One From The Vaults
There wasn’t a lot of supernatural horror in the 90s so this short series of films seemed like they came from a different age where cameras stayed put and editing did not interfere with seeing what is happening. This was a period when CGI still wasn’t good enough so effects were still mainly physical with puppets, wires and stop motion. It isn’t particularly scary but it great to see the creative work done in the effects and there is some humour. It’s a good movie for spotting familiar faces from the horror genre playing supporting roles and is a lot of fun.
The film opens with an introduction to the Djinn (Andrew Divoff) in ancient Arabia, one of a race of powerful magical creatures who are bound to use their powers only to fulfil the desires of others. The Djinn’s has unleashed his powers to trick a King into making a third wish that would free the Djinn, allow him to free the other Djinn and conquer the Earth but the King ‘s magician manages to trap the Djinn inside a gemstone.
The magical gemstone rediscovered in the present after a tragic accident at a dock while unloading a statue of a Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda for a wealthy art collector Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) whose assistant (Ted Raimi) gets crushed to death when the statue falls off the crane lifting onto the dock because the crane operator (Joseph Pilato) was drunk. One of the dock workers spots the gem in the rubble and grabs it.
A pawnbroker who bought it from the dock worker takes it to an auction house to get valued. The boss Nick Merritt (Chris Lemmon) gives it to his expert Alexandra Amberson (Tammy Lauren) to be valued. When Alexandra examines the stone she sees a strange flaw in the gem that gives her a vision of a monstrous creature. Alexandra takes the gem to the local university to get examined by her close friend Tony Crane (Josh Aickman) who is a physicist with a big laser.
Tony puts the gem into the laser and starts it. The gem explodes seriously injuring Tony and freeing the Djinn. It is still small and weak and needs to get Tony to make a wish to give him power so he offers to free Tony from his pain. When Tony agrees the Djinn kills him, meeting the literal meaning of the wish but not the intent. There is only malice in the Djinn and he will make sure to twist any wish to cause harm. Alexandra got a vision of Tony dying and saw the Djinn now full size with demonic face and tentacles. There is a link between Alexandra and the Djinn and whenever he grants a wish she gets a vision of it.
The Djinn is hanging out in an alley when an old drunken vagrant (George ‘Buck’ Flower) gets chased away by a pharmacist (Reggie Bannister) from the front of store. The vagrant is mumbling curses to himself and the Djinn interrupts him to ask if he’s serious. He asks the vagrant to really think about what he wants to happen and then make a wish. The cost will be the vagrant’s soul which he doesn’t really believe so he wishes the pharmacist would get cancer and die. The Djinn grants his wish and leaves the vagrant confused.
The Djinn’s next stop is the hospital morgue when he tries to steal the face from a corpse. He gets interrupted by a medical student who is terrified by the sight of the Djinn. The Djinn offers to take away the terrible sight and the student agrees resulting in hi swish being granted by having his eyes taken away. The Djinn finishes cutting off the face and puts it on his own. He morphs into the human form of the dead man and now can move around unnoticed though Alexandra knows what he looks like thanks her psychic link with the Djinn. This link works both ways and the Djinn knows who Alexandra is and is now looking for her but Alexandra doesn’t know why.
Alexandra tries to find out what the gem is and where it came from, paying a visit to Beaumont to find out something about the statue and he gives a contact at the university, an anthropology professor Wendy Derleth (Jenny O’Hara) for information on the gem and the statue it was in and learns about the Djinn and what legends say. That’s where she learns that she awoke the Djinn so she is psychically tied to him because he needs her to make three wishes and release him and the other Djinn to rule over the Earth.
The first thing the Djinn does in his quest for Alexandra is to get himself a new suit and while there he grants the wish of a salesperson for eternal beauty by turning her into a showroom mannequin. Next he visits the police station to try to get Alexandra’s address from the cop who investigated Tony’s death but the cop refuses. When a creepy murderer gets brought in the cop expresses a wish to be able to get the sleazoid on a murder charge with plenty of witnesses. The Djinn grants his wish and in the chaos which ensues he manages to get Alexandra’s workplace from the cop’s desk file.
The Djinn gets to the auctioneers but it’s closed though Merritt is still in his office looking at things he’s bought. There’s a large security guard (Kane Hodder) in the Djinn’s way but he manages to trick the guard into making a wish and goes through him literally. Merritt is a greedy creep but he still doesn’t hand Alexandra’s address to a weird stranger even when Djinn gives him a small fortune in gold and gems. He does get a lead on where she is coaching a girls basketball team and pays her a little visit where he meets Alexandra’s younger sister Shannon (Wendy Benson-Landes). The Djinn borrows Shannon’s mobile phone and finds out Alexandra was trying to talk to Wendy.
The Djinn uses the gem to take all the souls he’s earned so far, killing those who got wishes granted. Alexandra gets a call from Wendy and goes to see her but Wendy is acting strange, offering her things while ridiculing the idea that if the Djinn is real she would have any hope of outwitting him. Wendy reveals that she is the Djinn and the real Wendy is dead. This is the big confrontation and Alexandra decides to use a wish to get to know what the Djinn is. He transports into a nightmare realm seemingly inside the gem where the souls the Djinn captured are bound in torment. Now Alexandra is trapped while the Djinn is free to act outside the gem and to convince her to make her three wishes and free him the Djinn is going after Shannon.
Shannon is at a fancy party thrown by Beaumont that was originally meant celebrate acquiring the Ahura Mazda statue but Beaumont held the party despite the accident. Alexandra wishes herself back out of the gem and rushes to Beaumont’s party. The Djinn has a bit of trouble with a door steward (Tony Todd) that gets sorted by another fatal wish. The Djinn gets chatting with Beaumont just as Alexandra arrives. Beaumont wants his party’s fame to go down in history which is music to the Djinn’s ears. The Djinn launches his magic to bring death to the party guests and soon there is panic with screams and the pain of the dying.
Alexandra loses sight of Shannon in the mad rush out of the building so goes looking for her. The Djinn awakens several aggressive statues to chase after her and tells her that she can wish away all this suffering. Still Alexandra refuses because the Djinn is so much worse than a few dead rich people. The Djinn gets much more personal by trapping Shannon in a painting then setting the house in painting on fire.
Alexandra takes some deep breaths then thinking about what she learned about everything that happened she makes her wish; that the crane driver who dropped the statue hadn’t been drunk that morning. The Djinn thinks he’s won and grants the wish, not realising until it’s too late that it undoes everything that he did and he gets sucked back into the gem and sealed inside the statue.
This is a really fun film and I really liker the imaginative ways the effects team have brought the Djinn’s magic to life without modern CGI. The story isn’t very original but then it is based on the a lot of the myths of those who have dealings with malicious wish granting creatures. The Djinn is a very useful creature for allowing the creative freedom to whatever the film-makers want with in whatever budget they have. The main character is probably the weakest part of the film and though Tammy Lauren does okay with the role the character is just a bit bland and forgettable. Andrew Divoff is just great as the Djinn and his human disguise and the parts with him are certainly the more interesting parts of the film. Unfortunately he only appeared in one of the sequels.