After Clare Shannon receives an ancient Chinese music box from her dumpster-diving father for her birthday, the teenager discovers this mysterious object has the power to grant seven wishes. But these gifts come at a devastating price, and the closer she comes to making her last request the closer the girl comes to delivering her immortal soul straight into the pits of Hell.
Here’s what I wrote about this one in my original theatrical review:
“On the eve of her 18th birthday, Clare Shannon’s (Joey King) dumpster-diving scrounger of a father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) gives his high school outcast daughter a gorgeous Chinese music box that’s in surprisingly excellent condition considering where he found it. Fooling around, she is able to piece together a few of the Chinese characters, deciphering that the box promises seven wishes to its owner. With her life in something of a shambles and in a fit of angry desperation, Clare figures she’ll give it a shot, and while her ask is unquestionably selfish in nature, as this is all fantasy it’s not like anything she requests will ever come to pass.
But the unthinkable does happen. Clare’s wish is answered, and suddenly the girl who was at the bottom of the teenage social totem pole, and much to the amazement of best friends June (Shannon Purser) and Meredith (Sydney Park), is on her way to being the most popular girl in school. But these requests come with a staggering price tag, and with the help of classmate Ryan (Ki Hong Lee) the youngster begins to realize just how terrifying the power residing within the music box truly is. With her eternal soul at stake, Clare must figure out a way to right the wrongs her wishes have wrought, knowing that if she is unable to do so she’ll join her dearly departed mother Johanna (Elisabeth Rohm), who committed suicide while she was still a child, in a tragically early grave.
Wish Upon has a killer ending. Barbara Marshall’s (Viral) screenplay doesn’t pull any punches as things catapult their way to a climax, justifiably taking Clare to task for her actions while also refusing to ask the audience to forgive any of her more shallow or self-centered decisions. It’s very reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s more down and dirty horror opuses, the ‘Twilight Zone’ mechanics of it all delivering on its admittedly unoriginal themes of being careful of what wishes for because they’ll very likely end up getting it rather nicely.
If only the movie as a whole lived up to its ending. Make no mistake, Wish Upon is a pretty bad horror yarn, filled with characters who are almost impossible to care about and plot progressions that are too silly to be believed. While some of Marshall’s dialogue is sharply delivered, having a Mean Girls meets The Edge of Seventeen vitality that’s impressive, none of that matters as far as the bigger picture is concerned. Clare’s actions, especially once she realizes what the box is capable of, are inexcusable, while the reactions of her friends June and Meredith to their BFF’s out of nowhere largess is equally abhorrent.
As a treatise analyzing the selfishness of youth, I fully get what the film hopes to achieve. But if we’re not given a reason to care, if all of the emotions pushing characters to do what they do is born from maudlin melodramatic excess and nothing authentic, the chances these ideas are going to resonate in any manner whatsoever is perilously slim. The narrative is stripped to its barest minimum in every way, each character a one-dimensional cipher whose only reason to exist is to either wag their finger in Clare’s direction, laugh at her stupidity or die in some Final Destination Rube Goldberg-like manner that’s as preposterous as it is asinine.
Veteran cinematographer John R. Leonetti, known for crafting subtly creepy visuals for features like The Conjuring and Insidious, steps into the director’s chair for the first time since 2014’s Annabelle, and while things look terrific, it also never feels like he cares about anything that’s happening story-wise until the very end. Other than King and Lee, both of whom do a fine job of making the most of the material as best they can, few members of the cast are given any room to breathe, and as such they all do a poor job of making an impression. Phillippe is particularly left out to dry, almost as if Leonetti was in a rush to get him off the set, the former heartthrob so laughingly awful one hopes he was paid well enough to make the embarrassment of being a part of this debacle worthwhile.
I do like the last scene. It’s quick, cutthroat and, considering the relative timidity of the horror throughout the majority of the picture, suitably shocking. It’s the other 95-percent that isn’t good, the film a silly genre mishmash of ideas, concepts and themes that never coalesce into anything that feels original or fresh. Filled with unlikable characters, most of whom are deserving of their bloody just deserts, Wish Upon is hard to sit through, and if I had a wish of my own to toss its way it likely would be the desire that it not have been made in the first place.”
That final five minutes of Wish Upon is so terrific I felt the need to give the film a second chance. Additionally, I was curious what Leonetti’s unrated director’s cut would look like, the potential that a few additional scenes here and there might have actually improved things enough to make stomaching the more dubiously idiotic portions worthwhile.
No such luck. Not only is this new cut barely a minute longer than the theatrical version, the extra material is hardly worth the effort it took to reinsert these portions back into the finished film. Wish Upon still features a terrific ending that knocked my socks off a second time but the remaining majority portions equally still proved to be an almost unendurable slog. Even after giving it another chance, great final five minutes aside, there’s precious little here I can honestly recommend.
Wish Upon is presented on a 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.40:1 1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with a Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1 option and includes English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
I Wish: The Cast Share What They Would Wish – The film’s talented cast joke around a little bit, offering up to the counter what they would wish for if the opportunity were to arise.
Attic Tour with Joey King – The young actress wanders around one of the film’s key locations.
Directing Darkness: John Leonetti and Cast Talk about Developing a Horror Film – The cast and crew chat about what makes Wish Upon unique and different.
Motion Comics: Lu Mei’s Curse, Arthur Sands – The disc’s best extra, these little comics are actually more consistently unsettling than the film itself ultimately proves to be.
A DVD Copy of the film is included with this release.
Wish Upon isn’t a good movie. The director’s cut doesn’t add anything worthwhile. The ending still kicks all kinds of butt and begs for a better motion picture than the one it happens to be a part of. Even so, Broad Green’s Blu-ray presentation is immaculate, and for those who are fond of the film this disc more than satisfies.