Wish Upon (2017)

Starring Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Sherilyn Fenn, Ki Hong Lee, Sydney Park, Shannon Purser, Elisabeth Rohm

Directed by John R. Leonetti


Much has been written about the current state of horror cinema of late. Let me assure you that Wish Upon is indeed post-horror in the sense that it is a horror movie that is dumb as a post.

I have been joking for months that Wish Upon looks like a lost Trimark Pictures production from the early Nineties that someone dug out of mothballs and decided to release in 2017. My joke was not that far off the mark.  It does not look, feel, or unfold like a modern horror movie from this age of Blumhouse. Wish Upon is very retro Nineties, almost charmingly so. It’s a throwback to the era of such enjoyable though not particularly scary direct-to-video flicks as Mirror, Mirror and Amityville 1992: It’s About Time. That’s actually one of its few redeeming qualities. That and it’s one of the funniest damn films of 2017 even though it not meant to be a comedy. I can almost see this one becoming a minor camp classic in the future.

From the director of Annabelle (because nobody in their right mind would show up if it was billed as “From the Director of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation), Wish Upon is the Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice special needs cinematic lovechild of Wishmaster and Final Destination. If you’re looking to be scared, look elsewhere. Wish Upon makes The Bye Bye Man look like The Babadook.

Word is most of the bloody deaths were trimmed to make the movie PG-13. I fully understand why this was done because it makes absolutely no sense to release an R-rated movie that appears to have been written specifically for 12-year-olds that have never seen an actual horror movie before. If the gore had been left in, the editing of the death scenes might have been more coherent; but even that’s not a given considering how much of this movie feels like a cut-and-paste project. Hard to figure out how much of the nonsense stems from the wonky editing, botched storytelling, or hapless direction.

This thing is so ineptly assembled a character slits his wrist and gets taken away by authorities, only to be shown in school the very next day no worse for wear and with no mention of the incident by anyone.

Additional blood and guts would not make this movie better. Nothing would make this movie better. You know why the girl on the poster is in that pose of absolute despair? She’s seen her own movie. And she’s probably covering her face to hide all the giggling she’s doing.

  • Dream sequence jump scares and automatic garbage disposal kills in 2017? Who says you can never go home again?
  • Like your horror movie characters to be so generic they come across like caricatures of stereotypes? You’re in for a treat.
  • Logic? Where we’re going we don’t need logic.

Wish Upon opens with a flashback to the day young Clare’s mother (Rohm) committed suicide for reasons that barely matter in the long run. Flash forward a decade later… Clare (King) is now a bullied teenager, her home is in shambles, and her now-rusted pink kiddy bicycle still rests in the exact same spot on her lawn.

Ryan Phillippe is her merchant seaman-looking, Fred Sanford garbage-collecting, saxophone-playing total embarrassment of a father. He gifts her with the “Hellraiser Puzzle Box for Dummies” he finds in the trash outside a house with a Chinese demon statue on the front gate. Subtle.

If you hold the box and make a wish, that wish will come true almost immediately; but shortly thereafter it will open up, play some music, and by the time it’s done, someone you know will perish. Lose or get rid of the box, and all your wishes will reverse themselves. Make seven wishes, and the box will come to claim you. Sometimes even the good wishes go bad. So, in all honesty, there’s really no incentive for anyone to ever use this thing unless that person is an idiot.

Clare is such an idiot.

I genuinely felt bad for Joey King being stuck playing what has to be one of the stupidest female protagonists I have ever seen in a horror movie. Typically with this type of horror movie scenario, the main character either quickly realizes the error of their ways and works to undo the carnage they’ve started, or they themselves begin developing a dark side the more they benefit from the evil. This movie can’t even get that much right, going in both directions at times before changing its mind and seemingly forgetting it ever went in the previous direction. Neither all that remorseful nor purposefully evil, Clare – and her perpetual case of resting derp face – has to continuously act clueless and surprised by both the good and bad things happening to her, quite obviously, via the use of her own sinister device – even after she knows what it can do and what the dangers are.

What’s that? You have a cursed music box? You know your wishes will result in someone’s death? You only have so many wishes before you yourself will face the music? I wish for my dad to be less of an embarrassment. Not since Homer Simpson wasted a monkey’s paw wish on a turkey sandwich…

Clare wishes for revenge on her bully. An estranged rich uncle we’ve barely seen or heard about before dies under ridiculous circumstances. Upon hearing this news, she then wishes for that uncle to leave everything to her in his will. By what seems like the end of that same day, she and dad will already be moving into a mansion across town. On the plus side, their newfound wealth finally also allows dad to afford a razor so he can shave.

Another wish is for the hottest guy in school, a boy she longs for to the point of endlessly staring at him in class and practically cyberstalking him at home, to fall “madly” in love with her. He does, only for her to then initially blow off his romantic advances. WTF!?

She wishes to become the most popular girl in her school. And she does, except for her two actual best friends, both of whom treat her with such a level of disdain for being selfish that it leaves you wondering why the magic doesn’t apply to them.

Characters that behave inconsistently and a demonic device with a specific set of rules attached to it that are equally inconsistent: pretty much sums up the movie.

Clare’s two best friends are Meredith and June (Park and Purser, respectively). To give you a prime example of how flimsy the characters are, Meredith’s only defining characteristic is that she’s a gamer addicted to a Pokemon Go-esque zombie-killing iPhone game, which is more than can be said of June, a non-entity defined only by the fact that she exists. Though, there is one oddball moment when June admonishes Clare for using the wishing box because, as she exclaims loudly, “I have two little sisters,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.

For the record, Pokemon Go was a huge fad for about a month or two last October. By that math, the first fidget spinner death should occur in a horror movie sometime next spring.

Almost all of the kills are of the Final Destination suspenseful set-up building to a fake-out before delivering the actual kill variety. Only problem is you’re more likely to end up screaming with laughter. Dad fixing a tire on a dimly lit night road when two Fast & Furious street racers come roaring by from out of nowhere, nearly running him over is just one of the many corny attempts at jump scares more likely to make your snicker than shudder.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, tops the hysterical, laugh-out-loud final moment of the movie, a scene clearly intended to be shockingly ironic; yet, it only succeeded in causing myself and the half-dozen other people in the theater to explode with laughter. People were still laughing about it in the hallway on the way out of the theater.

Zero stars for actual horror.

Four stars for the lulz.

Gonna have to also penalize the movie for its lack of James Hong. As long as that man lives and breathes, you cannot make a horror movie involving Chinese curses without having James Hong in it somewhere. There are two Chinese-American characters in this film. Surely, one of them could have had a grandfather.

Since my math is as loopy as the movie itself, let’s just call this an even two stars.

Wish Upon falls into that illustrious category of being completely watchable while still being complete and utter crap. ”Wish in one hand, crap in the other. See which gets filled up first!” should have been the film’s tagline.

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