Wish Upon isn’t just a tired horror retread, it’s been tranquilized and sleepwalks through every lame development. None of its recycled ideas are explored in a unique or interesting way, the scares are sanitized, and the cautionary tale aspects of the familiar story are buried by superficiality.
The film is like a mixture of a cheap John Hughes knockoff with “The Monkey’s Paw” (or any of its many adaptations). Sad high-schooler Clare (Joey King) still hasn’t processed the death of her mother from years earlier, and her father’s (Ryan Phillipe) dumpster diving is embarrassing. At least his scavenging allows him to find a Chinese music box while raiding the garbage cans of a creepy gated property.
Cursory examination of the antique (Clare is taking Chinese in high school, naturally) reveals it to be a “wishing box.” Things look up for her when she places her hands on it and begins making wishes that come true almost immediately. What isn’t immediately known is that each wish granted comes with a cost: the gruesome death of someone or something – a very cute Golden Retriever is introduced early on – close to her.
It turns out the scariest thing written on the box is that it will grant the owner a whopping seven wishes, meaning we have to sit through a painstakingly long, repetitive cycle of wish followed by overly theatrical, meaningless death. Wish Upon is a silly and poorly edited 90-minute grind. A prologue and later clues suggest a familial connection with the cursed trinket, but that remains unexplained. A third act reveal is treated as some sort of revelation, but there’s no way to know what it means. The bauble’s history, the present piling up of bodies, and even an alternate timeline, fail to add any flavor, or sense, to the stupidity.
Director John R. Leonetti (Annabelle) builds some anxiety before revealing a couple of mildly gross incidents, including one involving a blackened foot, but a vast majority of the dramatic demises play like slapstick versions of the much more effective death scenes from the Final Destination series.
Clare’s arc is just as simplistic and scattershot as the bloodletting. Little attention is paid to how this enchanted object corrupts its owner and promotes the abandonment of conscience. There’s plenty of potentially interesting material to work with in that area when it comes to a tormented teen, which is all ignored here in favor of getting rich quick and becoming instantly popular. The “be careful what you wish for” realizations and life lessons are dealt with hastily so we can get to the next random, mildly comedic kill.
Wish Upon takes the easy, obvious route at every opportunity, skimping on the truly unnerving aspects of the situation and favoring meager jolts over thematic significance. Edges are smoothed, any wit is unintentional, and there’s no justification provided for repackaging this story as a teen horror snoozer. The genie should’ve stayed in the bottle. Or demon should’ve stayed in the music box, or whatever.