Sep 10, 2013
VHS Week, Day 2: WISHMASTER
The jerks like to say that horror movies are good for nothin' at all, but you know what? I learned a little something about myself whilst watching Wishmaster (1997), and that is that I am totally prejudiced! It's true. You see, I am far, far, faaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr more lenient with crap if it's on VHS. I just am. It's not that the format has any bearing on a film beyond resolution and picture quality- it's that for me, videotapes are sheathed in sheaths of cardboard and nostalgia and clammed up in clamshells of plastic and memories.
I know I've talked about it before, about how "movie night" was a thing back then, about hours spent picking out tapes, about how box art could make or break a film, about horror movies and slumber parties, about how I'm old, about where are my pants. But last night, it really sunk in- Wishmaster had that intangible something that seemed perfectly made for VHS viewing, and I was into it. I couldn't understand why everyone harshed on it! Djinn being all evil and not like the goofy genies we're all used to is a terrific idea, and during a djinn-induced chaos some dude's skeleton broke free from his body and went on a rampage. What's not to love? That's gold, friends!
As Ponyboy taught us all, however, nothing gold can stay. And, despite all evidence to the contrary, I'm not a complete idiot: crap on VHS is still crap, and it wasn't long before Wishmaster showed its true colors...and man, they were crappy like a crapbow. It's interesting, though, because it's easy to pinpoint the exact moment where the tide turned. It's here:
Or, more succinctly, it's the moment after that moment, but as you know I jammed out to this on tape and therefore can't do screengrabs. Anyway, ol' Wishie has just made a deal with a homeless guy and the homeless guys runs away in terror, blah blah blah. Then, the Wishmaster...sigh...picks up the homeless guy's discarded cigarette, smokes it, and gets, you know, "cool". Like, Freddy Krueger starting in Dream Warriors-cool, by which I mean "not at all cool". It gets worse after the Wishmaster covers up his gnarly nature by putting on a man-skin face: shit gets cornier and cornier, the lines get "snappier" and "snappier", and I hate my life.
Really, does anybody like this sort of thing? Where a terrifying, ageless demon-monster leaves pun-filled answering machine messages for someone? Do people enjoy all the quippy taunts? They're dreadful unless they're barfed out by the Leprechaun or the Rumplestiltskin. I mean, that is just Horror Movie Making 101.
The effects throughout Wishmaster are largely dodgy, given that it was made during the nascent era of CGI. "Dodgy", I can forgive...but more than that, they're as corny as the GD dialogue, with people turning into glass doors and the such. Over the course of its runtime, Wishmaster truly devolves into- to quote Pauline Kael- some truly corny-ass shit! If only I'd stopped at the 20-minute mark. Oh well. If I'd done that, I would have missed the cameo by the Pazuzu statue! (For real, Wishmaster is chock-full of familiar faces of death horror, including Robert Englund, Reggie Bannister, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Joe Pilato, and the voice of Angus Scrimm.)
You may wonder why, when it was all over, I immediately popped in Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (which I happen to own because it's part of a DVD crap-pack, don't judge me). I guess I figured, I've sat through one, maybe the second one is better? How much worse can it be?
The answer: a lot worse. Wishmaster 2 doesn't devolve into truly corny-ass shit, it starts as such.
Some thieves botch an art heist, shots are fired, the Wishmaster escapes, blah blah. After he's freed from his little tiny jewel house, he has a run-in with the cops on the scene, who tell him to freeze. He then turns the cop into ice, ISN'T THAT GREAT. I won't even bother to get into how the movie collapsed in on itself and defied its own logic within the first ten minutes, rendering everything else during the course of its 96 minutes pointless. I have things to do! I will say this much, though: about 20 minutes in, I thought to myself "Maybe this movie will be better if I lie down, close my eyes, and just listen to it." You know what? It was better, because I immediately fell asleep.
I realize there are two more films in the series, but I'm pretty sure that my relationship with Wishmaster is but a one-night stand. Unless I can find Parts 3 and 4 on VHS...I mean, how bad could they be, right? RIGHT?