In Wish Upon, endlessly picked-on teenager Clare (Joey King) is gifted a music box with Ancient Chinese lettering on it that her dad (Ryan Phillipe) found in a dumpster. The box allows her seven wishes, at the cost of seven lives.
And it is not good.
The film is essentially one long plot contrivance to set up a series of horror set pieces, supernatural deaths that are straight out of the last Final Destination sequel.
However, where Final Destination films have at least the judgment to give its characters proper motivation (to avoid death, quite simply), Wish Upon does not allow its contrivance even the guise of narrative reason.
Clare’s character motivation and the stakes of the film do not line up in a way that makes sense. This discord causes more hilarity than horror film suspense. Every wish Clare utters is in her own vain self-interest, even after she realizes the negative power that the box contributes to those around her as a result.
And this is the character we are meant to root for. They give her parent issues and high school drama, assuming that that will be enough to keep an audience aligned with her as she willfully ends people’s lives.
Perhaps if the acting wasn’t so flat, it would be enough.
Wish Upon is so mind-numbingly devoid of suspense and tension that it is hard to call it a horror film. That is its classification, but it is this in name alone.
It is frustrating even taking the time and effort to critique this movie, as it leaves you with so little that the cause appears fruitless. Its machine-like movement from wish to kill then back to wish signals a clear, cynical lack of creative effort in this production.
It is over an hour into the film when the script finally decides to make us question who exactly is in danger of being the next victim. This cross-cut scene, even in its simplicity and obviousness, feels like a breath of fresh air after the hour of inert drama preceding it.
Sometimes I like to compare the film-going experience to eating a meal. Sometimes it hits the spot. Sometimes it is filling but not overly satisfying. Sometimes it tastes good at first but leaves you feeling nauseous by the end.
If one were to extend this metaphor, Wish Upon is starvation. It is the conscious lack of sustenance. It is sitting in a dark place waiting for even the smallest crumb of bread from which you can fill your hungry stomach. The film dangles the loaf in front of your face with cliche characters and obvious plot devices and the promise of nail-biting set pieces. By the end you realize that even the loaf was moldy to begin with.
Wish Upon: F
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)