Wish Upon (2017)


Love at first sight.

(2017) Horror (Broad Green) Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee, Mitchell Slaggert, Shannon Purser, Sydney Park, Elisabeth Röhm, Josephine Langford, Alexander Nunez, Daniela Barbosa, Kevin Hanchard, Sherilyn Fenn, Raegan Revord, Alice Lee, Victor Sutton, Albert Chung, Michelle Alexander, Natalie Prinzen-Klages, Nora Prinzen-Klages. Directed by John R. Leonetti

Who hasn’t ever dreamed of having an Aladdin’s lamp, granting us wishes that would make our lives better? Most of us have those dreams without remembering that these stories generally have things turn out much worse for the heroes than they anticipated.

Claire Shannon (King) has had a rougher life than most. As a young girl (Revord) she witnessed her mother (Röhm) hang herself in the attic. The event so traumatized her that she never rode her little pink bike again, leaving it where she left it that horrible day to rust in the weeds. Her father (Phillippe) has a bit of a screw loose; he’s a dumpster diver and a hoarder. At school, Claire is an outsider bullied by Darcie Chapman (Langford) and the other popular kids. She hangs around fellow outsiders June (Purser) and Meredith (Park).

One day her father finds an old Chinese music box in the trash near some sort of Chinese temple and decides to make a gift of it to his daughter. At first it seems harmless enough but that day had been particularly horrible for Claire in regards to the bullying and she exclaims impulsively “I wish Darcie Chapman would just rot!” Not an unheard of sentiment for a high school teen but in this case Darcie develops a severe case of necrotizing fasciitis, meaning she is literally rotting. On the negative side, Claire’s beloved dog is attacked and eaten by feral rats.

After a couple of other wishes come true, Claire puts two and two together and realizes the music box is somehow granting her wishes. It takes her a little bit longer to add the third “two” and realize that for each wish granted, someone close to her dies and for the most part in an inventively gruesome way. She enlists her token Chinese friend Ryan (K.H. Lee) and his cousin Gina (A. Lee) to help translate the characters on the music box and what they discover is unsettling. It seems that Claire only gets seven wishes and once she uses them all, the diabolical music box will claim her soul. The terrifying thing is that she’s already used up five wishes and the now not-quite-right in the head Claire seems perfectly willing to use her other two up…

A lot of different movies have utilized the MacGuffin of a wish-granting device with varying degrees of success. Most of them are influenced to varying degrees by the short story “The Monkey’s Paw” which really is the standard setter for the perils of granting wishes. Most of us have seen at least a few of them, enough to know that wishes rarely turn out the way we expect them to. That’s at least the life lesson that the original author wished to impart.

Whoever wrote this movie probably should have taken that to heart. There are some interesting elements here, like the rather convoluted (in a good way) death scenes which brings an overall Final Destination vibe which is, in my opinion, a good thing since I have always found those movies clever in a morbid kind of way. In other words, my kind of movie.

King is at least age-appropriate for the casting (she was 16 years old during filming) but is hung out to dry by the writing, which really makes her character hard to relate to. I do get that the music box is somehow influencing Claire to use its powers but that isn’t made as clear as it could be other than her Gollum-like “Mine! MINE!” sequence when Ryan tries to convince her not to use the box again. King seems to have a good deal of talent but her character is just so selfish and unlikable that even by the film’s end as a viewer I really found myself taken out of the film, thinking “well she deserved what she got.”

The death scenes and the music box itself are pretty nifty, I admit and are the film’s saving graces. They are plenty clever and the music box, which becomes more shiny and new with each use (another little detail I admired) plays some pretty eerie music and the movement of the device is well-done so kudos to whoever constructed the music box itself.

The rest of the supporting cast is essentially pretty meh, although Phillippe as usual is the consummate professional, giving an effort to go above and beyond playing a role that frankly is a bit different than we are used to seeing from him. His performance here reminds me that we don’t see him in important roles as much as we should.

I would say that overall the movie is pretty much just average. It’s neither bad nor good which isn’t going to win it a lot of people seeking it out when it becomes more generally available. I know I’m damning the film with faint praise but I really can’t do otherwise. It’s definitely another case of a good concept squandered by a derivative plot and weak character development.

REASONS TO GO: The wish box sequences are pretty nifty. Phillippe is actually pretty decent in an unusual role for him.
REASONS TO STAY: The plot is extremely derivative. King doesn’t distinguish herself in the lead role.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some violence and disturbing images, adult thematic elements and profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie borrows elements from the W.W. Jacobs short story “The Monkey’s Paw.”
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/28/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 17% positive reviews. Metacritic: 32/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Wishmaster
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
More Six Days of Darkness

Final Destination


Final Destination

They fall down when plane goes boom.

(2000) Horror (New Line) Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenveur Smith, Chad E. Donella, Seann William Scott, Tony Todd, Amanda Detmer, Brendan Fehr, Lisa Marie Caruk, Christine Chatelain, Barbara Tyson. Directed by James Wong

 

Longtime “X-Files” producers Glen Morgan and James Wong are responsible for what may seem — at first glance — a typical “bump-off-the-teens” horror/thriller. But if you know anything about their pedigree, you’ll realize you’re in for a wild ride.

Heartthrob Devon Sawa stars as Alex Browning, a nervous teen who is getting ready to go to Paris on a field trip with his high school class (now, why oh why didn’t my school go places like that?). After experiencing a series of unsettling premonitions which make him a bit more nervous, whatever power is trying to communicate with him finally hits him over the head with a particularly vivid vision of the plane’s destruction. Unnerved, he freaks out on the plane, sending several of his classmates and himself off the plane, which takes off without them and is promptly blown from the sky. No survivors.

Alex is treated as a bit of a nutcase by those who survive, including the jockish bully (Smith), his exasperated girlfriend (Detmer), his sympathetic buddy (Donella), a badly shaken teacher (Cloke), a somewhat tightly-wound cyclist (Scott) and an artistic orphan who is somewhat sweet on him (Larter). He is also pursued by a pair of milquetoast FBI agents, who are suspicious about his vision.

However, things get sinister in a hurry as, one by one, the survivors are bumped off in grisly, mysterious ways. Turns out they were meant to be on that plane and that somehow, they’ve cheated death. Death is mighty cheesed off about it, too.

The rest of the picture is spent with the survivors trying to avoid the Grim Reaper. One of the movie’s best features is that horror clichés are used to its advantage. The audience is set up to look one way when all of a sudden it is stunned by something coming from left field. It’s a good roller-coaster ride, with lots of good surprises. Morgan and Wong excel at putting a different spin on things.

The trouble is, this is a movie designed to appeal to teens, which is great if you are one. But for the rest of us, it’s a pain to have to endure the posturing and posing of young actors for whom looking cool is more important than looking believable. Some of the performances are a bit, shall we say, over the top.

Still, there is a lot of little things that make “Final Destination” worthwhile. All of the character names, for example, are based on the names of great horror directors and writers (see if you can figure out who is who). The effects, while grisly, are used effectively for some good scares and some “eww gross” moments. In fact, the scares are more than good – there are some terrific scares here, which makes this a good movie for men to take their dates to for some serious hold-me protection (wink). It sure worked on Da Queen.

When you have a genuinely creepy premise, sometimes you can get by with less-than-stellar performances. This could have been a better flick with better characters and better acting, but what movie couldn’t be? It was certainly good enough to initiate a franchise which is still going strong with a sixth installment in the works, albeit at a different studio than where the films originated. The first one is still pretty much among the best of the lot. Invite a friend….and see it in the dark. Your electric bill and your guest will both thank you.

WHY RENT THIS: A clever premise. Some satisfying left-field scares and some nifty special effects. Todd is chilling in his role.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A little bit too much posing and posturing. A lot of teens acting like dumb teens.

FAMILY MATTERS: There is plenty of violence as you might expect and a bit of gore.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The news footage of the plane crash was taken from the crash of TWA Flight 800 which crashed on July 17, 1996.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: There is some footage from the test screenings and a featurette that talks about their importance. There is also a featurette on a real-life woman who has had several premonitions about disasters that have come to pass.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $112.9M on a $23M production budget; the movie was a surprise blockbuster that wound up kicking off a franchise.

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

TOMORROW: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol