Wish Upon

wish-upon-rev Wish Upon  (2017)    Broad Green/Horror    RT: 90 minutes    Rated PG-13 (violent and disturbing images, thematic elements, language)    Director: John R. Leonetti    Screenplay: Barbara Marshall    Music: tomandandy    Cinematography: Michael Galbraith    Release date: July 14, 2017 (US)    Cast: Joey King, Ki Hong Lee, Sydney Park, Shannon Purser, Sherilyn Fenn, Ryan Phillippe, Elisabeth Rohm, Alice Lee, Mitchell Slaggert, Kevin Hanchard, Josephine Langford, Alexander Nunez, Daniela Barbosa.

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 I’ve long held the theory that each generation of kids is dumber than the last. One need look no further than the TV shows they watch. I’ll put in this way, the Kardashians make Beavis and Butthead look like geniuses. I get the distinct impression that teens in Wish Upon have never a horror movie. If they did, they’d know that wishes granted by way of a mysterious object come with serious, usually fatal, consequences. It goes without saying that they’ve never even heard of Oscar Wilde or his famous quote about getting what you wish for. If Oscar the Grouch said it, that would be a different story.

 wish-upon-posterTo be fair, Wish Upon isn’t as bad as some of the PG-13 horror movies I’ve seen since The Sixth Sense and The Ring made them profitable. That’s part of the problem. It’s neither bad enough nor good enough to be memorable. It’s just there (barely). It steals ideas from The Craft, Wishmaster and the Final Destination series and shapes them into a scare-free scary movie that might (emphasis on the might) entertain 11-year-olds seeing their very first horror movie. The sad thing is that Wish Upon has a decent set-up. It’s not a terrible idea for a schlock horror flick but the makers should have gone for an all-out gory R-rated movie instead of a teen-friendly fright flick.

 Claire Shannon (King, The Conjuring) hasn’t had an easy time of it since her mother (Rohm, Law & Order) hanged herself when she was a little girl. Her father (Phillippe, I Know What You Did Last Summer) routinely embarrasses her by dumpster-diving in full view of her classmates. The kids at school bully her, one stuck-up mean girl (Langford) in particular. Her only close friends, Meredith (Park, Instant Mom) and June (Purser, Stranger Things), are also outcasts. One day, Claire’s dad gifts her with a Chinese wishing box he found in the trash. Did he ever stop to wonder why somebody threw it out to begin with? Because she takes Chinese in school, Claire figures out she gets seven wishes.

 Her first wish is for the mean girl to “just go rot” which she does. Unfortunately, it also results in the bloody death of her beloved old pooch. And so it goes. For every wish granted, somebody dies horribly, just not horrible enough to make any kind of lasting impression. One woman gets her neck broken after her ponytail gets tangled in the garbage disposal. An old man falls in a bathtub. Somebody dies in an elevator crash. Big deal. In addition, Claire’s wish for a popular boy to fall madly in love with her backfires when he becomes a stalker. This is the level of originality (or lack thereof) we’re dealing with in Wish Upon.

 As weak, tepid and predictable Wish Upon is, it does have a few things that aren’t bad. The acting isn’t exactly terrible even though most of the actors look too old to be in high school (unless they’re irretrievably stupid which might just be the case). King is an engaging young actress. I’ve known this since her breakthrough role in 2010’s Ramona and Beezus.  Wish Upon is her first lead role. She’s better than it deserves. I hope she gets lead roles in better movies in the future. Park is also pretty good as the sardonic friend with a caustic wit. It’s interesting to see former teen idol Phillippe now playing the role of parent to a new generation of teen actors with dubious talent. We even get to see him play Kenny G-style smooth jazz on the sax. The scariest thing in Wish Upon is seeing how badly Twin Peaks’ Sherilyn Fenn has aged.

 A few scenes, like the one where Claire and an Asian classmate (Lee, The Maze Runner) visit his techno-punk cousin (Alice Lee, Switched at Birth) who can translate the ancient Chinese symbols inscribed on the box, briefly show the promise of the campy horror movie Wish Upon could have been in more capable hands. Director John R. Leonetti (Annabelle) does nothing original or interesting with the premise. Oddly enough, the screenplay was on the “Black List”, Hollywood’s annual survey of most interesting unproduced screenplays. He totally botched it. At best, it’s very mildly interesting and even that’s sporadic. It unfolds in a tired and predictable manner, only getting slightly crazy at the end. There’s a mid-credits scene we can see coming from a mile away. If I could make one wish, I’d wish they’d stop making lame horror movies like Wish Upon

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