Wish Upon FILM REVIEW
Director: John R. Leonetti
Written by Barbara Marshall
Starring: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee, Shannon Purser, Sydney Park, Sherilyn Fenn, Mitchell Slaggert
Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic elements and language
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
** out of *****
Photo: Orion Pictures/Broad Green Pictures
Clare Shannon (Joey King) soon discovers seemingly simple wishes can be deadly in WISH UPON.
The saying goes "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." However, when it comes to movies, imitation can lead to big bucks and, in some cases, accusations of creative bankruptcy. Other than music and television, movies are the most readily accessible forms of imitation. Hollywood has been re-purposing the same stories year in and year out. Some turn out to be great successes while others vanish without even a whimper. The horror genre is certainly guilty of revisiting oft used story lines. Regardless of genre how those familiar tropes are presented will often make or break a picture. The new supernatural horror film WISH UPON presents a familiar tale but ultimately feels like a bad karaoke mashup of two long running horror film franchises.
In the film, a teenage girl receives a gift from her father. Unbeknownst to either of them is that this gift is actually a supernatural wishing box that not only grants the owner seven wishes but exacts a deadly price for each wish granted. The film, written by Barbara Marshall, clearly draws inspiration from the W. W. Jacobs short story "The Monkey's Paw." In the short, a mummified monkey's paw grants wishes which are accompanied by drastic consequences. Whether intentional or not the film also evokes other genre films but in particular it owes much to the FINAL DESTINATION and WISHMASTER film franchises. In the WISHMASTER films an evil genie grants wishes which will come true but not the way one would hope for. In the FINAL DESTINATION films, people are killed in gruesome and ingenious ways when Death comes calling for those who escaped its grasp. WISH UPON is about a wishing box that grants wishes and collects its toll by killing people in seemingly "accidental" ways. If you've seen any of the FINAL DESTINATION films you may find it very difficult to shrug off the similarities.
This new film is geared towards the under seventeen crowd and that ultimately proves to be a severe detriment to the picture. It's true you don't really need gore and violence to make a truly effective horror film. Sometimes even a PG-13 horror movie can be unsettling if done just right. However, there's no denying some blood and gore can elevate a film and the experience. This film really needed the blood and gore. One of the things that made the FINAL DESTINATION pictures so memorable was how they built up the tension and gave you a bloody, cringe-worthy payoff. Here you get the build up and just a quick glimpse or a soft core version of what one would expect to be hard core bloody moment. As a result, every kill is anti-climactic because the build up leads to a predominately predictable, shrug inducing and bloodless death.
The film stars Joey King as Clare. She's a teenage girl who has had a hard life. She doesn't seem to fit in at school. Life at home certainly hasn't been all that. King is actually quite good and likable at the outset but starts to lose some credibility as the film goes on. There's an obvious arc to her character but at a certain point she's a bit unconvincing. Ryan Phillippe plays her father and isn't given much to do other than be the stereo-typical single father struggling to make ends meet. Shannon Purser and Sydney Park play Clare's best friends. Their characters follow the same fate, likable at first but become gradually unconvincing as the film progresses. Ki Hong Lee and Mitchell Slaggert play two decidedly different men in Clare's teenage life and both characters feel more like plot devices then actual flesh and blood characters.
WISH UPON joins a long line of PG-13 teen horror films that simply can't deliver the goods or manage to meet even the lowest of expectations. The inescapable comparisons to other films and franchises certainly impede one's potential enjoyment of what's presented here. After all why would you want to sit through a watered-down version of a similar story when you can watch the same thing that provides you with what you wish to see and in all it's bloody detail. This could have been a serviceable horror film if they went all in. However, ultimately it's like a hard edge episode of GOOSEBUMPS but with a little more unintentional comedy to boot.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal