MOVIE REVIEW: Wish Upon

In Movies, Reviews by Bub Smith3 Comments

I had no knowledge of Wish Upon prior to sitting down with it. The invite for the screening hit SJP’s inbox and all I read was “From the creators of Annabelle and The Conjuring” and I was sold. Wow. I guess that kind of marketing really works. At least on my simple mind. They got me in hook, line and sinker. Those bastards! The best thing to come from this is to never trust marketing that relies solely on past credits, because Wish Upon is 90 minutes of my life I will never have back.

The story for Wish Upon plays out almost like a 90’s high school romance/comedy. Remember those? Yeah I’m trying to block them out too. But, there was a time when the fat cats in Washington (my understanding is the government mandates which movies get made… I went to public schools…) assumed all you needed for a girl to be “ugly” was a pair of glasses and a paint brush. Seriously. I feel like there are whole sub-genre’s of porn devoted to this very archetype that Freddy Prince Jr thinks it disgusting. Well, to each their own!

Nerdy artsy girl Clare (played by The Conjuring’s Joey King) is picked on hardcore and called dumpster daughter at school (seriously, is this how kids treat each other in school!?!?  And not one damn teacher is doing a thing about it! Good God! No wonder Trump got into office! This is how the world thinks successful popular people should act!) because her Dad (played by Ryan Philippe) digs around in dumpsters looking for junk, not to sell, but just to apparently hoard (no real insight into this aspect. Except that he is oblivious to the fact that rummage through dumpsters in front of his teenage daughters school might be embarrassing for her).  Besides living with a crazy trash hoarder, Clare spends her days pining for the school cool guy Paul (who has no idea she’s alive), hanging with her group of best friends and painting. It’s almost like the director found an unfinished John Hughes script and said, “You know what this movie is missing?? An ancient Chinese demon that lives in a box that grants it’s owner 7 wishes.” A plot device that would make almost any story 10 times better. I did say ALMOST any movie…

Of course Clare gets the above mentioned Chinese wish box as an early birthday gift (just what every girl wants: an old dirty box her father found in a trash can! Happy sweet 16!). Not long after getting it she discovers that the box does indeed grant her wishes, but for a price. A blood price!!! Don’t get excited. There isn’t much blood. Tons of boring teenage drama, but not much blood. Which is just want we want in a horror movie.

So this is where the movie loses me. Instead of playing into the insanity and showcase some good old fashion gory kills, the movie completely glosses over them. The feel tacked on, almost like an afterthought. Nothing in this movie is original. Not a goddamned thing. From the John Hughes teenage plot to the Final Destination-esque horror elements, Wish Upon is nothing new. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Hell, we are talking about a genre that is completely reliant on re-hashing plots, troupes and characters. But instead of owning this and presenting everything in a fun, “yelling at the screen” way, we get characters I hated, subplots that went nowhere and death scenes that consistently cut away. I understand the whole “less is more” approaching in horror (Yes, we’ve all seen and loved Jaws), but that only works when you have something to show less of! Hell, we are treated to not 1, not 2, but 3 scenes of Ryan Phillippe playing smooth Jazz saxophone for no damn apparent reason (other than the director was trying desperately to top the sax solo scene from the beginning of Lost Boys), but you can’t fit in some crazy deaths! Those should be the selling point. Not Phillippe sensually wrapping his lips around that sax and creating sweet, sweet magic… Woah, is it getting hot in here? I guess those Phillippe sax solos effected me more than thought. My hat is off to you Mr. Leonitti, you’ve done the impossible: making Ryan Phillippe even dreamer!

Lame uninteresting characters, predictable plot and sorry ass kills equal an easily forgettable horror flick. Wish Upon had the makings for a cool little horror flick. Sweet cast (Sherilyn Fenn and Shannon Purser, Barb from Stranger Things!!) and interesting story were not enough to keep this turd afloat. A least director John Leonitti had the foresight to put his best foot forward and showcase the one thing Wish Upon had going for it: Phillippe’s smooth sexy sax. And God bless him for that!

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  • Charlie Dillon

    I really enjoyed the review, but you must remember that most new horror films are made for today’s teen audiences, much like some of the crap-tastic schlock from the 80s was made for us. As adults, we’ve practically seen it all, and cynicism is often the first response to movies like this. But moviegoers like my daughter, who is getting into horror and doesn’t have the same berth of knowledge of the genre as I do, are getting a soft introduction to fright flicks with films like this.

    As she has matured into those influential years when I was absolutely hooked on horror, I have tried to introduce her to the classics… Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and others considered popular in the height of 70x/80s horror. Sadly, she wasn’t as enthusiastic about those films as I was. For her, the violence and gore depicted in some of those movies was merely suggestive— muted by quick editing and not nearly as bloody and obligatory as it is now depicted in modern movies. And the special effects in some of those films hasn’t aged well. Her eyes can spot tubes of fake blood and fake heads much easier in high definition. It appears unrealistic and blatantly hokey. (VHS was much kinder to horror movies.) So as appalling to my instincts as it was, I showed her the remakes of some of those films, and she appreciated them more than I did. They just look and feel more in line with what she’s used to.

    Which is why I take my daughter to see movies like this and use it as an opportunity to teach her about all the “old school” movies that were obvious inspirations for it and others like it. I’ve sat through so many that had promise and ended up being huge letdowns for me— Annabelle, Sinister 2, The Bye Bye Man, The Vatican Tapes, The Gallows… For every Get Out we’ve seen, there’s been a flick like The Lazarus Effect that just failed to live up to the hype. And she gets it, which is promising. She has some taste, thankfully.

    Nevertheless, I equate films like Wish Upon with most of today’s pop music. I don’t enjoy most of it and it all sounds uninspired to me, but I know it wasn’t made for people my age.

    • Bub Smith

      100% agree with you Charlie! This movie is definitely not meant for our generation. But you know what is? Ryan Phillipe laying down that smooth sexy sweet sax!!!

      Gotta applaud you for learning ya daughter on the ways of the genre. Great man! Thanks for checking out the review. We are discussing Wish Upon on the next SJP podcast and I would love to read your comment on there if that is cool?

      • Charlie Dillon

        Feel free to use my comments. I don’t know if either of you are parents, but I just thought I’d lend my perspective. My kid has a similar affinity for horror that I did when I was her age (and younger, actually). I’m far more protective than my parents were, though— they let me see Halloween when I was 5! I grew up on VHS rentals and Fangoria magazine. I wasn’t quite “Chainsaw and Dave” from Summer School crazy, but I was addicted.

        These days, my daughter and I watch horror movies together at home and enjoy going to the theater whenever something piques her interest. She’s 14 and really into The Walking Dead and Preacher (comics and TV shows) right now. We’ve spent a lot of time this summer watching various fright flick series… Saw, Final Destination, A Nightmare on Elm Street. I must admit to feeling a bit disappointed whenever I show her something I loved as a kid that she didn’t care for. Sometimes I think it just depends how dated the movies are. Movies that I used to think were terrifying just don’t “WOW” the way they did back then because the violence they show on TV today is far more extreme. One of my favorites as a kid was Happy Birthday To Me. She’d probably laugh at the special effects of that one.

        I’ve just recently started listening to your Podcast via the Blood Drive interactions on Twitter. It’ll take me a while to check out some past episodes, but I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoyed your interview with Roland as well as the Burning Blood discussions after the episodes. It’d be awesome if you got the opportunity to talk to people from the cast. I’m really dialed in to this show at the moment.