Have you been wishing for a serving of teen suspense, with a side of bad decisions and bloody consequences to discuss? Wish granted! Wish Upon offers relatable characters in a fairly interesting plot with enough tension and gory surprises to keep the intended audience squealing in happy disgust. 3 out of 5.
For a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, high school can be a horror story all its own. When Clare (Joey King) comes across a mysterious box that promises to grant seven wishes, she uses it to make her dreams come true (wouldn’t you?). Those dreams soon morph into nightmares as Clare discovers every wish comes at a deadly price.
Clare is a likable girl even if her wishes are self-centered. Her friends are fun, too, especially sharp-tongued Meredith (Sydney Park) and good guy Ryan (Ki Hong Lee). And wonder of wonders, there’s an actual plot with believable dialogue and characters who act like actual people—not always the case in this genre.
Director John R. Leonetti does a fine job building suspense out of everyday situations. Just one example: you may think twice the next time you go to flip the switch on your garbage disposal. It’s all the scarier because the awful things that happen are so plausible. Even better, not every creepy situation ends badly so you never know when the payoff is coming. When disaster does strike, it’s just gruesome enough without being—pardon the expression—overkill.
Clare’s relationship with The Box is a kind of addiction. Even when Clare knows she should stop, knows she is hurting herself and people she loves, she can’t give it up. A teachable moment for post-movie conversation, maybe? Just a thought.
Fans who like their scary movies dripping with blood and guts may feel shortchanged by the discretion applied to most of the deaths; the camera doesn’t linger on horrible images and some are more implied than seen. I myself don’t consider that a flaw, but I’m not a horror aficionado.
Without spoiling anything, let’s just say the way a body is impacted by a car accident is so over the top it provoked laughter from the highly-engaged audience at my screening. It made what was meant to be a poignant moment more silly than sad. Eyes were rolled instead of filling with tears.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
The Box supposedly gets its power from a demon after a wronged woman prayed to said demon for revenge. Each wish requires a “blood price” to be paid. The demon itself is more hinted at than shown; there’s no otherworldly hand directly causing the deaths, but their timing is obviously not accidental.
You could look at Wish Upon as a parable of Galatians 6:8, “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death….” Clare uses her wishes to satisfy her wants, which include ill wishes toward others, often those who have hurt or rejected her first. Her harvest includes both literal decay and death. Ultimately, her actions and unforgiveness do not satisfy her and lead only to destruction. While it’s not exactly the kind of film church leaders are likely to show at youth group, as a friend of mine would say, “It’ll preach.”
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic elements and language
- Language/Profanity: Profanity and colorful language is pervasive, including multiple occasions where the Lord’s name is use as an exclamation or curse. Also da**, bi*ch (used in a variety of ways), bas**rd, sh**, and references to male and female anatomy (ba**sack and t*ts, respectively). A character is referred to as “a sl*t for wontons” but it’s not meant literally.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Some kissing and making out, but nothing explicit. Teen girls are shown in their night clothes, but nothing revealing. A boy asks a girl for a photo of her breasts. A woman tells a teen she needs “a nice boy… or a nice girl.” Brief discussion about “doing it.” An elderly man is shown getting into the bathtub but nothing explicit is shown (and once the blood starts flowing you likely won’t notice any bare chest shots).
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Wish Upon is a horror/thriller movie and the director does a good job of turning the suspense dial up and down throughout the film, so multiple moments are intense. SPOILERS: A body is shown hanging after committing suicide. A man dies after hitting his head repeatedly. There’s a brief unpleasant encounter with a dead animal. An adult is killed in a freak encounter with a garbage disposal. A girl’s body inexplicably rots. A person falls down stairs to their death, another is killed in an elevator, another is accidentally impaled, yet another is decapitated, and another is hit by a car.
Drugs/Alcohol: Teens are shown at a party that may include alcohol; one girl is seen holding what looks like a frozen alcoholic drink but could just be fruit juice in a fancy glass.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Teen movie fans; viewers who appreciate schadenfreude (a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people). I generally avoid scary movies but this one was more enjoyable and less terrifying than I expected.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: The faint of heart, those who avoid supernatural stories, and other movie-goers who don’t enjoy a high body count.
Wish Upon, directed by John R. Leonetti, opens in theaters July 14, 2017. It runs 90 minutes and stars Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Sydney Park, Ki Hong Lee, Shannon Purser and Mitchell Slaggert. Watch the trailer for Wish Upon here.
Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).
Publication date: July 13, 2017
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