While Robert Kurtzman is unlikely to ever emerge as a director of any sophistication or artistic vision, Wishmaster at least proves entertaining. It is like a better budgeted and more seriously made version of Leprechaun (1993). Although, the true source of inspiration for both is the A Nightmare on Elm Street films Wishmaster is not much more than another variant on the Freddy Krueger badass villain who dispatches victims with gory novelty deaths. Wishmaster is fairly much a one-note idea evil djinn offers victims a wish then kills them or someone else in a bizarre way that involves literalistic wording of the wish. The entire film is like a conveyor line that provides one of these novelty deaths every 15 minutes or so.
That said, the effects employed in these novelty deaths are amazing. We get characters blowing their own heads off; a person transformed into glass and then shattered; the Wishmaster rebirthing Hellraiser (1987)-style and then slicing the face off a corpse and dissolving it onto his own; Robert Englund vomiting up an insect/worm figure an effect borrowed from Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986); heads ripped off with animated piano wires; and a climax with stones statues of samurai and centurions come to life. The first five minutes or so of the film contain a showstopping effects extravaganza with jaws being ripped off, people flung against and then dissolving into a brick wall, people with tree heads and snake bodies and an amazing sequence where a skeleton tears its way out of its owners body. This is the highlight of the film and nothing else in the film matches it.
Wishmaster also becomes the film film to have been directed by a makeup effects artist, with the exception of Stan Winstons Pumpkinhead (1988), that goes all out for it in terms of makeup effects. Other directorial outings from makeup artists have proven surprisingly disappointing in regard to highlighting the very effects said artists specialised in efforts like Chris Walass The Fly II (1989) and The Vagrant (1992), Tom Burmans Life on the Edge/Meet the Hollowheads (1989), Tom Savinis Night of the Living Dead (1990), Screaming Mad Georges The Guyver (1991), Bob Keens Proteus (1995) and Gary J. Tunnicliffes Within the Rock (1996).
Robert Kurtzman also shows himself to be a genre fan. The opening credits read like a checklist of genre names Wes Craven Presents, a script from Hellraiser series author Peter Atkins, a score from Friday the 13th series man Harry Manfredini, producer Pierre David from the Scanners sequels and numerous psycho-thrillers. There are also a large number of genre cameos Robert Englund, stuntman Kane Hodder who played Jason Voorhees several times, Phantasm series stars Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm, Candyman series star Tony Todd, Ted Raimi, Day of the Dead (1985) star Josef Pilato, not to mention characters named after various horror authors (August) Derleth, (Charles) Beaumont, (Dennis) Etchison, (Robert) Aickman and (Abraham) Merritt.
There were three sequels: Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999), Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell/Wishmaster III: Devilstone (2001) and Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002). Andrew Divoff reprised the title role in the first of these but was replaced by John Novak in the subsequent two entries.
Subsequently, Robert Kurtzman returned to the horror genre with Buried Alive (2007), The Rage (2007) and Deadly Impact (2010), and as producer of The Dead Matter (2008), Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (2013), ClownTown (2017) and Secret Santa (2018).
(Winner for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 1997 Awards).