Friday 22 May 2020

The Final Wish (USA 2018: Dir Timothy Woodward Jr)

The hoary old story of 'The Monkey's Paw' gets resuscitated for each cinematic generation, it would seem. One would have thought the last word on the subject would have been delivered courtesy of the four films in the Wishmaster series (1997 - 2002) but no: in the 2010s we had a straightforward re-telling of the story in The Monkey's Paw (2013). 2017's Wish Upon changed the paw of the tale to a haunted music box which grants the owner seven wishes, and Woodward Jr's movie - made back in 2018 - pretty much re-runs that film, complete with Final Destination movie touches and even, in the final shot, a yard sale scene which suggests a sequel - could this be the start of a 'Monkey's Paw' universe?

Anyway back to the beginning. Newly qualified lawyer Aaron Hammond (Michael Welch) returns to his Ohio home town following the death of antique shop owning dad, to settle the estate. His mum Kate (Lin Shaye, marvellous as always), caught up in grief, is dismissive of his return after an extended period of time away from home. Aaron has singularly failed to gain employment since he qualified, and feels he's being passed over for opportunities because he's too working class. Re-aquainting with his old friends, it's clear that Aaron has tried to better himself and escape his small town roots, which doesn't sit well with the people still living there, particularly bad boy turned nasty cop (Kiwai Lyman, mean as a snake) who's hooked up with Aaron's former sweetheart Lisa (Melissa Bolona) in his extended absence.

But Aaron's not perfect. In debt because of unemployment - he needs $3000 to avoid being evicted from his apartment - he organises a yard sale to flog some of his father's stuff, without telling Kate, and when that fails tries the auction site route. But salvation is about to come his way via one of his father's many possessions, an ugly urn, which contains a wish granting djinn. Aaron merely needs to preface any request with the words "I wish..." for it to be fulfilled. Aaron is initially unaware of the connection between the urn and his sudden change of luck - a scratch card win, his mum suddenly perking up when he wished she could be happy - but when he's accidentally run over by his friend Ty (Jean Elie) and undergoes facial reconstruction surgery as a result, he has cause to remember his wish to be more handsome (the 'surgery' seems to be no more sophisticated than giving Welch a new hair cut and some subtle eye liner).

The back story to the urn and its occupant - a spirit trapped by ancient, pre Mesopotamian mystics - is delivered by Colin the Librarian (Tony Todd in has gazillionth genre walk on role) who stresses that the wishee is limited to seven goes and then has to forfeit their soul. And Aaron can't remember how many wishes he'd asked for.

This is all pretty silly stuff, but well delivered, and it's good to see a slightly older cast than the usual PG tryouts normally fronting up this kind of thing. The themes running through the story - class, loss, the bond between mother and son - are deeper than you'd normally expect in a movie about a wish giving spirit (Jeffrey Riddick, creator of the Final Destination franchise, wrote the script, which would probably explain some of the FAisms in the movie - no bad thing). Lin Shaye is her usual excellent self - dancing in the moonlight with her worm infested dead husband (yep another wish that didn't quite pan out) is a standout spooky scene - and Michael Welch transforms cleverly from geeky guy to adonis. The Final Wish is perfect Saturday night beer and popcorn entertainment.

The Final Wish is released by Signature Entertainment on Digital HD from 25th May.

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