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Wishmaster 4 (October 19/02)

I really had no intention of renting Wishmaster 4, though I do consider myself a fan of the series. That last installment really tested my patience, as it was a pathetic rehash of the original. Still, something compelled me to give this latest episode a chance - and, go figure, it was actually pretty decent.

The story opens with a young couple, Lisa and Max (Tara Spencer-Nairn and Jason Thompson), purchasing their first house and generally frolicking about the way young lovers tend to. Cut to three years later, and Max has lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle crash. His bitterness and regret has caused a serious rift in his relationship with Lisa, who's finding herself drawn to their lawyer, Steven (Michael Trucco). He feels the same way, and tries to impress Lisa by giving her an ornate case - but she's spooked by something after a jewel is dislodged. Yep, you guessed it: The Djinn was housed in there, and, after killing Steven and assuming his identity, he's back on the prowl. But unlike the previous installments, the Djinn actually succeeds in compelling his waker to make three wishes; however, the third wish proves to be more problematic to grant than the Djinn would have liked.

Wishmaster 4 is somewhat of a departure for the series, in that the Djinn comes off as slightly sympathetic instead of completely evil. While in the guise of Steven, the Djinn finds himself actually falling in love with Lisa - a development that's odd, to say the least. But it's fairly believable due mostly to some fine acting by all three leads. Unlike the previous two, Wishmaster 4 features characters worth caring about and a storyline that's interesting from start to finish. Spencer-Nairn, as Lisa, proves to be a surprisingly adept heroine, rarely succumbing to the scream-and-run trap that tends to engulf most horror actresses. And Trucco, who looks like a cross between Christian Bale and comedian Dane Cook, gives a charismatic and slick performance as both the meek Steven and the Djinn Steven. But Thompson never really gets a chance to do anything aside from mope and complain, which prevents the Max and Lisa relationship from ever becoming the epic Romeo and Juliet coupling the filmmakers seem to want it to be - mostly because we can't understand why Lisa would stick by the self-loathing Max.

Of course, there are a few instances of unnecessary padding here - most notably in the form of a bizarre hunter that's presumably been sent to stop Lisa from making her final wish. Though his initial confrontation with Lisa is good for a few laughs - he pops up out of nowhere and explains that she must die for the good of the universe - the character doesn't really go anywhere, and the sword fight that ensues between him and the Djinn is just silly. Likewise, the climactic fight between Lisa and the Djinn is somewhat over-the-top and doesn't really fit in with the tone of what preceded it. But having said that, there are some great gore sequences - most notably the poor lawyer who's forced to rip out his own tongue, cut off his nose, stab his cheek, and finally shoot himself! And, of course, it wouldn't be a Wishmaster movie without the cheesy wishes that get granted. My personal favorite was the girl who wished for killer sex and...well, I think you can probably guess what happens.

Wishmaster 4 easily redeems the series after the horrible second and third installments, but never quite makes it up the level of the original - due mostly to the continued absence of Andrew Divoff in the role of the Djinn. Still, the film is enjoyable enough and gory enough to please most horror fans.

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