There’s an important lesson to be learned from the adage “be careful what you wish for”.
Dissect the premise about getting your wants satiated with little to no effort, and you will find that complacency and self-entitlement sets in. And we have seen the horrors of that in some social landscapes.
What better way to teach young folks that whole “work hard, don’t expect to be handed freebies” message than through the lens of a horror movie, right?
Director John R. Leonetti makes it clear, through the movie’s dance club-ready soundtrack to its Mean Girls-esque high school setting, that this film is meant for the Snapchat-savvy crowd.
If Leonetti’s name strikes up a sense of deja vu, that’s because this is the same dude who directed Annabelle. And if you have seen that haunted doll spin-off from James Wan’s genre-defining The Conjuring, the immediate thought would be to steer away from this offering.
Before you totally omit this fantasy-horror fare though, know also that this vehicle stars the brilliant young-Rachel-Weisz-lookalike, Joey King. That is the same girl who totally brought the creeps in The Conjuring.
It would appear that every other movie in the horror genre these days is trying to latch on to Wan’s deliciously dark universe (whether by association on the cinematography, directing or casting front).
Now before you spell out “N-E-P-O-T-I-S-M”, King actually does a pretty solid job holding her own in a leading role.
The 17-year-old has the acting chops to come across sane-yet-equally-freaked-out when unexplainable things start to occur around her.
King plays Clare, a teenager with plenty of emotional baggage. As a little girl, she discovered her suicidal mother’s body in the attic. Twelve years after that traumatic episode, the girl has managed to lead a relatively normal teenage life with far greater problems like boys, social media and the ever elusive popularity.
“You know what you need?” a kind neighbour offers our spunky heroine after a particularly bad day at school, “A nice boy.”
The above conversation pretty much encapsulates the first quarter of Wish Upon, where King’s character navigates the treacherous high school routine. You are forgiven for thinking you are watching a big screen adaptation of Pretty Little Liars.
Things begin to take a turn for the worse when Clare’s manic hoarder of a father, Jonathan (a barely recognisable Ryan Phillippe stripped of his Cruel Intentions’ hotness), comes home with a mysterious music box covered in Chinese inscriptions.
Part of those inscriptions promises to grant its owner seven wishes, while the remaining words are too complex to be comprehended by Clare’s Mandarin teacher.
Despite being sceptical at first, Clare soon gets sucked into the box’s dark magic. Almost overnight, her sucky life takes a turn for the better – she is rising up to the upper echelon of the popular kids hierarchy, the hot jock at school notices her and the mean girl suffers a serious beauty breakdown.
And for a while, things are good for Clare – until loved ones around her begin to die in a gruesome Final Destination-esque manner.
Wish Upon’s mediocre writing and predictable scares do take away from the experience at times. But it is saved by a solid ensemble. The supporting cast – special mention goes to The Walking Dead’s Sydney Park – is worth the cinema admission price.
Seasoned horror fans might be put off by the lightweight storytelling, though. However, rest assured that the brutal high school scene will have teens wishing for better days ahead.