It seems like horror films these days come more with cred tags than an actual tagline. You know, the sort that goes “by the makers/producers/director of Insidious/Conjuring/Annabelle”?
Wish Upon is the latest entry, opting to put the combination of Director and Annabelle together to achieve that repute. The cursed wish box film certainly holds some tradition of that lineage in its structure and acting, but fails to elicit the same kind of horror the main franchise offers.
Clare Shannon (Joey King) is a social outcast at school. She’s particularly picked upon by the mean girls in her school and her social media “likes” figure at one-digits. The troubled teen can’t get over the string of misfortune since her mum hung herself, and her dad Jonathan Shannon (Ryan Phillippe) embarrasses her further with his dumpster diving.
Always seeking to gain favour with his daughter, Jonathan gifts her with his newest find – a large octagonal box with chinese motifs. Our heroine unwittingly discovers the powers of the wish box and while getting her deepest (and often impulsive) desires granted, unleashes death around the ones she loves, ingraining that old advice about everything having its price.
Wish Upon is not a terrible film per se. It’s got decent acting and cinematography, the characters are easy to love or hate, and the story straightforward. What it does suffer from is a sense of datedness that starts all the way from how the characters talk, to the 80s stereotypes when anything “chinese” is mentioned. And I’m talking chopsticks-in-hair and red lanterns yo. The only thing missing is an old man in a cap with wispy white whiskers murmuring, “Be careful what you wish for, because the dragon will circle the mountain when the moon eats the dog”. Or something like that.
If you don’t believe me, when Clare needs someone to decipher the “ancient chinese” on the box, fellow classmate Ryan Hui (Lee Ki Hong) offers up his cousin Gina, who is happy to translate for a side of wantons. And, and, and… the ancient chinese looks more like a stylised Photoshop font.
Racial rant aside, the film delivers some nice Final Destination moments that had my fellow audience squealing. The struggle for Clare, as unlikeable as she is at times, is readily felt, as she lashes out like an addict when her box is threatened to be taken away from her.
As her wishes start to distort, such as her longtime crush falling madly in love with her, knife and secret photos and all, it one again serves up a cheesy reminder to be careful of what one wishes for.
This fortune cookie will read: straightforward horror with a few good gnarly moments of death tries to be updated, but firmly sits in a dated chair. Bu yao zhe yang ke yi ma?
First published: www.movieXclusive.com