Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on December 21, 2001, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.
So this is what Artisan Home Entertainment chooses to lavish DVD special editions on instead of Ginger Snaps and Sleepless. In the case of Wishmaster 3 (pictured, and sporting the ungainly subtitle Beyond the Gates of Hell), the attention is at least commercially justified, since the previous installment in the franchise was supposedly the most successful direct-to-video title of its year. From the beginning, though, the concept of a creature that grants victims’ wishes with fatal twists seemed a fairly limited one as far as sequelizing possibilities were concerned, an impression that Wishmaster 3 does little to dispel.
This new entry is set on a college campus (typical for this sort of film, it appears to be Hot Chick U., and becomes conveniently deserted during the movie's second half), and centers on a professor (Jason Connery, son of you-know-who) becoming possessed by the Djinn. But there’s no mystery left to the creature—he comes off like a third-rate Star Trek villain here—and his impact is further dispelled by being played in creature form by a different actor (John Novak) than Connery, who for his part lacks the commanding malevolence of original performer Andrew Divoff. Worse yet, the Djinn’s monster form only appears in two scenes and is completely absent after the hour mark, leaving the human characters to run through a completely generic climax.
At least the movie looks slick; the disc’s 1.85:1 transfer is pretty good, with film grain here and there but fine colors and clarity, and a strong Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Highlights among the extras are a six-minute making-of segment that provides fleeting but fun peeks at the shooting of stunts and FX (including bits of a guts-puking scene that don’t appear in the movie) and audio commentary by director Chris Angel and actors Connery, Novak and Louisette Geiss. This is the kind of commentary that made me wish I liked the film more; they all seem like nice, energetic people, and the talk is a good balance of joking around and production detail. Angel is especially enthusiastic as he explains changes and additions he made to the script, and the creation of the FX (both low- and hi-tech), among other topics.
Deep in the Woods is France’s entry in the youth-slasher derby, and as such is distinguished mostly by such refined touches as being set in an old, antiques-stocked mansion instead of a small town or campus, and the emphasis on classical music over rock or hiphop on the soundtrack. Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as usual, with a Red Riding Hood motif that comes off as more of a gimmick than a resonant theme.
Writer/director Lionel Delplanque has certainly crafted a good-looking picture, though, and the 2.35:1 transfer is very fine, bearing deep blacks, rich hues and only occasional artifacting. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio creates a few effective separation effects, though Delplanque’s style does as much if not more with silence than sound. Both English and subtitled French tracks are included, and while the disc will not allow the playing of the French-version subs with the English track for direct comparison, some of the dialogue seems significantly different between the two—though it isn’t a strong point in either version.
Supplements include a “theatrical trailer” (not the one used by Phaedra Cinema for the movie’s brief U.S. release, but a re-edit of the French trailer minus some shots including nudity) and audio commentary by genre veteran Brian Yuzna, working from notes by Delplanque. (So, Artisan, why not take the same approach on Sleepless in the absence of an actual Argento commentary? Just asking.) Yuzna does share some interesting technical facts (like the director having shot the film’s shower murder without an actual shower set, to differentiate it from Psycho’s) and explores its Red Riding Hood themes and use of slasher-flick conventions. Too often, though, he simply makes observations like, “This is a very interesting shot” or “Now we get the feeling that she’s gonna get it.” In the end, his talk feels more like an assignment than something motivated by passion for the movie.