J. Cook) is having nightmares about when her parents died in a car crash. She was the lone survivor and now blames herself. Damn, I wonder if one of her wishes will involve trying to ease this pain and bring her parents back? NOPE! I’m getting ahead of myself, but let’s just say this WISHMASTER doesn’t play by any rules. Back to the story, Diana is a history major at Baxter College and serious about her boyfriend Greg (Tobias Mehler). How serious? Early on we get this amazingly realistic dialogue when she sees him talking to mean girl Elinor (Emmanuelle Vaugier). This is literally the first things these characters say to each other.

Elinor: “You know, Diana, you should be careful. Boys who don’t get the attention they need tend to look elsewhere for it.”
Diana:  “I’m not too worried. When you’re this good they never wander.”

No joke, the filmmakers found this exchange so important that it is included in its entirety in the film’s trailer.

Part of her college duties involve helping Professor Barash (Jason “Yes, Sean’s my father” Connery), who is preparing for an upcoming Persian artifact exhibit. While looking over the inventory, Diana spots the Lament Configuration...er, a puzzle box that houses the fire opal the djinn is imprisoned in. Now how the gem arrived here after the events of part 2 is never touched upon. Like I said, there are no rules with this one and certainly no series plotline continuity. Damn, we didn’t know how good we had it with the first two. Naturally, Diana rubs the gem and the djinn (John Novak) magically appears. Just kidding. He shows up after she has left (is there a delay in genie summoning technology?) and confronts the professor. The professor makes his wish and asks to be given all of the world’s knowledge to make himself the smartest man on earth. Haha, just kidding, he asks for two beautiful women and they pop their tops before ripping him to pieces. The djinn steals his face and now we get evil Barash. How do we know he is evil? He wears a dark suit! To quote the Men’s Wearhouse founder, “You’re gonna like the way you look...EEEEVIL! I guarantee it!”

Per the law of the series, Diana sees flashes of this murder but she really has more important things going on in her life, like her relationship with Greg. Here is another totally realistic dialogue bit that we get complete with sad piano music playing.

Diana: “Do you love me?”
Greg: “Actually, that is what I came to ask you.”

Love, however, is the least of her problems because Barash is now on the hunt for the person who released him so he can grant her three wishes. Being totally acquainted with 20th century collegiate life, he immediately heads to the admin building to look up her address in her student file. Unfortunately, standing in his way is a rather dutiful secretary who is filing away late at night. She gets burnt to a crisp after wishing all the files would just burn up. Wait...the djinn just ruined his chance of finding Diana. DOH! No worries, as he has her in his class the next day. But Diana misses the class because she has been researching djinn myths all night and overslept. She then tries to convince Greg and her two friends, Katie (Louisette Geiss) and Billy (Aaron Smolinski), that the djinn is real and hunting her down, although he isn’t very good at it. Finally at the 45 minute mark our villain decides to ask for her dorm room address.

Okay, so far, so bland. But things are about to pick up in the worst possible way. Chased by the djinn, Diana and Greg escape her dorm room and head for the campus church. Unfortunately, Barash is already there (yes, he couldn’t locate her before, but now can magically appear where she is). He displays his abracadabra powers by making one of Diana’s friends dehydrated because she wished to “lose a little weight.” Diana blows through her first wish by wishing for the girl’s pain to end. Realizing she has to up her wishful thinking, Diana quickly does her second wish by - wait for it - summoning the spirit of the archangel Michael to help fight the demon. Goddamn, you went from zero to a hundred real quick, girl! Sure enough, a blue light zaps through a stained glass window and starts to enter her body. However, Greg apparently is really possessive of his girlfriend as he pushes her out of the way and the spirit enters his body. Nobody is going to touch my girl, angelic spirit or not! Apparently angels are badasses who can make swords magically appear in their hand at will. The duo stop the djinn for a bit and split. With two wishes down, Greg/Michael informs her that he carries the Sword of Justice (isn’t that a Don “The Dragon” Wilson movie?), which she can use to defeat the djinn. The bad news is that the djinn is hellbent on unleashing his demonic family and starts torturing Diana’s friends to get her to comply.

Jeez, where to begin on WISHMASTER 3? I think I can speak for the entire world when discussing the first two films that no one uttered, “You know, these films are too exciting. They should cut down on the FX gags and include more fantasy elements while upping the romance factor.” Well, no one except the folks who produced this monstrosity. What the hell were they thinking? You have a new, semi-successful horror franchise with an actor fans seem to like. “Yeah, we’re scrapping all that,” say the producers. (Amusingly, previous djinn Andrew Divoff revealed in 2017 he had even done a treatment for part 3.) The only returning element from part 2 is the participation of SOTA FX and even they don’t get much to do. Instead we get what is a by-the-numbers college slasher with the djinn in the role of the killer. The injection of the fantasy element would be appreciated if they actually did something cool with it. Nope! We just Greg changing his eye color and being dubbed with a deeper voice (that makes Michael the angel sound like a dumb jock). It is like the filmmakers just binged a bunch of HIGHLANDER and THE PROPHECY movies one weekend and said, “Yeah, we got this.” And by “got this,” I mean to be presented as blandly as possible by director Chris Angel (not to be confused with magician Criss Angel, although I wish it was him because he might disappear).

Here is the craziest thing about this whole thing - imagination is free. No, seriously, you can imagine anything you want and the only thing limiting you might be time and money. So it is stunning that director Angel and screenwriter Alexander Wright didn’t sit down one night to brainstorm over some pizza and beer to come up with the wildest wishes they could think of. Nope, no creativity will be accepted here! When the djinn confronts Billy for his wish, he says, "Blow me." And then he blows Billy across the room so he is impaled on a mask. Damn, I bet Angel and Wright high fived after coming up with that one. Hell, they give up and don’t even have Diana use her third wish in the final showdown. Her plan to outsmart the djinn is to jump off the room and kill herself. I can relate. And the wishes barely make any sense. A perfect example of the worst wishes is when the djinn corners Katie hiding in a science lab. She wishes she has someplace to hide and he says her wish is granted. Then her head is stuck in a cage full of lab rats that gnaw off her eyes and lips. WHAT? That doesn’t even make any sense. She seriously needs to call the djinn customer service line because this dude ain’t delivering. Hell, even the title BEYOND THE GATES OF HELL doesn’t make a lick of sense. You have to wonder how the hell this kind of bland stuff gets greenlit. Well, you will find out if you watch the trailer:


Yep, it was part of the Canadian tax shelter movie credit that was so popular at the time. Just another product to get money out of the paws of unsuspected Blockbuster renters back in the day. Well, and dumbasses like me who decided to marathon this series. Please send your best wishes! Honestly, the only enjoyment I got from this sequel was a song played midway though. It is a wannabe Smash Mouth sounding song called “Shoe Box Blues” and is a stark reminder of how awful late ‘90s rock was at the time. Sample lyrics: “I was born in a shoebox, living in a shoe, by the time I was five I was moved outside…” Yeah, that's all I got. Damn...

Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. Oof. I've only seen the first one. I enjoyed it, but I'm really glad I stopped there.

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