The word’s ‘Be careful what you wish for’, pops up often in life. As kids, we usually hear it at Christmas when we loudly shout, “I wish it was Christmas every day!’. When we grow up, we realise just how expensive that would be, and how little would get done in the world. The moral is hammered into us in movies, cartoons, and comics, to the point that we are almost sick to death of hearing the phrase. So, if someone wants to approach the subject, they must consider the angle of approach. How do they make the story relevant? How do you make the audience care about the consequences? Do you include a magic gene voiced by a beloved comedian or not? With John R. Leonetti’s Wish Upon, these are all very real concerns. Unfortunately, they are ignored, rather than listened too.
The story centres around a teenage girl, Clare Shannon, played by the surprisingly talented Joey King (Independence Day: Resurgence), as she tries to navigate her everyday life. Raised by her clichéd embarrassing father, after the suicide of her mother, and attending a high school where she is bullied daily by the popular crowd. Clare comes home one day to find a Chinese puzzle box her father has found, waiting for her on her bed. Due to the convenient fact that she takes Chinese language classes, she is able to make out the words ‘7 wishes’ inscribed on the front. On a whim, while crying over the day’s events, she makes a wish for revenge upon on of her tormentors. The next morning, she learns of her bully’s sudden illness, and while basking with her friends in a day of peace, she begins to wonder if the two events are related. The events that build up afterwards, follow Clare as she moulds her life to her will, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. Followed along by her two ‘friends’, her uninteresting ‘love interest’, and her unrealistic crush, turned stalker. With predictable deaths and wishes, left, right and centred, and an easy to guess ending, Wish Upon begs for your attention, and for you to care about what happens to the characters. The ending itself gives far more than a wink and a nod to possible sequels, attempting to join the pantheon of modern horror franchises. Finally beating you around the brain with an annoying, and unsuited pop song. Somehow on the same level as following up a brutal James Bond action sequence, with a dry, drab Madonna piece.
While primarily a horror flick, the actual deaths are laughable in their delivery. With one, very tasteful exception. The characters, while occasionally shining through in moments, are largely generic and one note. It feels like the films real horror, comes from the characters themselves. There utter lack of caring when they learn the truth, and how selfish they can be. While possibly a commentary on the millennial generation and their supposedly selfish whims, it’s a point against morality more than anything. The films tone is all over the place, and unfocused. While it feels as though this is done to make the deaths more shocking, it’s handled poorly. Creating instants of sudden whiplash, or fits of laughter at what is supposed to be a serious or emotional moment.
For those curious enough, it’s a film that serves as a teaching point for how not to use mood and atmosphere, and an example of stereotyped characters. However, there are plenty of other films worth your time. This film should not be encouraged to start a franchise anytime soon.
Wish Upon, released by Orion Pictures, is in cinemas on July 14th in the USA, and July 28th in the UK.