A- Sound B- Extras A-
starring Jason Connery, A.J. Cook, Tobias Mehler, John Novak
screenplay by Alex Wright
directed by Chris Angel
by Walter Chaw The most interesting thing about the train wreck Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell is that it's actually bookended by two car wrecks. The first is a dream our heroine Diana (A. J. Cook) has of her parents being killed in a collision for which she feels responsible; the second involves the Archangel Michael (Tobias Mehler, who also plays Diana's boyfriend, Greg--don't ask), for some reason incapable of freeing his ethereal self from a shoulder restraint without the intervention of the redemption-seeking Diana. Knowing that Wishmaster is a series of films dealing with an evil wish-granting Djinn, I had hope from the first accident that Wishmaster 3 would be an updating of W.W. Jacobs's marvellous short story "The Monkey's Paw", with poor, bereaved Diana foolhardily resurrecting her deceased parents. By the time the second (literally) rolled around, I had hope only that the extreme suckitude of the film didn't somehow damage my DVD player. Wishmaster 3 is simply abominable--a horror film free of fear and the two things that made the series worthwhile in the first place: genre writer Peter Atkins, absent since the first instalment, and Andrew Divoff as the titular bogey.
After a surprisingly entertaining intro film and an awful sequel (directed by Jack Sholder--with Wishmaster 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, he did his best to fatally harpoon two budding franchises), Wishmaster 3 staggers onto the direct-to-video market with an astonishingly dull start that establishes Diana as a typically wounded horror movie scream queen and the film itself as just another dead-teenager flick. After discovering (and rubbing) a red gemstone in a stone box inexplicably mailed to good Professor Barash (Jason "Son of Sean" Connery), grad student Diana inadvertently unleashes the Djinn (John Novak), an evil Persian demon that grants ironic wishes to small-minded humans. After taking the form of Professor Barash to save on the special effects budget and try to further cash in on the fruit of a legendary actor's loins, the Djinn proceeds to torture and kill Diana's friends, an attempt to get her to make her three wishes--a task that, once complete, will give the Djinn the power to rule the universe.
In other words, Wishmaster 3 doesn't make much sense even before Diana wishes for the Archangel Michael to "come down from Heaven" and fight the Djinn. (Midway through this Wishmaster film, a Prophecy film breaks out.) It's poorly plotted and poorly written, with dialogue so awkward and impossible that talented actors would have trouble making it sound cogent, much less the band of community theatre cast-offs assembled here. Jason Connery, looking like a cross between his dad and Will Patton, lacks the virile charisma of the former and the skill of the latter. He delivers his lines with a dandyish inconsequence that defuses any kind of menace while also failing to provide any hint of campy relish. Divoff's absence is fatal to the film; Connery as the Djinn is Freddy Krueger as played by David Niven.
The film seems to realize its need to obscure the cast and narrative early on and does so initially with some welcome nudity and plentiful, albeit amateurish, gore. Sadly, after that brief Bacchanalian frenzy, Wishmaster 3 settles down to a stultifying series of unimaginative shots of Prof. Barash stalking around alternated with Diana and her Djinn-fodder pals going through the supernatural horror movie motions of researching the occult at the library and exchanging worried glances. Those looking for an old-fashioned gross-out would be better served looking elsewhere.
Unforgivably lifeless, Wishmaster 3 isn't worse than most dtv monster mashes, but it commits the one crime that a horror film cannot commit: it's boring. The only decent scene in the film (one that honours the cruelty and sense of humour of the film's premise), of a girl vomiting up her fat after wishing to be thinner, is quickly overwhelmed by the dead weight of unhelpful exposition, strange inconsistencies, embarrassing line deliveries, and bald rip-offs of scenes from films like Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Unholy, and The Relic (they've even pilfered the tongue-chewing moment from the non-horror Midnight Express). As in Wishmaster 2, too many of the deaths are arbitrary--there's no hint of irony or poetic justice. At the end of the day, the greatest shame of Wishmaster 3 isn't the acting, script, flat direction, and flaccid execution so much as the fact that a premise as rich for plumbing as The Arabian Nights has found itself mired in a progressively diminishing series of micro-budgeted, low-aspiring video knock-offs.
Artisan's 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced DVD is the very definition of "solid." Colours are bright and their separation is fantastic; more than adequate black level and shadow detail are maintained. Digital artifacting is inconsequential and edge enhancement is kept to a bare minimum. Meanwhile the unimaginative Dolby 2.0 surround track is at least clear and free of distortion. A commentary track featuring director Chris Angel and actors Novak, Connery, and Louisette Guis (the bimbo best friend sex-kitten) is full of goodwill and mirth. The participants seem to realize that Wishmaster 3 is a barrel-scraping embarrassment, although Connery sits very quietly, offering maybe thirty words throughout. Best is when the four take turns slamming the film and its continuity errors--sort of a low-rent Mystery Science Theater. While there are a surprising amount of lulls for a track featuring a quartet of speakers, Angel does manage to offer a few interesting production notes concerning some of the manual effects work. They are the kind of errata that aspiring Corman-ites are doubtless hungry to know.
A brief making-of featurette (5 mins.) is a somewhat standard promotional documentary comprised of on-set interviews, shots from the film, B-roll footage, and a few (too few) nifty behind-the-scenes special effects sequences. The disc is rounded out by a section featuring five storyboard sequences (comprised of about twenty pencil sketches each), eight pages of production notes, and the requisite trailer and cast/crew biographies. Originally published: November 18, 2001.