There have been some very well done, low-budget horror films this year. This is not one of them.
Low-budget…sure. But well done? Hardly.
And truthfully, to define this as a horror movie is stretching the genre
Clare (Joey King) is an unpopular and picked upon high school girl, whose mother (Elisabeth Röhm) committed suicide in front of her, and whose father (Ryan Phillippe) has spent the last years of his life dumpster diving for salvage. During one of those dumpster dives, the father, Jonathan, finds a discarded Chinese wish box and decides that this would be a cool early birthday gift for Clare.
Once she has possession of the box, Clare is able to read some of the writing on the box (conveniently she is taking Chinese in school) and it says that the owner of the box will be granted seven wishes. At first, she did not believe what was happening and it was all a joke, but Clare realizes soon that the wish box has more power than she expects.
For those of you who watch Once Upon a Time, you know that magic always comes with a cost, and this Chinese wish box is no different. For every wish Clare makes, something bad must occur as well.
That is your basic plot to this film. I am going to go into spoilers for the movie, because it just must be spoken about it those terms. Clare is clearly a selfish and spiteful girl and you, as the audience, find a severe dislike for her. Her friends were just a rotten, and you are immediately shown that they are mean spirited.
Yes, Clare has been picked on in high school. Of course, the bullies are the popular kids and the main bully is a beautiful blonde. This is, of course, stereotype number one. Darcie throws a latte on a poster that Clare had spent all night working on. She posts things on the internet about Clare, including about her dumpster diving father (who has to go through the garbage outside the school… seemingly every day. Never when the students are in class…only when they are out front so everyone could see them). So the first wish Clare makes is wishing that Darcie would rot. Now, she did not believe this was real, but the next day, Darcie has been admitted to the hospital with a flesh eating disease. Clare and her friends (particularly Sydney Park’s Meredith) laugh about it and are happy that Darcie has contracted this terrible, potentially fatal, disease. That was especially cruel… and these were meant to be the film’s protagonists.
As the film continues, Clare keeps making wishes that make her own life better. And people keep dying. They keep dying in the stupidest and most ridiculous ways. Poor Uncle August (Victor Sutton) slips in the bathtub and hits his head, slumping under the water. Now, you would think that this would be enough, but you would be wrong. Uncle August’s eyes pop back open and he tries to sit back up…only to strike his head on the faucet again. This was one of the first moments when I laughed at something in the film.
Seriously, this movie was very unintentionally funny. There were some really funny laughs to be had in Wish Upon. I cannot wait for the guys at RiffTrax Live to get their hands on this one.
When Clare talks to her two best friends, the aforementioned Meredith and June, (played by Shannon Purser…Barb from Stranger Things), they rightfully call her out on her selfishness. Meredith says that she would have wished for world peace or a cure for cancer. Or at least something for herself and June. Not kidding.
June wants Clare to throw the box away, but Clare has become obsessed with it. She found out, through the typical horror movie trope of researching the item on Google and approaching an expert to help them, that if you lose or throw away the box, all of your wishes revert back. Clare did not want that because the wishes had made her a popular girl with a lot of money, and helped her father become cool and stop dumpster diving.
So even though Clare knows that the wish box is causing people to die around her, she keeps on making wishes. This leads to another hilarious scene where Clare and June fight over the box at the school and June falls down the stairs in the most awkwardly funny way possible. Jeremy Jahns does a great example of it near the end of his review.
The kills were mostly all funny, not tension filled or suspenseful. The film seemed to want to be Final Destination, but really plays more like a spoof of Final Destination. In fact, this might be a better horror movie spoof than Haunted House or Scary Movie. Too bad they are not trying to make it a spoof. This is played straight-up seriously, but the laughs are just everywhere.
Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks) appears as a neighbor who is killed when she gets her hair caught in a garbage disposal and it breaks her neck. This was after the film spent about three minutes teasing her sticking her hand down the garbage disposal and nearly hitting the switch to turn it on with her hip (yes, the garbage disposal switch is at hip level in this film. Certainly a lawsuit waiting to happen.)
The performances are all weak to terrible. Joey King is giving it her all, but there is just so little here. It feels like it is more the direction than the performances though. The director of this film is John R. Leonetti, who has directed such classics as Annabelle, The Butterfly Effect 2, and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. That is not the oeuvre that will earn you acclaim. Wish Upon fits right in with those.
As I said, there is entertainment to be had at Wish Upon, but it is not the type of entertainment that was intended. It is a great spoof movie of a low-budget horror flick, but, as a low-budget horror flick, it truly fails.