The Horror Honeys: Beware Trash Heaps Bearing Gifts: John Leonetti’s "Wish Upon"

Beware Trash Heaps Bearing Gifts: John Leonetti’s "Wish Upon"

A Supernatural Honey New Release Review with Kim

Wish Upon (2017)

Everyone knows the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for.” Indeed, there have been a number of horror films that have already dealt with that very premise. Wishmaster has managed to build an entire franchise on the notion that wishes can be warped and have dire consequences. John Leonetti’s new film, Wish Upon, is not treading any new or remarkable ground, but that doesn’t stop it from being a highly entertaining movie. Leonetti has a handful of horror credits under his belt, most recently The Conjuring follow-up, Annabelle, and with his many years spent as a cinematographer, he is no stranger to the genre.

The story: While still a young child, Clare (Joey King) witnesses her mother’s suicide. Now a teenager, Clare is embarrassed by her trash-picking father, Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe), and bullied by a group of mean and popular students, particularly the Queen Bee, Darcie (Josephine Langford). After finding a strange box covered in Chinese characters in the trash, Jonathan leaves it on Clare’s bed as an early birthday present. Clare, is taking Chinese in school, and is able to translate enough to read that the box claims to grant whomever possesses it seven wishes.  In a fit of rage at Darcie’s continued bullying, Clare angrily wishes that Darcie would rot. To the surprise of no one who saw the trailer, the next day, Darcie awakens to find her skin starting to rot. As the news spreads around the school, Clare starts to wonder if the wishing box can actually grant wishes. But just as she is getting everything she could have ever desired, she learns that everything she wishes for has a price. 

Wish Upon will not appeal to every horror fan. There won't be enough graphic deaths for the hardcore, not a strong enough script or original story for the cinephiles, and despite some definite cheesy lines, not quite enough to become a cult classic. It is, however, a fantastic movie for the teenager who is experimenting with horror. It’s rated PG-13, so while there’s a bit of blood and gore, none of it is too graphic or over the top for someone not as used to such things. Plus, Wish Upon is fun. While there are some holes in the script, the characters all more than make up for it. Wish Upon follows the tradition of many a teen focused horror film before it, and it is a great movie to see with friends that will replay at slumber parties for years to come.

We love you, Barb!
The casting for the film was truly spot on. King manages to make a character who could easily be annoying and whiney seem sympathetic and likable. Sydney Park and Shannon Purser (Barb lives!) steal the show as two of Clare’s friends. They’re well developed and distinct characters, and all perfectly cast. Their scenes together have a natural chemistry that makes it easy to believe they’ve been friends for years. Ki Hong Lee as Ryan, another schoolmate of Clare’s who seems to have harbored a long term crush on her, is delightful and charming. Ryan Phillippe is Ryan Phillippe. Once you get past the fact that he is now at an age where he is being cast as the father of a teenager (Cruel Intentions came out 18 years ago. I just made some of you feel real old), you can enjoy his scruffy cuteness. Even some of the more minor characters are played by solid actors. Elizabeth Rohm as Clare’s mother and Sherilyn Fenn as Clare’s kind neighbor, Mrs. Deluca, are both on screen for grievously short amounts of time, but make full use of the time they are there for. Also, there is one particular cameo of a previous box owner that got a huge reaction from the theater but is best not spoiled here.

Hmm, a mysterious magical looking box my Dad found in the trash.
I should open it!!!
As mentioned prior, there were some script issues which do impact the flow of the story. A few plot points needed more time to build, and some built too quickly. A few character relationships were nowhere near as clear as they should have been. The movie actually feels as though there were a few scenes missing. Clocking in at 89 minutes, it does make one wonder if perhaps, in a desire to keep a quick pace, some scenes were left on the cutting room floor, which would have filled in a few of those gaps.

Despite some of the story issues, you can’t help but be drawn into the film. Even while making stupid decisions, you feel for Clare, something that King should be given full credit for. She is every bit the teenage girl and teenagers are developmentally in a place where they don’t see much beyond their own angsty world. Does she make some poor decisions? Yes, but these decisions are all pretty believable. As the story progresses, it becomes obvious that Clare is becoming influenced by the magic in the box. The monster in the film is not the evil in the box, it’s what the box turns those using it into.

Let's be honest, was anyone that sad when this started happening to her? 
If you’re looking for groundbreaking, thoughtful, intellectual horror, this is probably not the film for you. But if you want a fun, summer popcorn film with some stellar acting not normally found in a teen horror film that will also thoroughly entertaining, you won’t be disappointed.

Supernatural Honey verdict: 3.75 ancient evil boxes out of 5