one thing in all that is... Fear the Djinn
producer of Wishmaster, Pierre David, the Chairman and CEO of
the Image Organization, is well acquainted with the Horror genre. His
past credits include three movies he made with David Cronenberg while
working for Canadian distributor New World: The Brood (1979),
Scanners (1981) and Videodrome (1983). He also produced
Visiting Hours, George Pan Cosmatos's Of Unknown Origin,
and the other films in the epic Scanners saga. With Scream's
Wes Craven on board as Executive Producer, Wishmaster has an
Wishmaster began as what movie executives humbly call a 'high-concept' idea: one that can be summed up in very few worlds, but which fires the imagination simply because it sounds so interesting. Image's high-concept idea was for a film about a malevolent genie. To turn their idea into a viable screenplay they approached Peter Atkins, who had written three of the Hellraiser films. Atkins explains how he came to be involved: "I got a phone call from Pierre David's company. [Associate Producer] Erik Saltzgaber, who worked with me at New World while we were making the Hellraiser movies, told me that they wanted to do a Horror movie, and told me that they had in mind a film about an evil genie. Frankly, my heart sank. I thought 'what the Hell can I do with that, that hasn't been done before?'
"I met with the producers. One of them, Clark Peterson, had done an enormous amount of research into the old Arabic and Persian mythology, which really hadn't been used before. He gave me all this material, and I went away and came up with the basic story. I came back with a basic, three-or-four sentence description of the story, which they liked, so I went back and developed that into a full synopsis, and then into a treatment, then a first draft the usual process! The story is completely mine, based on their premise. It was like that scene in Annie Hall: they had a notion, which they wanted me to work into a concept, in the hope that eventually it would turn into an idea!"
Atkins's story involves a genie - the Djinn - who is trapped within an opal, hidden inside a statue of a pre-Islamic god. The statue, which has been purchased by a wealthy art collector, Raymond Beaumont, is smashed as it is hauled from a ship at the San Pedro docks. The gemstone is stolen from the debris and eventually finds its way to an auction house, where it is given to a spirited young woman, Alexandra Amberson, for valuation. During the examination of the opal the Djinn is released. The Djinn is obliged to grant the wishes of humans, but twists their requests in a way that is usually detrimental, and often fatal, to his 'client'. In doing so the Djinn gathers their souls, and increases his power. Only Alex stands in the way of the Djinn's plan to open a gateway that will allow the other members of his race to invade the Earth.
Atkins explains that their approach was far removed from the typical depiction of genies, like those in Disney's Aladdin or TV's I Dream of Jeannie. "The benign genie who grants the wishes of the person who frees him, is actually a Western, and modern, simplification of the old Djinn legends. The Djinn, as a race, were much more morally ambiguous than that, and they could be quite malevolent. I took that idea, and plugged that into a modern Horror structure, creating an excluded race. It's a bit like Lovecraft's notion of the Old Ones, who inhabit the fringes of our reality, who once ruled, and now want to get back in. I made the Djinn a race that were created after the angels, but before Mankind, and who were never given a home. The angels were given Heaven, Mankind was given the world. There's a line in the script, I think, that says that the Djinn were 'condemned to wander the void between the worlds, envious of both'. So the 'character motivation' for our demon was the usurping of our world: although they are bound to grant the wishes of humans, their ultimate aim is to displace us, and storm this reality. It's a battle of wills between the Djinn and the woman who inadvertently released him into the world. Alex has to metaphorically get him back into the bottle, before he can carry out his plan."
Photograph copyright: First Independent
Read the full feature, and take an exclusive look at the special effects in Wishmaster, in the current issue of Shivers