Wish Upon, penned by Barbara Marshall, is a morality tale that leans on a campy, under-researched interpretation of Chinese culture for its main lore elements. It arguably earns its 90 minutes of your life by achieving better acting and plotting than a lot of horror movies out there; however, if you’re looking to be wowed, look elsewhere. Trigger warning for graphic depictions of suicide. (GPG: 2.5/5)
Review by FF2 Contributor Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
When I walked into the theater to see Wish Upon, my expectations were pretty low. From the trailer, as well as what I knew about horror movies of its ilk, I gathered that it would be a recycled premise (the classic fisherman’s wife-style “supernatural wish-making goes awry/ be thankful for what you have and don’t commit the sin of greed by wanting more” story) sloppily updated for “relevance” (a Pokemon Go style app and plenty of texting/ social media based scenes), which takes its supernatural elements from some pre-existing fairy tale obscure enough to feel new (fairly clumsily handled insertions of Chinese culture centered around a Chinese demon).
Wish Upon is certainly all the things I thought it would be. For a 90-minute B horror movie, though, I felt like it was an okay execution of a “meh” premise. “Clare” (Joey King) is our fisherman, whose magic fish is a mysterious box with Chinese characters on it—Clare rather conveniently takes Chinese in school, so she can tell right away that one of the characters says “wish.” From there, she starts trying out the box’s powers, enriching her family and making herself more popular at school.
Unfortunately, Clare doesn’t know the Chinese characters for “warning,” “soul,” or “blood price,” meaning she really doesn’t know what she’s getting into by wishing on this box. One of the most suspension-of-disbelief-testing bits of the film is Clare’s total obliviousness to why her family and friends keep dropping dead around her, at a rate of exactly one family member or friend per wish.
The whole thing plays out just like the archetype, with an ending that squeezes in a final surprise that made up for a lot of the film’s deficiencies. All in all, I would watch it again if I were on a plane without a book, or if I wanted to show it to someone else with the object of making fun of it as we watched it (I really might do this, though I might have to wait until it comes out on Netflix so I won’t have to convince a friend to pay to see it). I should also mention that this film has very frequent, and very graphic, depictions of suicide. Anyone who may be triggered by this should avoid Wish Upon.
Top photo: Clare, experiencing the consequences of one of her wishes.
Middle photo: The wishing box.
Bottom photo: Clare, about to discover another victim of the box.
Yes! Clare talks to her friends about popularity, teen angst, and whether or not she has a moral imperative to use the box’s wishes to better the world rather than for her own gain.