Part of the joys of subscriptions to streaming services is being able to catch up on the horror that either passed you by completely or that frankly you wouldn’t have shelled out for a cinema ticket to see. One such gem is Wish Upon, a very daft but fun teen horror.
Wish Upon starts with a cold open in which we see a woman (Elisabeth Rohm who was the detective in Angel but is probably best known for Law and Order) throwing away a bulky box before hanging herself leaving her young daughter to find her. Flashforward and the young girl is question is now a teen, Claire (played by Joey King). Claire’s father Jonathan (played by Ryan Phillipe and god Hollywood is brutal – one minute you’re the hot young thing the next you’re playing deadbeat dads to ingenues) is fond of dumpster diving as a hobby, much to Claire’s eternal embarrassment. He finds a beautiful, ornate Chinese looking box and gives it to his daughter as a present. Claire is handily taking mandarin and so can translate “some” of the inscription – enough to know that the box grants five wishes to its owner. Claire sadly hasn’t read The Monkeys Paw and doesn’t get the rest of the inscription translated until way too late in proceedings. She wishes that her high school bully would “just rot” only to discover the next day that said bully now has a nasty case of flesh eating bacteria. But of course there must be balance in the universe and Claire’s wishes come at a very high price.
An updated version of The Monkey’s Paw is a great idea but Wish Upon rather squanders its central idea resulting in a teen saga with minimal horror aspects. There’s a more interesting story here waiting to get out. We know from the first frame that Claire’s mother used the box so what were her wishes? Given she gave the box away before killing herself was she trying to circumvent the consequences of her final wish? Did the fact that the box made its way into her daughter’s life mean that ultimately she failed and her child was always going to have to pay the price for her actions? If Wish Upon had managed to tie the two timelines together of mother and daughter using the box it would have been a far stronger film.
As it is it’s all a little hokey and relies upon a very strong suspension of disbelief. Claire is painfully slow to work out that her wishes are causing all the sympathetic supporting cast to drop like flies in unfortunately gruesome (if visually tame) ways. Her wishes are also wonderfully selfish and small focused on her love life and popularity at school rather than bigger dreams like money, power, fame and world domination. Claire at the end of the day just wants to be liked. It doesn’t help that Joey King is somewhat weak in the central role meaning that you end up sympathising far more with her friends (Sydney Park and Shannon Purser of Stranger Things) and potential love interest Ryan Hui than you do her. But perhaps I’m being too harsh. This was always intended to be undemanding teen fun. I think of these films like starter horror in the same way I watched The Lost Boys or Flatliners when I was a kid. Wish Upon is a slickly made, entertaining enough horror with decent performances from much of its young cast and a clever central premise.
Wish Upon is now streaming on Netflix UK.
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