DIRECTOR: John R. Leonetti
WRITER: Barbara Marshall
Ki Hong Lee
When Clare's father gifts her with an antique Chinese Box that he found on one of his rubbish finding trips, she soon discovers that the box grants her seven wishes. When she starts to use the wishes for her own personal gain, bad things start happening to those closest to her. She must now try and reverse her actions before everyone near, and dear to her heart dies a gruesome death.
There is a Richard Matheson short story by the name of Button, Button. It was made into a movie by Richard Kelly called The Box. The movie featured a small wooden box that if gifted to a young couple and when they push the button, someone, somewhere will die. Once the person dies, they will receive one million dollars. I only bring this up because Wish Upon has very similar elements in the sense that a small wooden box is gifted to someone and people end up dying.
While The Box was maligned by critics, I thought it was a beautifully filmed and pretty trippy mid-budget thriller. Only a director like Richard Kelly could deliver something so wildly ambitious. Wish Upon is a movie that clearly caters to the teenage crowd. Here we have a movie that is never trying to be anything more than a teen-horror film that involves some gruesome deaths and flashy visuals. Wish Upon is not out to break new ground. It's all very routine.
What I enjoyed about the film was the entire premise of the small antique box. Every single thing about it was genuinely creepy. While the movie is almost scare-free. This little box that the story revolves around is where we procure most of the tension and suspense from. We have loud noises, and many attempts at predictable jump scares but I thought that every single time that the box opened, the cogs moved, and those symbols started ticking over. This is where we got a massive sense of dread from.
I was also pretty invested in the relationship between our lead teenage girl and her father, played to DILF-like perfection by Ryan Phillippe. I too loved Sherilyn Fenn as the lovely neighbour, Mrs Deluca. Her death scene while very early on is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the flick. The entire time, I wanted to see her character survive just as I wanted to see our father character survive. While the entire teenage cast are written as teen horror movie stereotypes. I found the adult roles to have a lot more depth to them.
Now we come to the first big issue that I had with Wish Upon. The decisions that are made by our leading character are utterly frustrating. After the first and second time that she makes a wish, her greed sets in and people around her die. She knows that the box is responsible but continues to be greedy, and as she makes more and more wishes, the deaths begin hitting closer to home. Instead of trying to hide it away, she continues to make wishes. She's the catalyst for all of her own suffering.
Wish Upon also has several moments that play unintentionally hilarious. This, in turn, ends up killing any chance of the film being even remotely scary. If the filmmaker had intended or hoped for this film to be creepy, he missed the mark. We have one of the strangest scenes in a Hollywood produced teen-horror film that I saw all year. It sees Ryan Phillippe playing the saxophone while all his daughter's teenage friends lust for him. The scene comes out of nowhere and plays like a mid-nineties, Kenny-G, music video with that whole Vasoline on the lens look. It's so utterly bizarre and incredibly uncomfortable.
The way the movie ends is kinda ballsy for a studio theatrical release. I was shocked to see that the movie ended on such a dark note. It's not a pleasant ending and takes some massive balls for a studio to go where it goes with that final death. While I feel it's warranted for all the stupid character decisions, it's sure to divide audiences. It's just a shame that everything leading up to that and the obligatory sequel set up is all pretty predictable and almost takes away from that final death scene.
I managed to watch the uncut version of Wish Upon and found it to be rather horror-lite. There are a few death scenes that are actually pretty inventive. There is a death scene involving someone's hair getting caught in a garbage disposal which results in a scalping and broken neck. The best scene in the movie for me. We also have a scene involving a falling chainsaw that is cut way too early for the uncut version. Several of the death scenes are sadly aftermath shots or are helped along with CGI which sort of ruins the scenes.
Lastly, we come to the acting. Joey King is a talented young actress. I thought she was phenomenal in The Conjuring. Here she is good, but the writing and character decisions play heavily on how her performance comes across. Ryan Phillippe is solid here. It was good just to see him playing the fatherly role. Sherilyn Fenn is also great in a small supporting role. I thought her final scene was the most heartbreaking and sad moment in the film. She commands the screen in even the most minor of roles.
DEATH TOLL: 7
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman is killed in an elevator accident.
- A man is hit in the back of the head with a chainsaw.
- A teenage boy cuts his own wrists.
- A woman's hair is caught in a garbage disposal, and she is scalped.
- Her neck is also broken when pulled back onto the corner of the bench.
- A teenage girl is hit by a car and thrown into the windshield of another car.
- The aftermath shows her with glass in her chest and face.
- A teenage girl's face is impaled on a spike.
- A woman commits suicide by hanging herself in an attic.
- A teenage girl wakes up with her skin rotting.
- A dead dog is found being eating by rats.
- An old man drowns in a bathtub when he slips and hits his head.
Wish Upon is a movie that has its moments. Sadly the bad outweighs the good here. The movie has some inventive death scenes, a pretty sinister and impressive antique device that lends the film most of its creepiness, some passable performances, and a dark and moody ending. Shame the movie is predictable, has a lot of flawed character decisions, and no exposition or backstory on the device itself. It's a little bit flimsy by the time the credits roll around. Watch The Box instead.