Wish Upon (2017) Review

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Wish Upon

Directed by John Leonetti


Genre fans wishing for a horror hallmark such as “Get Out” and “It Comes At Night” will likely be disappointed but while “Wish Upon” is not particularly frightening, it is intentionally funny, occasionally nerve wracking and most importantly, genuinely fun.

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Director John Leonetti who previously helmed “Annabelle,” a surprisingly scary film but unfortunately the qualities of that feature are largely absent here. With “Wish Upon” they wanted the kills to be “Final Destination” worthy centerpieces, focusing on every day hazards as the penultimate fear but because of the PG-13 limitations only squeak by here with some quality tension (the classic “garbage disposal gag” is far more effective here than the trailer would have one believe.) Obviously, “Wishmaster” was also an influence but instead of trying to create a mascot that dotted the horror landscape in the 80s and 90s, “Wish Upon” owes much more to 2012’s “The Possession,” mean girl movies and one literary classic in particular.

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“The Monkey’s Paw” is one of the most oft repeated tales across numerous artistic mediums so anyone familiar with it or the similar O. Henry school of comeuppance isn’t going to find anything new here but that doesn’t mean it’s completely ineffective. The backstory behind the box isn’t hugely satisfying but at least they attempt to flesh out some mythology and actually end up summoning some “Hellraiser” energy that if this had been R rated and gone for all the gore gusto really could have potential as a franchise.

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The script by Barbara Marshall is filled with most of the teenage tropes you’ve come to expect from the glut of CW fodder so prevalent the last two decades but occasionally it showcases some genuine viciousness that evokes dark comedy classics like “Heathers” and “Jennifer’s Body.” In other instances, its already dated with its references to the Pokemon GO phenomenon and an overuse of the suffix “sauce.” Its comedic success is due in large part to Clare’s companions June (Shannon Purser, whose first appearance had several audience audibly crying out “Barb!” in respect to her popular “Stranger Things” character) and the real standout here, Meredith (Sydney Park) who hits the mark many, many times. It’s always fun to see fan favorites like Sherilynn Fenn as surrogate mother Mrs. Deluca and 90s teen dream Ryan Philippe as Clare’s saxophone playing, dumpster diving father but their characters don’t get enough screen time to really find the potential and in some sense, pathos that is buried by the standard running time and frantic pace.  In the same vein, I’d have liked to see more from Ki Hong Lee as the chemistry between he and Joey King is equal parts serious and sweet.

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King, who already has experience with the paranormal, given her role in “The Conjuring” is likeable enough, especially in her abused underdog introduction but once she gets the itching to do some wishing, she becomes increasingly villainous. Yet, it’s not the psychopathic push that I’d have like to have seen; it merely flirts with a much darker path that could have injected additional energy into “Wish Upon” and felt like there may have been some rewrites to placate audiences. Even the ending, which I won’t spoil is clearly influenced by both “The Butterfly Effect” and “Drag Me To Hell” but falls short where it could have leapt forward and stood on its own.

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If you go in expecting balls out blood and guts, you will be disappointed but the humor I encountered elevated this release from the bargain bin. Unlike the absolutely abysmal “Bye Bye Man” and “Rings” released earlier this year, “Wish Upon” has enough laughs, tense moments and campy fun to become a potential cult classic.