Wish Upon was not only predictable but sophomoric in its intention and style. There wasn’t anything about this self-professed horror movie that would come anywhere close to startling even a new fan of the genre and definitely will not be surprising or shocking your average movie watcher.
Often, the narrative seems to lack the discipline that’s needed to stay on track and be true to the characters, instead relying on the audience to grasp and accept what is being portrayed without a complete structure set up and we’re also asked to not mind the obvious stereotypes. Most jarring of these would be the females being nothing but jealous of one another and decidedly empty between the ears. This is used in a somewhat comedic way but to a ridiculous extent.
The dialogue between the main character, Clare (King), and a senior boy, Paul (Slaggert), whom she has a crush on, is possibly the biggest example of regurgitating tired plotlines to the degree that they lose what could have been unique almost from the very beginning.
What I mean by that is the use of the wish itself could have been so much better. Not until the very end of the film are they even used creatively.
To back up a bit, Clare is raised by her father, Jonathan (Phillippe) after her mother’s suicide. She hasn’t had the best of lives but she has a few best friends who stick by her side and her father loves her very much. Jonathan stumbles upon a beautiful box and gives it to her as a gift. The box has Chinese writing all over the outside of it and, conveniently, the high school she’s in has a Chinese language class that she happens to be taking. The box doesn’t open but she can read the script on the outside of it that reads, ‘seven wishes.’ She soon realizes that if she makes wishes upon it… they do come true. How? She wishes for something to happen to her mortal enemy. This wish is quite awful and something that, if it were to happen, would baffle all medical science. She’s shocked to find out it does happen. Knowing that it was impossible and had to have been her wish, she tries again to see if she now possesses the power we’d all wish to have and it once again comes true. After using several wishes and happy that she now has almost everything she has ever wanted, she all but abandons the person she was before getting the box and, oddly, doesn’t mind when she, at last, learns about the ramifications of using the box.
I’ll let the movie explain more about that but if she is going to get a wish, the box, or what controls it, gets something in return. What it wants is blood. What it gets is blood. So, what ultimately doesn’t work here is that you could have seen the wishes coming a mile away. In fact, you see the entire story unfold in your mind before it plays out on screen. Not even the consequences are original which adds the humdrum and stale to what was expected to be a fun flick. The box that gives you seven wishes and how that came about is interesting but it’s counter productive to have a provocative idea and disappoint the audience by doing nothing avant garde with it. Wish Upon instead plays it safe and uses a formulaic thread or technique that works. Every step it takes has been done before and I believe the filmmakers missed a real chance to have something really memorable.
I feel I must admit that the acting wasn’t much better. Joey King is excruciatingly awkward and somewhat too childlike for the role while Ryan Phillippe needs to be checked for a pulse. There isn’t one performance that really stands out in a positive manner.
In its defense, I would like to say that if you don’t watch many horror films, prefer not to or aren’t supposed to watch anything bloody or gory, then this may be perfect for you. This isn’t a bad introduction to the category and isn’t much of a fright. I would, however, suggest you catch it at a matinee. There are some humorous moments and it does wrap up well but fans of horror and thrillers in general… this is not for you.