NOVEMBER 9, 2012
I wasn't a big fan of the original, but I had heard that Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies was an improvement, so I went in as optimistic as I could, given the circumstances (DTV sequel to a bad theatrical release, 90s horror, no horror cameos this time, etc). But those folks are right - it's much more enjoyable than its predecessor, though it does suffer from some of the same problems, plus a new one: terrible FX! If nothing else, the work on the original (by KNB) was terrific, and holds up even today - but some of this stuff (by a whole bunch of folks, so I can't even tell who to blame) couldn't even have been acceptable then.
Of course, part of that above average quality was because the K of KNB, Robert Kurtzman, was the director of the original film. This time it's Jack Sholder, who had helmed a number of great or interesting horror flicks in the 80s: Alone in the Dark, The Hidden, Freddy's Revenge... but hadn't done much in horror since. So even though the FX were going to be less impressive, I was hoping Sholder, who also wrote the script, would bring something slightly more interesting to the table than a series of scenes where the Djinn tricks some poor asshole into killing himself.
Alas, that's pretty much all there is to it (again), but the locations are more appealing. Early on, the Djinn is freed during a museum robbery and takes the heat for a security guard killed by the robbers, and finds himself in a prison full of potential wishmakers. So he does his thing, once again having to trick everyone into wishing for something by basically saying what he wants them to say until they repeat it themselves, but with funnier results. One prisoner wishes his lawyer would go fuck himself, and damned if the Djinn doesn't make that happen. I also liked when a guy wishes to get wasted (meaning drugs/booze) but instead his own henchman start uncontrollably "wasting" him (meaning beating the shit out of him). scene like this helps get around the lesser FX - Sholder just has the martial arts stars The Tiger Twins play the henchmen, doing what they can do naturally, and thus doesn't have to rely on piss-poor CGI. That said, there are some fun practical FX, like the guy who wishes he could walk through the bars and thus can't help himself from walking through until he's squished between them into a bloody pulp.
There are also some good bits during the 3rd act, where the Djinn realizes he needs an influx of souls, fast, and thus heads to a casino. It's a bit confusing, because the casino owner says something like "It's our wish for the customers to be happy", but the Djinn somehow gets to take the souls of all the gamblers who found themselves suddenly winning - they didn't wish anything themselves? At least not out loud, and if he can just read minds can't he just wander around and get a bunch of souls pretty quickly? Any city street would have a bunch of folks wishing they were richer, or banging the woman who just walked by, or whatever. But I guess it's best not to think too much about Wishmaster logic, because if it all made sense we wouldn't get the sight of a woman who apparently wished she had money coming out of her ass.
But (spoiler for 13 year old movie ahead!) they once again go down the "I wish nothing happened" route, more or less. Our heroine wishes that the guard at the beginning never died, and then recites some curse, and then we see pretty much every character of note come back to life. There's a chess motif in the movie, and while I absolutely HATE seeing the hero (or villain) say "Checkmate!" and then have some nonsense happen to prove that they had planned all of the film's events up to this point and it all went perfectly (like chess), it would be preferable to what is essentially an "it was all a dream" copout. Especially when they already did that in the first film - do something new! Even merely shooting him in the head or tossing him into a vat of comic book style acid would be preferable.
They also spend too much time on the heroine, who was one of the robbers and spends most of the movie feeling guilty that her partner died (since he wished he was never born and thus disappears, I'm not sure why she even remembers him, since the Wishmaster's powers can undo reality, but again, don't think about it!), talking to the handsomest/rugged-est priest in movie history, Googling (or whatever the equivalent was in 1999) Persian mythology and other related bits, or having visions. As with the original, the actress is kind of bland, and the character simply not very interesting (not to mention not very sympathetic - she's a damn criminal), so any time they cut away from Andrew Divoff having fun, the movie grinds to a halt. Hellraiser got it right - they gave us someone to care about (Kirsty) before we even MET the admittedly more fun "hero" monster (Pinhead). Here, they give us the Djinn early on and show how fun he can be, but then weigh things down by constantly giving equal screen time to a bland heroine with nothing else going on but her "wish" to stop him. Since he's just fucking with prisoners and awful gamblers, do we even WANT him to be stopped? Not like he's taking out orphanages and hospitals, dude's just ridding the world of some scumbags. Leave him be, boring woman!
Speaking of Divoff, this would be his swan song in the role; much like the similar Warlock, the actor for part 3 (and 4, in this case) was someone new, a guy by the name of John Novak who is physically similar. I wonder if Divoff just simply tired of putting on the makeup; if that's the case they probably could have just had this Novak guy put on the suit and let Divoff handle the "human" scenes, but alas. Those are on Instant, which means I won't have to deal with Fearnet's kind of annoying player - I dig that they let you watch semi-legit movies like this for free on their site, but you have to a. watch the same exact ad every 15 minutes or so, and b. deal with the fact that it barely works. I had to restart the movie 6-7 times due to random freezing, and most times I couldn't even skip ahead to where I left off or it would lock up again. So I'd just let it play in the background while I did something else until it got to where I left off - real ideal way to watch a movie! Luckily, it's just Wishmaster 2, and despite all of that I still liked it more than the first (which I believe I watched on pay cable), so don't give me any shit about the less than proper way I saw this.
What say you?