Wish Upon Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Vertigo Releasing
Directed by John R Leonetti
Written by Barbara Marshall
2017, 90 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
UK Theatrical release on 28th July 2017
Joey King as Clare Shannon
Ryan Phillippe as Jonathan Shannon
Ki Hong Lee as Ryan Hui
Mitchell Slaggert as Paul Middlebrook
Shannon Purser as June Acosta
Sydney Park as Meredith McNeil
After decades of watching horror movies, one can only come to the conclusion that one of the most horrific places one can find oneself is in an American High School.
Since before Stephen King’s Carrie, the High School has been portrayed as a veritable hell on earth, populated by monstrous predators such as bullies, snobs, bitches, sexist jocks and their various gormless minions.
Minutes into Wish Upon, I sank into my seat as I again found myself watching the school misfit being harassed by the various forms of high-school ghoul mentioned above. The tortures of school life are a staple of movies blatantly aimed at the teen market, and they almost always offer up the same stock characters.
Wish Upon fits snugly into the teen-scream category. It is a fantasy horror directed by John Leonetti (Annabelle) from a script by TV writer Barbara Marshall. Joey King (The Conjuring) plays Clare Shannon, a 17-year-old who, 12 years after stumbling across the scene of her mother’s mysterious suicide, is grudgingly surviving the hell that is high school, buoyed up by her two friends, Meredith (Sydney Park) – the cute, spunky one, and June (Shannon Purser) – the plain, sensitive one.
Clare is consistently bullied by the ‘popular kids’ because she is unfashionable, strapped for cash, lives in an old dilapidated house and has a father (Ryan Phillippe) who, much to her embarrassment, likes to hunt through trash bins looking for unusual items to reuse or hoard.
She does however, have a very rich, but estranged, elderly uncle, and a sweetly maternal, caring neighbour (Sherilyn Fenn).
In the bins of a recently-deceased rich eccentric, Clare’s father finds a quaint Chinese musical box. He cleans it up and gives it to Clare as a gift. She persuades a boy of Chinese descent to translate the inscriptions engraved upon it, which apparently promise that the box will grant seven wishes.
While sceptical of the supposed powers of the musical box, Clare has nothing to lose, so makes her first wish and, to her surprise, it comes true. Being an unimaginative teen, she makes a bunch of lame, self-centred wishes – that a hunky high-school boy abandons his hot girlfriend and falls madly in love with her, that she become wildly popular, that she gets rich, etc...
She is thrilled as her social life radically improves, and she becomes seduced by the dark power of the box. Clare joins the ‘popular’ kids, abandoning her erstwhile ‘less cool’ pals and seems to finally have her dream life – until she begins to notice that people she is attached to have been dying in violent, gruesome and elaborate ways.
Clare realizes that she has blood on her hands, and the correct moral choice would be to get rid of the box, but somehow, she finds herself unwilling to part with her new-and-improved life. Unable to deny the lure of fulfilling her wishes, she rapidly approaches the seventh one, leading her down a dangerous path in which the box will demand the ultimate price.
The moral in Wish Upon, if it could be said to have one, is "be careful what you wish for”, particularly if you’re a rather shallow teenage high-schooler, whose existence apparently centres around getting even with bitchy girls, having a hot, dopey, jock boyfriend, and being the most popular girl in town, no matter if innocent people get killed in the process.
Director Leonetti has worked on a variety of movies - he shot a few of director James Wan’s films, including Death Sentence and Insidious, but he was also the DP behind Piranha 3D, The Mask, Detroit Rock City, and Hot Shots! Part Deux. He made his feature debut with Mortal Kombat Annihilation, before going on to direct The Butterfly Effect 2 and Annabelle.
With that kind of experience, he ought to know how to offer a few striking images and to give him credit he does manage to offer several of these in Wish Upon, as well as avoiding cheap jump scares. As a horror film it is vaguely reminiscent of other popular movies such as Final Destination, The Box, and The Possession.
Wish Upon is unchallenging summer entertainment, and will likely appeal to teens and those viewers whose sense of moral justice extends only as far as seeing snobby supermodel-types get their comeuppance, with no regard for who else might suffer.