The curse of a mysterious music box unleashes a gory past on its history in Broad Green Pictures, “Wish Upon”. 17-year-old Clare Shannon (Joey King) is barely surviving the hell that is high school, along with her friends Meredith (Sydney Park) and June (Shannon Purser). So when her dad (Ryan Phillippe) gifts her an old music box with an inscription that promises to grant the owner’s wishes, she thinks there is nothing to lose and treats it as a hoax. Clare makes her first wish and, to her surprise, it comes true. Before long, she finally has it all: money, popularity and her dream boy. Everything seems perfect, until the people closest to her begin dying in gruesome and twisted ways. Now, with blood on her hands, Clare has to get rid of the box, before it costs her and everyone she loves the ultimate price. Be careful what you wish for. “Wish Upon” is directed by John R. Leonetti, and is rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing scenes of peril.
I wished for a good movie and ended up with “Wish Upon”, the latest in PG-13 teenage horror that meets the bare minimal of every uninspiring and unoriginal plot point that rests within the concepts of its script. You should know the routine by now; no blood or gore, poorly shot death sequences to keep with their handicap rating, and of course the worst in direction that involves dialogue so cringe-worthy that you can’t help but laugh when the movie is trying its hardest to be serious. If the name John Leonetti doesn’t jump out at you, it should. This guy has been making some truly awful movies for years. Films like ‘Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’, ‘Anabelle’, and now ‘Wish Upon’ rest on the resume of this troubled director. Going into this film, I can’t say I was expecting much, but I’ve found that no matter how low your pre-conceived thoughts are for a movie, a teen horror flick will always find a way to dig even lower, and ‘Wish Upon’ gladly accepts the challenge to remind you why the horror genre is unfortunately turning into a blending of recycled ideas that tries to pass itself off for originality.
On the surface level, ‘Wish Upon’ feels like a Frankenstein project of ‘The Craft’, ‘Final Destination’, and ‘Wishmaster’, three movies that have no business being welded together, but clearly come to mind when you see how blatant its intentions are. The idea of a box granting wishes is certainly nothing new for big screen film, but I found myself appalled at how similar of a road that Clare’s wishes came back to haunt her like the lead protagonist in ‘The Craft’. As for death scenes, like ‘Anabelle’, there is no antagonist figure in the film, so there’s no final showdown that happens. So how do we come across deaths in the movie? by simply feeding into the theory that death inevitably comes to you, similar to one of the three films that I previously mentioned. The death scenes lack any kind of energy or impact to their happening, and are skimmed over with impatient pacing from a script that feels like it is trying to squeeze in too much to an 83 minute runtime. What small benefit that I did get from these sequences were the unintentional laughs that arose from within me, leading everyone in the theater to believe that I am a psychopath. They are kind of right, but only because I’ve sat through too many of these movies that it’s made me a product of my environment.
Then there’s the corners that this movie so violently shoves its creative spark into. As the film goes on, we learn that the box can easily be disposed of if the owner disowns it or throws it away. This concept alone proves that this movie should’ve never been longer than ten minutes, and really brings out the worst in a protagonist who we are supposed to faithfully get behind. She could easily give it up at any minute and stop the deaths that are happening to those she loves, but she would rather risk it once more and cash in for the fancy prizes behind Satan’s curtain. As for the box itself, there were some questions that were never answered long after I left the theater. Early on, Clare wishes for her high school bully to rot by saying her name to the object. My problem is how does this box know which girl she’s talking about? Is she the only girl in the world with this name? When the owner disowns the box, they lose everything that they wished for. So could Clare keep the box buried underground where no one could get to it, keeping her rich? Look, I give the film credit for at least explaining the origins of its box, unlike ‘The Bye Bye Man’, but did we really need to seek an Asian translator for the lettering around the box during a day and age of Google advanced?
The editing as well does the movie no favors, abruptly cutting scenes in half that felt like they had an intention to go somewhere before the halting cut. Some examples of this and basically how one-tracked this movie’s progression feels are in the backlash death scenes that would sometimes chop a bunch of jarring angles together to make one presentation, or even finish the scene by cutting so fast without us ever having the opportunity to soak in the brutal consequence. If I pointed to just one glaring problem plaguing this film over and over, it would be that it refuses to ever let things play out to the benefit of the plot. It is constantly running itself over trying to get to the next scene without playing into the atmosphere of a scene’s true horror. This never allows anything to warrant a true reaction from its audience, and after a while you can start to piece together the predictability in setup that the film has repeatedly done for itself. Intrigue is the last thing to go from this tasteless drought, leaving you little reminder as to why you chose it in the first place.
I want to talk a little bit about Joey King because I have enjoyed her early work as an actor. I do however fear for the young adult part of her career, similar to Chloe Moretz, as this film is far from the best first step in that direction. Most of the time you can blame a director for a shoddy misfiring of direction with their characters, but here it’s only half of the problem. King too, as well as the rest of the cast around her feel so lackluster in delivery, most likely from the terrible dialogue that envelopes this picture, but the actors themselves can’t go forgiven because their personalities feel so lifeless. My biggest problem with King’s character in particular is that physically she looks like a popular girl, and in personality she is as selfish as it gets. I don’t buy for a second that her character is anything like the one-dimensional direction outline that the movie has set her up for. There’s no depth or impact to her character that make you feel empathetic towards her, and because of such, she might as well be another face in the crowd of bland teenagers who outnumber this cast.
THE VERDICT – ‘Wish Upon’ did give me lots of unintentional laughs, even if the presidents who adorn the money in my wallet gave me lots of intentional middle fingers. Aside from a ridiculous night in where you want to laugh at how truly mind-numbing a teenage horror film can be, there’s absolutely no reason to see it. Poor editing, breezy pacing, and enough plot holes and fundamental flaws to steer this one completely off of the rails, gives Leonetti another reason to become an alias for shamed directors not wanting to attach their names to trash, and for all I know, it is. I would wish this one upon my greatest enemy.