With age, wisdom is supposed to come. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment or maybe I’m just an idiot, but no matter the reason, I found myself last week sitting in the theater to watch the supernatural horror film, Wish Upon. It’s one of those films that the signs were there that it was going to be terrible and I should have just flat out refused Josh when he assigned it to me, but I figured “What the hell? This could turn into a very interesting Mandate episode”. The problem was, I couldn’t find anyone to see this garbage pile with me and now I’m stuck recalling 90 minutes of my life, which I’d rather not. I even delayed writing this for over a week in hopes that I could honestly tell Josh and Liam that I forgot what I watched. But here I am…
I guess before I get started on the slaughtering of this film, I should give you smarter people a rundown of what it was actually about. The story follows a Claire, played by Joey King (The Conjuring), who is a teenager struggling to still find her footing in school as a social outcast, dealing with mending the wounds from her mother’s suicide, and emotionally supporting her father who has turned to trash-picking/scrapping for a living. Everything seems to change as her dad presents her with a Chinese music box that he found outside of a mansion. Naturally the music box is magic and grants wishes. What our dear Claire doesn’t know, or at least she doesn’t catch up with the audience until midway through the movie, is that there is a blood price that must be paid for each of her wishes and that when the last wish is granted, the demon inside the box comes for her soul.
Now for my list of complaints: (Contains Spoilers)
On the surface, and what makes me more upset with this film, is that is an easy but somewhat solid idea for a film. Being that the demon is Chinese, they really could have delved deep into the lore of the culture and belief in the demon, but they barely scratch the surface. They introduce a sibling of a character that serves her purpose of translating the inscriptions on the box and then shortly dies thereafter. Which leads me into the next complaint of the film; every single death is predictable. The formula for the film would specifically show Claire interact with a supporting character, a wish would be made, and then that character would end up dying. Even later in the film as the box turns on Claire for trying to abandon it, the set-up follows almost the same exact formula. By the 3rd death, you should be able to predict the remaining characters that will die without having to see the rest of the film. Even the film’s conclusion, which poorly stole a page out of Drag Me To Hell’s playbook, is expected by everyone that isn’t the lead character of the film. There’s also a cameo by Jerry O’Connell that has no lines of dialogue and barely explained. Like why pay him? You could have gotten any struggling new actor to film the scene and not leave me with more questions than answers.
Somewhere towards the end of the film you start to pick up on the director trying to metaphor addiction and that is definitely something that could have really worked had it been explored way earlier in the film. Maybe I’m the dummy and didn’t pick up on it soon enough but not until everything really starts to unravel for the lead, do we get a real hint that this film could have an underlying message other than “don’t mess with creepy looking music boxes”. I’m not saying exploring the addiction angle could have saved the film but it would have certainly made it more thought provoking and potentially made up for not 1, not 2, but 3 scenes of Ryan Philippe playing a saxophone.
Before seeing this film, and I saw it the Wednesday before its release, I could not find much of anything about it. There seemed to be only one trailer, no reviews, and no buzz. Even when I arrived for the screening, which did have a replica box on the table outside the theater, the studio employees seemed less than interested in even bothering to hype people going into watch it. They absolutely didn’t engage anyone on their way out. There is a part of me that thinks this was only released because it was made. I guess making some money back is better than just shelving it forever like that lost Roger Corman Fantastic Four film from the 90’s. However, after watching Wish Upon, Corman & Co. certainly had the right idea. This should have stayed on the shelf.