Wish Upon (2017)
★ / ★★★★
Mainstream horror pictures of today require an immediate and complete overhaul. Too many are unambitious and unfinished, some completely missing a critical third act designed to provide the catharsis necessary that paves the way for a satisfying experience—or at the very least a semblance of it. “Wish Upon” belongs in the dumpster of generic would-be horror films with nothing on its mind except presenting one expository sequence after another. It is utterly without suspense or thrills, not even one likable protagonist who plays a key role in deciphering the mystery and defeating the evil introduced.
It is a shame because the performers seem game with the roles they are provided. Joey King is a believable high school student, ordinary and unpopular, who just so happens to come across a music box with ancient Chinese characters all around it. It appears to have the power to grant its current owner seven wishes which, of course, comes with a cost. King is able to summon the required emotions of a teenager on the verge of breakdown, particularly during the latter half when the evil within the artifact has begun to push Clare to keep wishing… even though she knows she must not make any more.
Although a horror film, it is not at all scary. Instead of amplifying our curiosity about the item of interest, writer Barbara Marshall chooses to showcase one death sequence after another. I found it tedious, boring, lacking inspiration. Some of them are quite laughable. If I wished to watch elaborate death scenes that offer genuine suspense and tension, I’d watch the first two “Final Destination” movies instead. At least these films not only offer creative ways for characters to die, the main players are actually given the opportunity to explore or attempt to find ways to defeat the entity that hopes to end their lives.
There is a lack of drama underneath the horror elements. The most effective pictures in the genre are rooted in accurate or empathetic characterizations. Clare’s situation at home with regards to her relationship with her dumpster-diving father (Ryan Phillippe) in addition to the trauma she still feels twelve years after her mother’s suicide is handled with a lack of genuine understanding. One gets the impression that the writer simply takes familiar elements of what is perceived to be a difficult childhood and utterly fails to put them into proper context. The conflict comes across as fake.
Worse is its treatment of teenagers. All are one-dimensional bores: the popular clique that bullies (Josephine Langford, Alexander Nunez, Mitchell Slaggert, Daniela Barbosa), the snarky, sassy friend (Sydney Park) contrasting with the quieter one with spectacles (Shannon Purser), and the boy who pines from afar (Ki Hong Lee). They are to serve as potential victims or mere provider of reaction shots. Considering that this movie’s target audience is teenagers, one would expect for the filmmakers to treat these characters with more empathy or given them more substance.
Directed by John R. Leonetti, “Wish Upon” has a promising cast but is nearly a waste of time overall because the filmmakers neglect to tell a genuinely curious or thrilling story about a girl who finally catches a break with the help of a magical box. Had those in charge opted for a more intelligent route—detailing the object’s history or the evil inside it, for instance—rather than mindlessly delivering death scenes with the most expected rhythms, perhaps it might have delivered above average entertainment. I wish I had not wasted my time in watching this bottom-of-the-barrel, pedestrian blather.