Saturday, October 26, 2019

Halloween Havoc: WISHMASTER: THE PROPHECY FULFILLED (2002)

A.k.a. Djinn Blanding Builds His Dream House.

After the insufferably dull and clumsy BEYOND THE GATES OF HELL (in which no gates, hells or beyonds are featured), where could director editor turned director Chris Angel and his producers of piffle, Gary Howsam and Gilles Paquin, possibly go? How do you one up a movie in which there is no charisma, effects that aren't special, a title that lies and a plot that sort of just meanders to an end credit roll? Answer: You don't. The path of least resistance is down.

Young couple Sam (Jason Thompson) and Lisa (Tara Spencer-Nairn) videotape themselves (Y2K bitches!) arriving at their newly purchased house on a motorcycle. Obviously we are supposed to think they are cool because if the video camera and motorcycle weren't enough, Sam wears a leather jacket and enthusiastically knocks down the "sold" sign on the front lawn. He's a rebel man, he ain't taking no shit from no damn sign! This, in what has become a hallmark for the series, is accompanied by yet another wretched Y2K  pop song. Imagine Smash Mouth meets Love & Rockets. Kill me now.

Since we are clearly on the path of hitting all the cliches, as soon as Sam carries Lisa over the threshold (though they are not married - they are too hip for that square stuff!), they run upstairs and we get a rather long soft-core sex scene followed by Sam showing his sensitive artistic side by sketching Lisa in the nude with charcoal. Well, actually Lisa is primly covered by a sheet, but Sam, like all straight guys, sketches her naked anyway.

Flash forward three years and we get a bizarrely complicated set-up which is told in multiple flashbacks that don't actually tell the audience anything. At first I thought it was the screenwriter trying to be clever and letting the plot unfold as the audience discovers the story, then I realized that theory was complete bullshit and the production is simply a mess. The simple explanation of the exposition is that Sam was in a terrible motorcycle accident that has left him paralyzed from the waist down and extremely bitter. As you would expect, he hates Lisa for sticking by him though these rough times and spends his days drinking straight from the bottle (though always clear-eyed and articulate), looking at pictures of chick's butts on that "internets" thing and complaining about his non-existent sex life. So he's a lot of fun.

Lisa when not being ridiculously sympathetic and caring, is driving around in her Bronco II trying to get a lawsuit against a motorcycle parts manufacturer squared away with her fratboy lawyer Steve (Michael Trucco). Steve, because he is a conscientious professional, is less interested in the settlement than he is putting the moves on the fragile, under-sexed Lisa. To this end, he shows her his affection by presenting her with what appears to be an antique silver box that he found on-line (Y2K bitches!). Doubling down on his lack of skill with the ladies, Steve uses this as an opening to go in for a kiss. The box hits the floor, breaks open and inside is the all-too familiar opal of doom. Rejecting his advances, and the box, after getting a flash vision of the Djinn, Lisa splits and Steve tosses the stone into his safe. Which burns through the bottom, for no apparent reason.

Now that the stone has burned through the bottom of the safe, the Djinn is free to hide in Steve's closet and offer him a wish. Seriously. Uhhh, yeah, maybe it is a metaphor, but I have no idea either. Steve, being the complete dumbass that he is, has a full conversation with the weird dude that is hiding in his closet and wishes that the guy would stop talking in riddles. This wish is granted, and for the sake of those that did not know that there were three other films in the series, the Djinn explains who he is and what he does. He then *ahem* comes out of the closet, steals Steve's face, gets another nice black suit, and sets off to find Lisa to get her to make three wishes so that we can finally see what lies Beyond the Gates of Hell. Oh, we should be so lucky.

At this point you might think "hey, this film is fiiiiiinally going to go somewhere" and you are half right. It does go somewhere, but it's not up and it's in no hurry. Steve the Djinn grants Lisa's first wish to win the lawsuit and does so by having the opposing lawyer pull out his tongue, cut off his nose and shoot himself in the head after signing the paperwork. Because this clearly does not paint the Djinn as a villain in broad enough strokes, he is then shown going over to Lisa and Sam's house, taking a bite out of an apple and then casually tossing it back in the fruitbowl! Eeeeeevil, I tells ya!

Steve and Lisa have dinner at a nice restaurant and Steve manages to get another wish out of her. She wishes that Sam could walk. Done! At the same time, a couple at another table are passionately kissing, so naturally the pretty waitress says "I wish someone would kiss me like that!" to which Steve says "Oh, they will!" Cue a bunch of random customers who swarm all over her with full tongue kisses. If you thought Steve was a crappy lawyer before, this clinches it. Any ambulance chaser worth his salt would have at least handed her a card after witnessing literally a dozen sexual harassment cases.

