15 – 90mins – 2017
MY SOUL TO TAKE
I don’t know what the hell I’ve been doing for the past twenty summers, but it is now TWO DECADES since Ryan Phillippe played the teenage protagonist in late 90s slasher hit I Know What You Did Last Summer – and now, at 41 years old, he’s playing the father to a teenage daughter in a supernatural horror which very much feels like a purposeful hark back to those now retro genre hits, which spawned many a franchise (Scream, Final Destination, Urban Legend). Boy do I feel old!
Also adding to a surprisingly nostalgic cast list is Twin Peaks legend Sherilyn Fenn and, in an uncredited cameo, Stand By Me alumni Jerry O’Connell. They join the youthful generation which includes The Conjuring star Joey King and Barb from Stranger Things! While I wouldn’t claim that any of the actors are A-list megastars, they are certainly an impressive assortment of them-from-that-thing; crowd-pleasers for sure. Also a pleasing surprise is that once-dead production distributor Orion Pictures released the film, with their lo-res company graphic opening proceedings with a touch of fuzzy 80s charm.
King plays picked-on teen Clare, haunted by her mother’s suicide when she was little. Her dumpster diver dad (Phillippe) is a constant embarrassment to her, but he does occasionally gift her with some of his more exotic finds – most recently a locked Chinese music box. Deciphering one of the ancient inscriptions as “seven wishes,” Clare absent-mindedly wishes for one of her bullies to get her comeuppance. The next day, queen bitch Darcie (Josephine Langford) is admitted to hospital with necrotizing fasciitis… and so begins Clare’s attempts to better her lot in life by making off-hand wishes in the hope they will likewise come true. But for every wish granted, the music box demands “something” in return…
“You have my attention, lucky box…”
I’ll be blunt: Wish Upon is not a good film. It sticks sharply to conventions and stereotypes to laughable degrees (the trash-talking high school clique glued to their phones, the bullied introvert with the messy family life but the heart of gold). The plot is laid out so obviously that it often feels like it is going through the motions as Clare works through her seven wishes and seven blood sacrifices must be paid… and yet, in spite of its palpable predictability and DTV/elongated Goosebumps episode-quality, I had a HOOT in the cinema!
The dialogue – particularly that of the high schoolers – is so clearly what-an-adult-believes-a-teenager-sounds-like, that they may as well speak in memes and ‘txt spk,’ yet… it kinda fits with the retro 90s vibe, like seeing Elijah Wood get swirlied in the excellent The Faculty. The deaths, too, feel like blatant attempts to out-do Final Destination in macabre invention, but the script plays up to our expectations and (occasionally) tries to subvert them (like when Phillippe is replacing a punctured tyre and scrambles under his car-jacked motor as the music box cranks out its fateful melody).
From cinematographer-turned-director John R. Leonetti (Anabelle), Wish Upon is disposable fluff which won’t win any awards and will most likely be derided far-and-wide by critics who proclaim it an out-dated, unoriginal hack-fest which offers nothing new to an already overcrowded genre. But as much as my head is telling me to award it just two CR@Bs out of five, my heart is feeling generous, and for sheer fun factor alone, I grant it a promotion.
CR@B’s Claw Score: