Wish Upon (2017) Movie Review

By: Jenna Zine (Six Pack) –

Clare Shannon (Joey King) is an awkward, unpopular teen whose life is changed when her dumpster-diving father, Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe), gifts her with an ornate box he dug out of the trash. She soon realizes this thrifty treasure possesses supernatural powers of granting wishes, but there’s a high price to pay.

[Review contains loads of spoilers.]

A Toast

Ah, there’s nothing like the father/daughter bond, especially when said father is a hoarder who dives for trash and keeps his daughter living in the decrepit home where her mother/his wife hung herself in the attic. You know, the usual. So starts Wish Upon, a somewhat promising premise that disintegrates rapidly. The film tries, beginning with a flashback/dream sequence that shows Clare’s mother’s (Elisabeth Rohm as Johanna) suicide shortly after she disposes of an awkwardly wrapped item. What could it be, you guys? It’s a mystery! (No, it’s not. It’s the fucking box. But don’t worry, the movie will insult your intelligence; not only by making this plot point wildly obvious, it will also go out of its way to explain it to you several times.)

Forward to present-day Clare who, despite looking as cute as a button, is unpopular because her father has a habit of digging through the garbage in a massive dumpster that’s coincidentally situated across the street from her high school, in full view of her classmates. (As happy as I am to see Ryan Phillippe on the big screen again, he is wildly miscast in this role. Stubble on a male model visage does not exactly inspire audience-goers to think, “Oh, he obviously makes his living digging through junk.”) Her classmates’ nickname for her – get ready for it – is Dumpster Girl (how clever!), with the most popular gal in class often pelting her with leftover beverages. Despite her unsavory reputation, Clare has two kick-ass besties in the form of June (Shannon Purser, aka Barb from Stranger Things) and Meredith (Sydney Park), who serve as her support. But enough of the backstory; this is a “horror” film, so let’s get to the (lack of) gore! Conveniently there are seven deaths, plus six beers and one shot waiting for a drinking game. Someone must’ve been planning to end up on MovieBoozer!

Beer One/Death One comes shortly after Clare gets home from school after being tortured by queen bee Darcie (Josephine Langford), who almost ran over her on the way to class, threw cold coffee on her, and brawled with her in the cafeteria. Where were the teachers during all this? No one knows! Anyways, Jonathan has left a gift on her bed (he claims it’s a fancy bday present, but it was actually retrieved from a neighbor’s garbage can earlier that day) – an ornate box, one that Clare immediately cleaves to her chest while wishing Darcie would “just go rot.” The mystery box gets to work swiftly, striking Darcie with necrotizing fasciitis. Clare is exuberant, until she finds her sweet dog under the porch, dead. (At least we assume it’s the dog. All we see is a pile of fur with what looks like some canned beets nestled in the middle. Scary!)

Hmm… I wonder how badly this will ruin my life? [Photo Credit]

Beer Two

Clare takes a beat to mourn the dog her mother gave her as a child before moving on with the business of being a teen. Soon she’s musing to the box that she sure would like the most popular boy in school, Paul (Mitchell Slaggert), to fall madly in love with her. And gosh darn it, he does! At least, I think he did. All that happens with Paul is that he dumps his current fling, walks to Clare, says “hey,” and then barely interacts with her for most of the movie. Kids and their relationships these days! (There’s an obvious stalker plot “twist” towards the end, but it’s a bore.) This (not) hot & heavy connection comes at the price of her elderly uncle’s life (whom she also barely spends time with) before he slips in the tub, cracks his skull, and bleeds/drowns to death. Hey, tubs are tricky; it could happen to the best of us!

Beer Three

Somehow Jonathan and Clare are alerted to this tradgedy on the nightly news. (Senior Citizen Slips in Tub – Story at 5!) Jonathan ruminates that there’s no way either of them will be left a penny from this relative’s massive estate. But guess what? One touch from Clare to the trash genie and boom! – they’re living in a mansion, baby! (I guess grouchy Uncle August was happy to let them reside in filth rather than share his roomy digs while alive.) Clare is overjoyed at her turn of fortune and lavishes gifts on her friends while lapping up her new luxury. Meanwhile, across town, her former neighbor (a wasted cameo from Twin Peak’s Sherilyn Fenn as Mrs. Deluca) is getting mangled in the kitchen sink by her garbage disposal. Dinner shall be served cold at Casa Deluca tonight… and forever!

Will someone please explain why my agent agreed to put me in this film? [Photo Credit]

Beer Four

Not the brightest bulb, Clare still has not put two and two together of wishes coinciding with bizarre (albeit mainly inferred) gruesome deaths. Still, she is curious about the Chinese symbols on the box and enlists the help of her classmate Ryan (Ki Hong Lee), who takes her to his cousin’s fancy loft (Alice Lee as Gina) to get help with the translations. This is accomplished by Clare agreeing to compensate Gina by buying her wontons. Seriously. Alas, the wonton for information exchange is largely fruitless, with Gina promising to get back to Clare with more details soon. Girl, you just got played. Ton and run. Happens all the time.

Meanwhile, Clare, who now has vanquished the mean girls, nabbed the school hunk, and lives in a mansion, still wants more! Though she is “dating” Paul, she is still not accepted by the in-crowd, so she cradles the box, wishes for popularity, and dashes off to a party where everyone gives her a round of applause when she arrives. Well worth it for another soul to feed the box, if you ask me! For this, she sacrifices the life of Gina who is gored in her own loft by an art installation shaped like a bull after tripping on a rug. (I bet Gina’s last thought was, “I should’ve doubled that takeout order.”) Speaking of tripping, what was screenwriter Barbara Marshall on when she wrote this? I want some!

Presented with no explanation necessary. [Photo Credit]

Beer Five

Though her life is now virtually perfect, Clare continues to be embarrassed by her father, who still loves digging through trash with his buddy, Carl (Kevin Hanchard). (Geez, Clare – do you have to control everything? Let the man have his downtime!) You know what you do when you’re a teenage girl and you have seven wishes? You wish for your god damn dad to be cool. In this version of reality, cool means Jonathan going from crawling in garbage to playing sax in a living room band with Carl. Did I mention the one item Clare and her father moved into their new digs with was Jonathan’s jazz saxophone? Because who wouldn’t have guessed that.  Somehow this is less mortifying than dumpster diving to Clare, who invites June and Meredith over to watch her dad’s band practice. June declares Jonathan’s hot, “like Sriracha hot” and Clare finally feels proud.

Of course the stakes continue to rise. Clare has finally acknowledged the box to death ratio and confides in her friends. Her besties, rightly, tell her that she’s being a bad person and to cut it out. June is especially mystified by Clare’s shallow wishes, asking why she’s only been thinking of herself when she could’ve asked for world peace or the cure to cancer. Ugh, June – you are a wet blanket! Clare has everything she wants and that should be enough, so shut your mouth with your logic and compassion. By the way, it’s Meredith’s turn to bite the dust – plummeting to her death in a glass elevator. Going down, Mr. Tyler?

Beer Six

Girlfriend has two wishes left, but despite being schooled by Buddha/June and losing Meredith to a rising death toll, she still reaches for the box to wish that her mother had never committed suicide. (Um, she didn’t start there? I feel like I would take getting to see my mom again over a chaste fling with some hot dude – but it’s been a long time since I’ve been in high school, so my teen logic is rusty.) Shortly thereafter Clare’s mother, Johanna, is knocking on her bedroom door, asking her to come join the family for dinner. Clare is ecstatic. However her joy is short-lived when she sees Carl in their front yard, up in a tree with a chainsaw while her father directs what branches to cut from below. And… you guessed it. Carl drops the saw, and Jonathan meets a bloody end. That’s one way to quit a jazz band!

Clare is (finally!) now in a desperate tizzy to right things. She rushes to the box, claiming she knows how to beat it… by turning back time to before she became its owner. She wakes up the next day with her father, friends, and beloved dog all alive, ready to head to school and embrace being Dumpster Girl. However, with this seventh wish comes a seventh life. Clare gets taken out, Meet Joe Black style, and the box is passed along to another unsuspecting victim, the cycle unbroken. Take it from me, the box always wins.

Verdict

Sweet baby Jesus, who greenlit this project and then totally spaced they were making a horror film? This is the most toothless “scary” movie I have ever seen – it’s the Gerber food of flicks. I’m not sure who it’s intended for – perhaps an introduction to frights for 10-year olds? The scariest thing that happened during this entire experience was when a man sat one seat away from me in a nearly empty theater, proceeded to take his shoes off, and then put his bare feet on the seat in front of him. Now that’s terrifying. If you are at all interested in the plot and would like to see it done a million times better, revisit The Craft or the first installment of the Final Destination franchise

Wish Upon (2017) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time someone dies. Or you think someone dies. Most of the deaths are set up, the camera pans away at what should be the most interesting/scary moment, and then returns to the scene of the crime.

Take a Drink: every time Jonathan and Carl go dumpster diving.

Take a Drink: every time Ryan Phillippe plays glorious, glorious jazz saxophone.

Take a Drink: whenever Shannon Purser/June is onscreen and you want to shout, “Justice for Barb!” #strangerthingsforever

Take a Drink: every time you ask yourself, “Why am I an adult watching a PG-Rated horror film? What has come of this genre; nay, this world?”

Take a Drink: every time you see a plot point coming from a mile away. 

Do a Shot: if you think the dog is the smartest character in this movie.

About Jenna Zine

Jenna Zine is a writer, unashamed Bachelor franchise live-tweeter (with Felix Felicis at @2Girls1Recap), lapsed drummer, and occasional standup comic. She's probably somewhere right now complaining about her bangs. Find more at www.jennazine.com

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