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Movie Review: ‘Wish Upon’ Grants Horror Both Despicable and Laughable

How does Wish Upon stack up against Final Destination? Read our movie review to find out:

Wish Upon is that special kind of bad movie that left me laughing at its misfires by the time the credits began to roll with its goofy theme song and spooky imagery. As I sat in the theater getting out all the cackles I had been politely holding in throughout this entire farce, an audience member approached me with a perplexed expression as though I had a laugh at Schindler’s List. He sat down next to me and demanded I explain myself.

Among the many ridiculous misfires, I cited how the plot of cursed wishes with deadly consequences was such a weak and unoriginal story concept. “Yeah, but I still liked the concept,” he defended. He didn’t seem to have a defense for the despicable characters, ridiculous deaths and dated ideas of teen slang.

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Don’t open the box!

But let’s talk about this concept that was apparently so fascinating for at least one viewer. There’s a box of Chinese origins that holds the power of a demon, granting seven wishes to whoever possesses it. Each wish comes with the blood price of the murder of a friend, neighbor, family member or someone you just met (whichever is convenient for the plot). If you lose the box or give it to someone else, all your wishes are undone. When all seven wishes have been granted, a demon comes to take your soul to hell.

The latest owner of the box is Claire (Joey King), an unfortunate teenager who could just so happen to use some fulfillment of wishes. Her dad (Ryan Phillippe) digs through dumpsters during the day, her house is in disrepair, and she can’t afford new clothes and is mocked by the popular girls of school. And with a rough childhood of discovering her mother hanging herself, Claire’s life is such a bummer. Do kids still say bummer? How about dude and awesome sauce? The teenagers of this picture sure use both of those phrases a lot. The dialogue feels as though a 50-year-old writer who tried to pick up the lingo by reading a bunch of teen magazines and watching the “hippest” of YouTube videos conceived the script. If awesome sauce wasn’t already dated slang, it’s certainly hit its expiration date here.

 
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The horror!

Part of what makes a film about a curse so engaging is caring about the character affected by it. This is what made Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell so good because we want to see the unlucky girl climb out of her pit of misfortune. While that film had a heroine with bad luck, Wish Upon features characters that are just plain bad.

Claire’s first wish is that the prim and proper popular chick at school that wrongs her would “just rot.” Sure enough, the good-looking social princess wakes up the next morning with her flesh rotting away. How do Claire and her friends respond to such news? With a middle finger to the popular kids and triumphant giggles for their school bully being sent to the hospital with a deadly disease that will lead to amputation. And this is the exact moment where Claire’s character loses all credibility.

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She might need to see a doctor.

After that point, I didn’t care about Claire’s desires. I didn’t care that she wished to be rich, leading to a lame montage of her friends shopping and taking selfies. I didn’t care that she finally attracted the attention of the cute boy she had always wanted to date. So many of these selfish wishes continue to mount, even when Claire finally learns all the rules about the box and what it will do to her. Yeah, that Chinese demon may claim your soul, but I guess that’s worth it to not have soda thrown at you in the school hallways anymore. Every single character becomes more likable than her when they tell Claire she has lost her mind to sacrifice the lives of others for her perfect life. The horrible fate that awaits her is too good for her.

Related: Movie Review: ‘The Little Hours’ Has Nuns, Witches, Lords & Laughs

How the demon takes lives is a method that seems to be the dollar store version of Final Destination demises. Characters will die in horrible and sometimes comical accidents, but were they really accidents? When your kitchen sink garbage disposal is acting up, is your first instinct really to stick your bare fingers into the drain? When you’re changing a tire with your car jacked, do you really want to crawl all the way under the car just to grab one bolt while the car is raised? There are a few deaths that appear as bad luck, but a good chunk of them seem to occur from the characters making stupid decisions. And wouldn’t that be a better twist that the demon had nothing to do with these deaths?


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