The most interesting character in Wish Upon isn’t one of the people who winds up dying in a predictable manner. It’s the Chinese-made box that grants its owner seven wishes while taking others’ lives in the process. It even opens up and plays music as the unfortunate meets his or her grisly end.
Unfortunately, screenwriter Barbara Marshall (whose resume includes Terra Nova and Viral) can’t come up with a scenario that offers anything more intriguing than The Craft. Worse, she can’t conceive of any demises more shocking than your typical Final Destination movie.
While Claire Shannon (Joey King) holds the box to make another wish, the audience feels as if they are holding crystal balls and know exactly what will happen to the residents of Toronto (unconvincingly passing as a generic American city).
In most movies, Claire would be a sympathetic protagonist, but here it’s tempting to cheer on the mean girls
tormenting her. Even when it’s obvious the box is murderous, she keeps making wishes. (Bullying on social media is bad, kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to kill one’s tormentors.)
But Claire’s in a difficult place: Her mother kills herself at the beginning of the movie, and her father (Ryan Phillippe) and his buddy Carl (Kevin Hanchard) appear to make their living as professional dumpster divers, an option perhaps more dignified than appearing in this film.
Dad discovers the shiny red box, and because her school offers Mandarin, Claire knows just enough Chinese to understand the box promises to grant wishes — though not enough to guess the price of fulfillment.
Since it offers Mandarin, you might think Claire attends a great school, but her classmates and instructors constantly do dumb things, placing themselves high in trees and their limbs into garbage disposals. Who needs an evil box in a community overflowing with potential Darwin Award winners?
Nothing in Wish Upon is as exquisitely crafted as the box. With a reported $12 million budget, every expense has been spared. One character meets her doom chasing after the cheesiest knock off of Pokemon Go imaginable, and the phone and computer screens might as well carry the heading “Generic Social Network Because We Can’t Pay Facebook or Twitter.”
John R. Leonetti has spent most of his career as a cinematographer and should have been banned from the director’s chair after his inauspicious debut with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Two decades have not improved his storytelling chops. There are lots of jump scares and weak attempts to coax terror from PG-13 violence.
If there was an Oscar awarded to a movie for the most eye rolling or unintentional derisive laughter, Wish Upon would be a worthy nominee.
Clare Shannon (Joey King) is given a strange Chinese music box by her father in the horror movie Wish Upon.