Greetings everyone! Today we’re talking about genies (or djinn, I’m not entirely sure which is correct), and the Wishmaster series.
The concept of “be careful what you wish for” has been part of the horror genre for a long time, but oddly enough it rarely involves a genie. Most stories about genies tend to play their ability to alter reality for comedic purposes. Meanwhile, the “be careful what you wish for” story usually centers around an object like a monkey’s paw or a shooting star. I guess writers realize that a lot of the horror stories that use this concept would not work if the person making the wish could have a conversation with the person granting the wish.
I hope you’ll forgive me as I go on a bit of a rant, but the “be careful what you wish for” story has always bothered me. The phrase indicates that getting what you wished for will not turn out like you expect it to, and can have consequences that lead to harm for you and others. That can be a good idea for a story when it’s done right, and I have seen a few stories that have done this idea right.
The problem is that most of these stories have the wish turn out poorly because the person making the wish phrases it wrong. For instance, there have been multiple stories where a character will wish for a dead relative to come back, and then the relative will come back as a zombie. That is clearly not what the person making the wish had wished for. The moral of those stories isn’t “be careful what you wish for”. The real moral is “if you ever get something that can magically grant wishes, run your wishes by an English professor before actually making your wish”.
Genies (or djinn) come from the part of the world that was once known as Arabia. Now at first, I thought that belief in djinn came from the Islamic faith, but as I was researching this post (yes, I actually do research for these things), I found that the belief in djinn actually came before the rise of Islam. The modern version of the djinn is a creature that resembles humans, but is made of either air, fire, or smoke. From what I understand (and I fully admit that I may be wrong), djinn are beings that are neither heavenly angels nor hellish demons, but have a similar standing in terms of power. Djinn tend to be bound to Earth, as few sources ever mention them having a plane of existence other than ours.
While we’re talking about genies, I should point out that the “three wishes” thing is a modern invention of the genre. In older tales like the original version of Aladdin, there was no limit on how many wishes the genie could grant. The limit on wishes was probably put in later to make these stories more engaging, as giving someone an unlimited number of reality-altering wishes would remove a lot of the drama.
Since genies are from Earth, there tend to be good genies and bad genies. Horror movie legend Wes Craven explored the concept of what would happen if a bad genie was roaming the world, attempting to destroy it. This leads to one of the more interesting examples of the “be careful what you wish for” story, where the genie granting the wish is intentionally misinterpreting the wish. Sometimes it’s to further his nefarious goals, and sometimes it’s just because he’s a dick.
1997’s Wishmaster starts with an explanation that if a genie ever grants a third wish, then it will unleash every genie in existence on to the world at once. I think the implication is that all genies are evil in this franchise, but that isn’t made clear. An evil djinn tries to trick an ancient Persian emperor into making his third wish, but he is trapped in a jewel by Zoroaster. Incidentally, I don’t know if this is a flattering or insulting depiction of Zoroaster, since I don’t really know anything about Zoroastrianism.
The film cuts to the modern day, when a statue with the jewel is being transported to the United States. A drunken crane operator makes a fatal mistake that kills one of his coworkers and breaks the statue. The gem is stolen and sold, and eventually winds up in an auction house. There, the gem explodes, releasing the genie.
The genie goes around granting people’s wishes in ways that kill them, which kind of defeats the purpose of his goal of granting three wishes to unleash the rest of his kind upon the world. Multiple attempts are made to kill the genie with conventional weapons, but this doesn’t work for obvious reasons. Eventually, one of the auction house employees makes a wish that the crane operator had not been drunk on the day that the statue was being transported. This negates everything that happened in the film, and the status is successfully transported to the museum that it was originally supposed to go to.
While this film was popular, it wasn’t quite popular enough to receive a theatrical sequel. It did receive several direct-to-video sequels, starting with 1999’s Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies. A museum robbery gone wrong ends up destroying the gem and freeing the genie once again. As the genie takes a human form, he allows himself to be arrested by police officers and get sent to prison.
As the genie starts murdering the prisoners by intentionally misinterpreting their wishes, one of the burglars from the museum heist starts learning about the genie’s history. She then goes through some purification rituals, as only someone that is pure can banish the genie. Oddly enough, she never thinks of just wishing that the museum heist never happened.
Eventually, the burglar manages to use an ancient ritual to banish the genie back into the gem. Somehow this brings all of his victims back to life, which really shouldn’t work. Overall, this film’s ending is kind of odd, and is probably one of the reasons that this film isn’t very well liked.
2001’s Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell starts with a teenage girl opening up a box that has the genie’s gem inside. No, we’re never told why the gem is inside the box. Once the genie is freed, he starts killing people based on their wishes again. Unlike in the previous films though, the way he kills people has little to do with the actual wish they make. For instance, a secretary wish for some files to burn, so the genie sets her on fire. That’s not even remotely close to what she wished for.
The teenage girl actually uses one of her wishes to summon the Archangel Michael, who possesses her boyfriend. They fight the genie together, with the revelation that Michael’s sword can kill the genie. The teenage girl finally manages to wield the sword and kill the genie with it.
This wasn’t the end of the franchise however, as 2002 saw the release of Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled. This movie begins with the genie once again being freed from the gem. No mention is made of how the genie can still be alive if he was killed in the previous film.
This film actually has one of the characters make a third wish, but the wish is that she could love Steven, the man that the genie is currently disguised as, “for who he really is”. The genie spends the rest of the movie trying to learn what love is so that he can grant the wish by seducing the woman. This ends up failing completely, as the woman’s current boyfriend manages to wish for an angelic sword and kill the genie with it.
The evil genie in the Wishmaster series is petty and cruel, but he’s also kind of dumb. The movies claim that he can only free his kind if the person that released him makes the third wish, but that doesn’t explain why he kills everyone else that makes a wish. If he truly wanted to free the other genies, he should have granted their wishes normally in order to convince the person that freed him that there was nothing sinister going on.
That’s it for the nameless genie from the Wishmaster series. Tomorrow we’ll discuss another fantasy horror franchise with the Leprechaun series.