Look, don’t go see Wish Upon. It’s a PG-13 horror movie. Why bother? Well, normally there might be plenty of reasons. Maybe the deaths are staged in some dynamic way. Maybe you’re a horror fan and just have to see them all. You could be betting that there’s some heart to it, that it’s got some kind of moral or lesson to impart that hasn’t been done quite like this before. Maybe you just want to see a new take on a monkey’s paw tale. Do you just want to see what Ryan Phillippe looks like at age 42? Spoiler: He looks like Ryan Phillippe’s dad.
The fact is that there’s a lot of interesting avenues to explore in a story like this, but the filmmakers are simply determined to ignore every single one of them at every possible turn. For a story as basic as this one, the possibilities are actually endless. Teen outcast with a tragic past? Check. Access to a “Chinese wishing box” that makes all her dreams come true? Yep. Blood penalty? Absolutely. Sign me up, right? Wrong.
Crudely paced, shilling out wishes and deaths seemingly at random, and with the order of those particular wishes laid out and granted being pretty arbitrary and with no organic escalation or even reason for being (beyond “teens are selfish”), it feels as if the filmmakers simply had a bunch of ideas for cool deaths but no map of how to make them work as a movie. It’s a thoughtless, lazily constructed film that starts out dull and goes all the way to mildly boring in just under 90 minutes.
The same goes for the characters themselves. Phillippe looks completely depressed to find himself playing father to a teenager in a film like this where he might once have been cast as the dopey boyfriend. Most of the teen actors blindly go through the motions of being in a horror movie with seemingly no sense of where they are at any given point in the story. Sherilyn Fenn, who’s been MIA so far on Twin Peaks this year, finally accounts for her whereabouts (she’s just been so busy playing a thankless role in a terrible movie, it seems). Joey King, as our lead wisher Clare, is great and all, but I wanted this all to be over so she could put it behind her and hopefully look back on this experience and say, “Well, it helped pay for college.” Oh, and Jerry O’Connell shows up midway through to remind us that he’s available to act in movies, I guess. Whatever. I can’t care.
Seriously, why? Why make Wish Upon? Is there some accounting sorcery that has to be performed every few months that keeps these stinkers cranking out? Are audiences demanding more cookie-cutter nonsense like this? Or maybe we’ve finally arrived at the end of our low-budget horror renaissance, and for every Babadook or It Follows that comes down the pike, we have to pay in blood. Or a screening of Wish Upon.