Finally we get the third wish which brings us that much closer to the end credits and another terrible Y2K pop song. As Steve is again trying to put the moves in Lisa, she says "I wish I could just love you for who you are." Brother if I had a nickel for every time I got that old line, I could hire someone to watch this dreck for me. This bizarre wish confuses the Djinn (and the audience). In order to clear this up, he has a conference call with his fellow Djinnobites who appear in flames and loudly complain. When they ask him why he hasn't granted the wish, he says "human love must be given freely, or it isn't love, it's a trap." Oh for fuck sake. First of all, this is just dumb, second of all, that is what djinns do! They lead people into traps with their wishes! This idiotic turn of events leads Steve on a quest to find out how to make Lisa fall in love with him. Man, even Lifetime would hesitate to go with something this lamely saccharine. His best advice is from Lisa's astrologist friend who simply says "wine, roses and killer sex" before wishing for "killer sex" for herself and ending up apparently dying of an orgasm while sliding up a wall. His other bit of advice is at a strip club, and is "a fat wallet and a fat dick". So, while desperately trying to be a romantic love-story (including some painfully ham-fisted "beauty and beast" dialogue), screenwriter John Benjamin Martin does a nice job of reducing a complicated human emotion to just material goods and primal urges. Love lifts us up, indeed.

In addition to the non-stop and tedious romantic overtures, there are a couple of throwaway wish grantings. The most shockingly dull of which is when Steve is at a strip club and the bartender says that he would sell his soul to be a pimple on the ass of an allegedly hot stripper. You would think that this groan-inducing set-up would pay off with a Freddy-esque shot of the bartender's face made up as a pimple on the stripper's ass, with him screaming "noooooo!" or whatever. Yeah, that doesn't happen. He simply vanishes from behind the bar and we get Steve quipping "enjoy the view... brotha" and a shot of the shocked cocktail waitress wondering where he went. I can only assume that there was supposed to be an effects shot insert there that the producers couldn't or wouldn't pay for and no one could be bothered enough to cut the scene from the movie.

As if this inanity wasn't enough, late in the game Martin decides to throw in a dime-store Adrian Paul HIGHLANDER (1992-1998) type (Victor Webster), as the "Hunter". A black trench-coat wearing, sword-wielding prettyboy who must kill the "Wisher" (Lisa) in order to prevent the title from actually having to be shown (again). Sure, he has a sword that is the only thing that can actually kill the Djinn, but that's like hard and stuff. It's much easier just to kill some girl, I guess. Oh, and why not kill her employee who works in her boutique clothing store too? Yeah, I don't know why, the Hunter just seemed to be annoyed by her and chops off her head. Hooray for the good guy? The final show-down in which Steve and the Hunter face off on a roadside with a sword and tree branch (I'm not making that up) does finally explain why Lisa was driving a Bronco II, though. It's because the producers didn't want to pay for a decent car to unspectacularly wreck. Instead of some incendiary airborne SUV mayhem, the car catches some air over a hill and then just sort of flips for no reason and stops. Do you hear that sound? It is Spiro Razatos weeping.

I guess having two reasonably entertaining movies out of four is a pretty impressive ratio for us, but damn, I don't think I have ever seen a series drop off so sharply before. Even the HELLRAISER series had a reasonably consistent downward gradient. Interestingly (or not), the HELLRAISER movies evolved into simply re branding existing screenplays with some HELLRAISER imagery. Here it seems like someone wrote a HELLRAISER script that was re-branded as a WISHMASTER sequel. In addition to the Cenobite-esque Djinns that occasionally pop up like a Greek chorus, we have numerous lines where someone says "oh my god" and the Djinn replies with stuff like "God was not invited!" We also have another box, but unlike part 3, the production couldn't be bothered to make it a puzzle box this time. "Fuckit, it's just a box". Additionally, like HELLRAISER (1987) the story centers around a girl who is trying to avoid the advances of a creature disguised as a human, in a house that is demolishing itself at the end of the film. You can practically see the producers pointing at a HELLRAISER video box and saying "we want one of those!" and then cutting the screenwriter a check for $20.

I can't figure out whether this is better or worse than the last entry. Both are miserably unfun, but this is essentially a bad romantic drama with absurd amounts of padding that make the 90 minute running time feel like an eternity of damnation. Admittedly TV bit actor Michael Trucco is not nearly as bland as Jason Connery, but that's not really saying much as Connery played the part as if his father's disappointment was literally hanging over his head. As dull as the characters are, they at least aren't as annoying as the college kids in part 3. Also, Tara Spencer-Nairn's topless scenes certainly help add a little entertainment value. Hey, there's nothing wrong with cheap titillation when you're slogging through something that is slightly more fun than an ER waiting room.

Chris Angel has had a pretty solid career editing supplemental material for DVDs, but that experience does not a director make. There are a lot of close up shots that are edited back and forth, in much the same way you would have an interview with talking heads. Even during the dreary fight sequence between the Djinn and the Hunter, Angel shoots one participant at a time with the other cropped off the screen and simply edits back and forth between the two. The soft-core sex scenes that he enjoys so much are in no way exciting and there are so many scenes of disembodied heads speaking quasi-romantic lines to someone off camera that it often feels like a daytime soap opera. There are a couple of decent gore scenes, but the Djinn looks ridiculous and there is what is unquestionably the worst illusion of someone getting thrown across an alley, but is clearly being slowly carried around on wires. The worst part is that after watching this, I wished to see something different and ended up watching a movie that I have meant to get around to for decades, THE DEATHHEAD VIRGIN (1974). It's loaded with filler, has a lame demonic villain, barely any effects and the most memorable part was a couple shots of nudity. Nearly 40 years apart and I got the same damn thing! Man, that djinn is a dick.

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