Monday 16 April 2018

Wish Upon (USA/Canada 2017: Dir John R. Leonetti)

“By the Director of Annabelle’’ runs the advertising strap for Leonetti’s latest film. This wouldn’t be much of a recommendation (I found Annabelle a fairly turgid movie and an unnecessary franchise extension from The Conjuring) except that last year he also made the flawed but downbeat Manson murder story Wolves at the Door which was a real change of pace.

Wish Upon surprises by being something different to both these movies – in fact it’s closer to Wes Craven’s later output in its glossily lensed combination of teen trauma and mild horror. Although we’re safely back in the world of PG-13 shocks, there’s something quite unsettling in the way the sinister elements are superficially handled – and the complex ‘will they, won’t they’ kill sequences are indebted to the Final Destination movies.

Joey (The Conjuring) King plays Claire Shannon, a high school student with problems: she’s being systematically bullied by class ringleader Darcie - in part because of her dumpster trawling dead-end ex musician father, and also because of her association with ‘loser’ friends Meredith and June. Claire is also still recovering from the shock of witnessing her mother’s suicide at a young age. When her father gives her an old music box found in a skip, which includes an inscription – in ancient Chinese - that promises to grant the owner seven wishes, before you can say ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ Claire deals with Darcie, inherits a fortune, gets her dad playing saxophone again and nets the class hunk.

But of course all this comes at a price – for every wish granted a repayment in blood is required. And part of the fun of the movie is working out who’s going to be the next sacrifice and how it will happen.

As mentioned, despite the high death rate, there’s nothing in any way graphic about the film – perhaps the scariest thing here is the appearance of Sherilyn Fenn as a neighbour, who at the age of 51 is either the result of a very effective old age makeup job or has had rather a tough life. Fenn’s fate – by waste disposal (and you can pretty much predict how that works) – is just one of a number of elaborate death setups triggered by the demon in the box requiring wish granting recompense. 

These and other scenes – Joey’s father getting the band back together and treating us to a sax solo, and the way that Claire and her friends dismiss with a quick ‘whatever’ the deaths all around them – left me rather uncertain how seriously I should take this film. 

But there’s no mistaking that, despite its multitude of WTF moments, Wish Upon remains an entertaining movie, if ludicrous in set up. It also has an ending that, even if you do see it coming, is pretty shocking after the light-heartedness of the previous 80 odd minutes. Very very cautiously recommended.

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