To call the new teen thriller Wish Upon a “horror” movie is a bit generous. It’s about as scary as the first in the Scream series, and close in spirit. It is also similar in that it’s pretty good, and likely to spawn a whole new franchise of its own.
Jonathan Shannon (played by Ryan Phillippe) gives his 17-year-old daughter Clare (Joey King) an old music box that promises to grant its owner seven wishes. Skeptical at first, Clare becomes seduced by its dark powers when her life starts to radically improve with each wish. Everything seems perfect until she realizes that every wish she makes causes the people who are closest to her to die in violent and elaborate ways. Dahn-dahn-DAAAAA!!!!
Here we have a rather safe payday of a teenage horror flick. Light on the gore, light on the scares, light on the acting, extra selfies, but it moves right along well enough. Joey King is making a name for herself as a bit of a scream-queen, and this performance is good enough to make me look forward to the upcoming Slender Man film. What lifts Wish Upon just above mediocrity, is it’s familiarity with and subversion of the squeem genre. It knows it is a silly horror film, it delivers as promised. The proof of this is a rather out of place Jerry O’Connell cameo that had people at my screening laughing out loud, I think this is tongue in cheek, and I like that. The real fun of the film is that the audience is “in on” the gimmick way before the characters catch on, leading us to some screaming-at-the-screen moments that were tasty.
My main gripe is that there is not enough risk taken. It could use a dose of dread! Director John R. Leonetti gave us Insidious and The Conjuring, but this time he seems to pull some punches to make Wish Upon a little more family friendly… I guess. That said I must confess that the ending is quite satisfying. This is one punch the film does not pull. It lands with a thwack, and is probably the picture’s saving grace.
It’s fair to compare this film to Hellraiser, in that an evil little box is the MacGuffin, and fair to compare it to Final Destination, in that there is no killer per-se (Death itself is coming for the victims of the music box), but both of the aforementioned are superior to this entry.
Overall, I do recommend going to see this summer thriller. Mainly because it will get you thinking about Halloween early. You won’t wish for your time back, but if you are wishing for more, rejoice! Sequels are sure to follow.
2.5 out of 4 Stars
Queue eerie music box SFX.