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Wednesday, July 19, 2017 08:56 pm

Fun “Wish Upon” Exceeds Expectations

A new take on the classic horror tale The Monkey’s Paw, John R. Leonetti’s Wish Upon proves to be far more fun than it has a right to be.  Driven by a winning performance by actress Joey King and told at a brisk pace, this thriller may be hardly original, but it proves capable enough to satisfy fans of the genre.

Clare (Joey King) is intrigued by a mysterious gift in Wish Upon.

Courtesy Orion Pictures

Having never really recovered from discovering her mother’s suicide, teen outsider Clare (King) tries her best to fit in with the cool cliques at her resident high school but fails miserably.  She’s the constant target of the requisite mean girls, can’t make any time with her crush and suffers from that common teen malady, low self-esteem.  However, things change quickly for Clare when her father (Ryan Phillipe), who makes his living dumpster diving, brings her home an odd-looking wooden box decorated with ancient Chinese writing.  Though she cannot read what’s on this curio, she accidently makes a wish while touching it, setting off a series of events with ramifications she can’t possibly anticipate.  Once she realizes the power in her hands, Clare makes wishes that make her father and her rich overnight, increase her popularity by leaps and bounds and makes the hunk of her dreams suddenly pay attention to her.

Of course, there’s a price to be paid for all of this and Clare finds out too late that in order to balance the books where her good fortune is concerned, someone has to die. It’s here that the film kicks into gruesome high gear, taking a page from the Final Destination movies in providing us outlandish deaths that the audience sees coming with a sense of perverted glee.  Leonetti could have toyed with us a bit more by prolonging these blood-soaked set pieces to lengthen the black comedy they contain.  (My favorite is when one of the characters unwisely stands beneath a chainsaw wielding arborist.  Very bad idea…)

Clare (Joey King), Gina (Alice Lee) and Ryan (Ki Hong Lee) try to figure out the meaning of a Chinese artifact in Wish Upon.

Courtesy Orion Pictures

The anticipation is brief where these scenes are concerned but their impact is effective.  Not letting us hash through the illogical nature of it all, the director wastes no time rushing us to the next ill-fated set of circumstances to good effect.  Barbara Marshall’s script abandons its own set of rules in the third act with a convenient reset button being employed.  However, in the end the warning to not mess with forces beyond our control is pointedly driven home by the film’s startling conclusion.

No, it’s not a classic, but Wish Upon is a modest piece of horror that shouldn’t be taken too seriously and simply enjoyed for what it is. That it succeeds in accomplishing most of what it sets out to do is something films with far bigger budgets can only wish for.

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